MOFO 2015

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This year in mid-January was Hobart’s seventh summer for MOFO, a.k.a. MONA FOMA, a.k.a. the Museum of Old and New Art Festival of Music and Art, patronised by the millionaire mastermind David Walsh and curated by Brian Ritchie of the Violent Femmes. From microphone-whirring noise acts, to traditional raga music, to air-filled architecture, to Swedish black metal, to Syrian dance music, to hammer-on-hammer smashing, to ebullient North American hyperpop, MOFO is a summer festival where one can excitedly expect the unexpected.

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Father and son at MOFO – photo by Campbell McKay

A five-day ticket cost $139 (concession $119), and day passes $49 (conc. $39), which were damn good deals considering what you got at MOFO. Performances were held at PW1: a large shed in Hobart CBD, next to the Derwent River, with two stages at each end. Each day, the music acts kicked off at 5pm (as opposed to 3pm last year) and ended around 10:30pm each night. Following this was Faux Mo, MOFO’s nightly afterparty, which cost $25 pre-sale, or $30 on the door.

During the day, you could pop over to special exhibitions, the most impressive being the luminarium Exxopolis, a labyrinthine inflatable structure that you can enter and explore, by UK artist Alan Parkinson and his Architects of Air team. As a welcome surprise, Midnight Oil’s Jim Moginie and his Electric Guitar Orchestra played sets in the centre room as natural light from outside lit the tiled patterning on the roof, the shapes of which were inspired by the renowned mathematician and physicist Roger Penrose.

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Exxopolis, by the Architects of Air – photo by MONA/Rémi Chauvin

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Jim Moginie and his Electric Guitar Orchestra, inside Exxopolis – photo by Campbell McKay

Other exhibitions included The Tea Cube, where you could participate in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, or German artist Johannes S. Sistermanns’ Glad Wrap sound art project.

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The Tea Cube – photo by MONA/Rémi Chauvin

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Johannes S. Sistermanns – photo by MONA/Rebecca Fitzgibbon

Much musical amazement and weirdness transpired at MOFO. Of note, Transducer: an experimental sonic squad that made music and sounds out of microphones alone.

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Transducer, waving microphones over speakers – photo by Campbell McKay

Swedish black metal band Marduk looked cool as shit as they ruptured the ribcages of a gobsmacked crowd.

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Morgan Håkansson of Marduk – photo by Campbell McKay

Raga master Debashish Bhattacharya, his fellow tabla player and female vocalist delighted their audience with traditional Indian sounds.

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Debashish Bhattacharya – photo by MONA/Derek Tickner 

Paul Kelly’s soul band The Merri Soul Sessions featuring Dan Sultan, Clairy Browne, Kira Piru and Vika and Linda Bull was pre-tty damn fresh.

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Paul Kelly and The Merri Soul Sessions – photo by Campbell McKay

Syrian electronic producer Omar Souleyman played a magnetic show at 7:30pm, even if the crowd was too timid to momentarily break out of social convention and just dance to the amazing dance music.

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Omar Souleyman – photo by Campbell McKay

Chinese artist Li Binyuan performed two shows at MOFO: Deathless Love, in which he smashed 800 hammers with the same set of hammers, and The Enemy, in which he hammered a metal pole into a sandstone floor for an hour.

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Deathless Love, by Li Binyuan – photo by MONA/Rémi Chauvin 

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The Enemy, by Li Binyuan – photo by Campbell McKay

Japanese trio Shonen Knife perforated ear drums with charismatic Ramones-esque punk. Simultaneously super cute and super brutal.

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Ritsuko Taneda of Shonen Knife – photo by Phil Steinke

The final show for the entire week was the one and only Dan Deacon. Deacon’s unique brand of electronic hyperpop wasn’t his biggest drawcard: it was his ability to rile up the crowd into a frenzy of fun with simple yet very effective crowd games.

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Dan Deacon – photo by Iain Excellent

At one point, he got everyone to stand back and make a large circle in the middle of the crowd. Then, audience members danced wildly in the newly formed space, intermittently replacing one another.

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Dan Deacon’s crowd games – photo by Iain Excellent

His next trick was to get the audience to form a human tunnel through which people ran through to the end and added to its ever-growing length.

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Dan Deacon’s tunnel of love – photo by Iain Excellent

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Dan Deacon’s tunnel of love – photo by MONA/Rémi Chauvin 

Faux Mo, the nightly counterpart to MOFO, began at 10:30pm each night. This year, it was held in the Odeon theatre, in the middle of the CBD, replete with a main stage and a multitude of hidden corridors, quarters and cavities to explore and discover. One of the funniest areas was a tiny danceroom where the DJ was affixed to a lycra wall.

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Faux Mo – photo by Campbell McKay

The maestro of lazers and noise, Robin Fox, cordoned off a section of Faux Mo with plastic sheets, one end with a keyboard and the other with lazers and speakers installed. Each note on the keyboard played a unique combination of robotic sounds and lazer movements.

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Robin Fox’s lazer keyboard – photo by MONA/Rémi Chauvin

Bands and acts also played, such as the Russian criminal folk/ska/swing/punk group Vulgargrad.

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Andrew Turner of Vulgargrad playing a contrabass balalaika – photo by Campbell McKay

Saturday night at Faux Mo got kinda intense: it was by far the busiest and nastiest night of the lot, with drunken youth stumbling through the corridors, way too drunk, way too early. In retrospect, it would have been better to have had an early Saturday night to save the energy for the final Faux Mo Sunday night bash.

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Faux Mo – photo by MONA/Rémi Chauvin

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Faux Mo – photo by MONA/Rémi Chauvin

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Faux Mo – photo by MONA/Rémi Chauvin

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Faux Mo – photo by MONA/Rémi Chauvin

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Faux Mo – photo by Campbell McKay

Even with a later starting time for musical acts at MOFO 2015 as compared with last year, and a slightly higher ticket price, there simply is nothing quite like this bizarre and mystifying festival in Australia, perhaps even the world. Knowing that you’re in store for a number of artistic and musical surprises does not diminish the effect of each surprise; somehow, the MOFO organisers have managed to keep things fresh and vibrant. At the end of the week, you leave Hobart with a wider and deeper appreciation of contemporary music and art, which is exactly what was intended for you from the beginning.

Read more about last year’s MOFO here.

Read about how MOFO compares with the Winter festival, Dark Mofo, here.

Visit mofo.net.au for more info about MOFO.

LITTLE SECRETS

1. Next time you go to MONA (Museum of New and Old Art), head to the toilets at the bottom floor. Enter the third bathroom on your right. When you close the door, you will be facing a mirror that points to a series of other mirrors directed into the toilet which essentially lets you see the poop come out of your own butt. This is what someone looked like after they exited the toilet.

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MONA-goer just out of the special bathroom with the special mirror – photo by Iain Excellent

2. Pacing yourself at MOFO is pretty critical; it’s a five-day festival. Don’t go all out on the first couple of nights or you’ll end up too wasted and miss out on solid musical strangeness later on. Also, take the day off work on the Monday so you can stay for all of Sunday MOFO and Faux Mo.

3. If you’re keen on going to the next MOFO in January 2016 (or perhaps Dark Mofo this year in June) make sure your book accommodation as soon as you can, to avoid desperately looking for something at the last minute. Try Air-BnB or other home stay arrangements; hostels; Couchsurfing.org; or stay with a mate who lives in Hobart (or a mate’s hospitable family). Try and stay close to the CBD to avoid heaps of late-night taxi ride costs.

Words by Iain Excellent

Photos by Campbell McKay, MONA/Rémi Chauvin, MONA/Rebecca Fitzgibbon, MONA/Derek Tickner Phil Steinke and Iain Excellent

Feature photo by MONA/Rémi Chauvin



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