Event Report: Dark MoFo Festival, Part Three

Nestled among the comings and goings of Hobart town, was a scavenger hunt of art installations hidden in plain sight, waiting for the sunset that happened all too soon each day. The art lived by night. Scattered throughout the golden triangle, down by the water, behind buildings, and in blackened warehouses, the art was accessible to anyone who wanted to look, and participation was one step further. Creatures lurked in the botanical gardens and a ghost ship drifted on the open water. The massive Fire Organ grunted and huffed flames, like a post industrial dragon caught on a parking lot stage. A giant demon sculpture with fierce eyes and protruding breasts and belly, and a car sized fish with open mouth, collected written fears from hundreds of people on to it’s sharp teeth, and was burned in a mass purification ceremony at the end of the week on the evening of the solstice. I filled my paper with anxieties written extra small to fit as much as possible, and hoped that no one snatched my secrets from the jaws of the beast before the incineration (one additional fear). a theme repeated, let not fear guide you here.

The Mercury newspaper building built in 1854 is now vacant, except for what’s growing in the basement. Patricia Paccinini and Peter Hennessey’s exhibition “The Shadows Calling”  lured visitors into the creepy old building to see the mutations happening there. Among the crowd, a fat  grandmother holding the hand of a child stood center room with her back to the door. Undistinguished from the visitors, until close enough to see that the grandma was not human, but some grotesque monstrosity with protuberant flesh covered in hair, wearing a sunday dress and hat. The boy held her tentacle arm, and stared at her with glazed eyes and a slight smile, completely unafraid. This sculpture introduced the idea that these creatures lurk among us and we need not fear them. We were invited into the space to see fruiting bodies of anuses, mysterious moisture oozing from the walls, and the organic growths happening there.  The shadows were calling, indeed.
The Odeon Theater hosted a series of diverse and beautifully produced music concerts.  Garath Liddard of the Drones played an acoustic set that almost had the packed audience in tears. People sat without moving, a hushed and silent crowd listened to his voice stab like a serrated kitchen knife, ripping through a pair of nylon stockings. His song “16 Straws” animated the lingering energy of Tasmania as the historic penal colony, with a gruesome story of an escaped prisoner who told the tale of torture, under the orders of the Commandant.
 “His chief flogger was mad, I heard a prison guard say, He’d wash his lash in a bucket, then drink the remains…”
So brutalized and wanting to die, the men, a group of catholic convicts, drew straws to determine a victim and killer, to avoid the damnation of suicide. The group took responsibility for the murder, and were all sentenced to death. During transport, they revolted and one man escaped, only to be caught again and dragged away. A sad, and likely too true tale. Liddard  broke the mood with jokes between songs asking the audience, “Did you hear about the pickpocket that robbed a midget?…How could anyone stoop so low?”
The Body, and Pallbearer had heads banging on doom metal night, a classic scene, a page ripped from the satanic bible. The audience, distinct in black denim and jump boots, could have been anywhere. Arms crossed, belts studded and heads nodding in unison, the audience faced the screams and thunderous calamity unflinching. From sludgy and morbid, to serpentine riffs, the music transcended heavy metal to something with more dimension, melodic introspection and the loneliness of oblivion.
I left the theater and hugged a total stranger.
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About the author
Spy Emerson
Spy Emerson is an internationally known Conceptual Artist, creator of the Hook-Up Truck. Her works range in mediums, but consistently remain as social engagements, reflecting her passion as an activist and humanitarian. She began her arts practice as a "club kid" at the Limelight Nightclub in NYC 1992 where she escaped with her life to Oakland California in 1995, and remains there today. www.spygirlfriday.com www.hookuptruck.org
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