Saturday, January 16, 2010

This festival is living up to its acronym

MOFO Wednesday night

by Stephenie Cahalan

MOFO has to be the festival of music, art and acronyms. At this event there is so much going on none of us have time to enunciate the first shortening of the name (MONA FOMA: for the Museum of Old and New Art Festival of Music and Art), hence the need for an even shorter one! Even the good old Princes Wharf has been glossed up and turned into PW1.

MOFO is the sum of its parts and each element alone is good, bad, excellent or rubbish according to who is watching. A bit like all beauty. And this is a festival of art and music that prompts comment traversing a broad spectrum of opinion.

I have decided that the festival is good in bite-sized pieces, but it is even better if you commit a chunk of time and just throw yourself in for the whole experience.
On Wednesday night, for example, I watched a ‘Pixel Pirate’ video that, like most on-screen colour and movement, offered great images and snippets of meaning for those with a short attention span.

Following that, I sat a few metres away from two artists who have occupied the stages and attention of members of the music community who, to many of our age and location, are purely the stuff of music documentaries. To say it is very cool to be within coo-ee of John Cale on the Hobart docks is a profound understatement. To discuss his role in modern music history is the stuff of PhD theses, for which this blog is not the place. And I don’t know why Brian Ritchie chose to make Hobart his home but I, for one, am reaping the benefits of his presence.

Watching ‘Dyddiau Du’ (‘Dark Days’) was a transformative 45 minutes reminding me that John Cale, Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground pioneered what we know as multimedia. Decades on, the simplicity and sophistication of this five-screen video and music experience is the product of an old hand and master practitioner.

Outside the Cale exhibition, in a circle of cymbals, the performance ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond’ left me unsure of its link to its namesake, but it was a interesting experience in sound, tone and cadence. I then had my heartbeat recorded for twenty seconds by Mary (not a doctor, as the white coast would suggest, but the MONA librarian) to be added to Christian Boltanski’s collection of 200,000 others to make into… music, history? It doesn’t matter… the waiting room was so much more pleasant than my GP’s.

If you don’t make it into Cale’s exhibitions, get to have a little dance to the Cumbia Cosmonauts or snooze in the beanbags (as one shirty man told me he was doing as I lounged against his beanbag. I mean really darling, it’s a festival for God’s sake!), then check out Ana Prvacki’s truly lovely Ananatural Production. Being an election junkie I was instantly drawn to the AEC cardboard polling booths, but this is an election with a difference. Check it out and don’t forget to vote!

There is so much going on at MOFO there will be something for everyone to like AND hate. But that’s good – it makes us talk, think and hang out with each other. I reckon that’s a worthy use of the Tasmanian (and sweet sponsors’) dollar.

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