Dark Mofo organisers haven’t taken the Lord Mayor of Hobart’s recent threat to pull the plug on council funding and support of the “shock festival” lying down (unlike the performance artist who got buried for three days beneath Macquarie Street at this year’s event, amirite?).
ICYMI: Ron Christie floated the idea of axing the festival’s $200,000 a year council cash flow after being inundated with complaints from local Christians over this year’s installation of inverted crosses across the city, arguing that the boundary-pushing festival was generating an “unhealthy culture” in Hobart.
“They say the mark of a good city is how well you look after your citizens, and I think the citizens have expressed their concerns about different aspects of Dark Mofo and which way it’s going culturally,” he told the ABC, adding that what started out as a family event has become tarnished by controversy.
“Hobart is a community city, and it’s Hobart, not Mobart,” he said.
The council’s three-year funding deal for Dark Mofo is up for renewal this year, and Christie is using it as an excuse to push negotiations about the festival’s future and creative direction.
“I think it’s time now to put the brakes on. We’re going too fast,” he said.
However, in a statement to all the other Dark Mofos out there, festival organisers have basically told the Mayor, in the politest of terms, to go away.
“If we acquiesce to curatorial influence and become tame, the festival will die in three years, so the money will be irrelevant,” MONA owner David Walsh said.
While Creative Director Leigh Carmichael said, “It’s deeply concerning when community leaders attempt to censor art with cheap threats to cut funds.”
Carmichael continued: “We can assure our Dark Mofo audiences that we will not accept any festival funding if there are artistic limitations attached”, adding that “it is inappropriate for a Lord Mayor to draw an imaginary line based entirely on their own moral compass”.
Speaking with the ABC, Walsh went on to argue that the Dark Mofo audience is one that “resists the centre” and can “cope with ambiguity”.
“We are not driven by a need to shock, but we do feel a need to test the merit of the status quo,” he said.
“It isn’t about being cross about crosses, it’s about how intensely and majestically different we all are, and it’s about stretching the elastic that binds us.
“We believe Hobart is a city that can accommodate a multiplicity of views, as we do within our curatorial process.”
Now in its sixth year, Dark Mofo brings an estimated $50 million annually to Hobart and has been praised by Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman.
Read organisers’ official statement on the mayor’s funding cut threat below.