MOFO 2014

Jan. 24th, 2014 11:07 am
sharplittleteeth: (Default)
[personal profile] sharplittleteeth
The image that stays with me:

An industrial welding robot, retro-fitted with a 1,000 watt lamp, traces splines of light inside a darkened tent, while a singer raises her arms and sings to it about Ada Lovelace.

We've just spent a week down in Hobart for the MONA FOMA music festival. Seven days of bands, art, another visit to MONA, and then some touristy daytrips to finish up.

This was my third trip to MOFO, and A.'s fourth. We keep going back because MOFO has such a diverse and stimulating range of music. I hear stuff at MOFO I would never have even known existed.

We started the festival with improvised organ music in St David's Cathedral, and finished it four days later with a dubby set from the Orb. In between we heard experimental saxaphone music (Colin Stetson), Indonesian death metal (Slave Pianos and Punkasila), and a country band with a tap dancing solo (The Perch Creek Family Juband).

I saw the Sun Ra Arkestra, resplendent in their glittering space jazz costumes. (Sadly, they convinced me that squiggly jazz is really not my thing.)

The two bands I was looking forward to seeing were Mick Harvey doing his Serge Gainsbourg covers, and The Julie Ruin, the new band from Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre. Both were great. Harvey was suave and sophisticated. The Julie Ruin were punky and energetic. (They didn't play 'Run Fast' though, my favourite of their songs.)

Unexpected highlights: mandolinist Chris Thile, who plays both blugrass and Bach. Southern US rapper Astronautalis, who charmed the audience, even if his music wasn't particularly exceptional. Jonh Grant, whose grumpy songs about middle age and insecurity got everyone dancing. And, of course, the robot.

The robot-and-singer performance was part of the ADA Project [LINK] by British scupltor Conrad Shawcross. Shawcross has done several pieces featuring light and machinery - his Loop Systems Quintet was one of my favourite works in the original Monanisms exhibition at MONA.

For the ADA project, Shawcross commissioned musicians to respond to the movements of the robot (machine inspiring art), and the history of Ada Lovelace, who was Lord Byron's daughter, and the first computer programmer. The splines the robot drew were inspired by the gear ratios in Charles Babbage's Difference Engine.

So Shawcross's work is very conceptual. But his strength is his ability to distill those concepts down, and produce sculptures that are emotionally and aesthetically striking.

I want to see more of his work. I may have to travel overseas to do so.

Everyday we said we would go out to FauxMo, the official nightclub/afterparty. And then every day we kept piking. We only made it to the final one on Saturday night. After queueing to get in, queueing to buy cocktails, and then queuing for half and hour to watch a two minute performance art piece, we decided to go home. All the young kids were dancing to old Motown records through a tinny and distorted PA in the parking lot. We left them to it. I'm in my forties. I think I've earnt the right not to stay out.

We stayed at the SunRay Apartment, a nice little Art Deco apartment block a few minute's walk from Salamanca. It was a bit noisy, being just off a main road, but the location was great.

I'm not actually in Hobart until I've had breakfast at Machine Laundry Cafe. Mostly we ate brunch there, then ate at the MOFO venue. There were fewer food stall this year, but they did have a nice vegetable fajita, a chickpea and quinoa salad, and the paella.

They also had chips. We ate *lots* of chips.

We visited the renovated Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery on Thursday. There's a lovely surreal new display case, like a vast black crystal embedded with taxidermied birds and suits of armour and bannisters from the old museum staircase. It was very Mona in design.

Friday, we took the ferry out to Mona to see the current exhibition 'The Red Queen'. It wasn't a great experience: we were tired, MONA was crowded, and I just didn't have the concentration to engage with the ideas behind the work. I loved Tessa Farmer's fairytale-meets-taxidermy scuplture 'The Depraved Pursuit of a Possum', and wanted to spend more time with the pagesfrom outsider artist Henry Darger's 'In The Realms of the Unreal'.

On the ferry trip back, I felt like I might have had enough Mona for a few years. It's an astonishing museum, and it's had a radical influence on the way museums present and discuss their collections. But it's also heavy going, and its dark, cave-like spaces do not work well with crowds.

Monday: We took the shuttle bus up to the top of Mt. Wellington, or Kunanyi. The cloud lifted just after we arrived. The views were spectacular.

Tuesday: We did the Bruny Island Safari, a day-trip around the island sampling their gourmet produce. A. and I would preferred less food, more time to explore the Neck and old lighthouse. But I sampled cheeses and ate fresh oysters, and the last stop of the journey was The Nutpatch, a tiny artisanl chocolatiery. We got a lecture on chocolate making, and then sampled his wares. They were delicious.

Wednesday: we had to check out at 10:00am, but our flight home wasn't until 8:30pm. To fill in the day, we visited the Maritime Museum of Tasmania (lots of model ships), had a final lunch at Machine Cafe, and then did a boat cruise out to Iron Pot lighthouse, the second oldest lighthouse in Australia.

The cruise traveled along the coastal cliffs, pointing out the difference between the horizontal layers of the mudstone versus the vertical columns of the dolerite beneath. The cliffs were particularly spectacular around Betsy Island: huge ancient rocks, cracked by time and weather. I felt tiny and brief beneath them, which reminded me about the ADA project, the robot and the mathematicians, and their tribute to mathematics and music and time.

My thoughts were pretty fuzzy at this stage. We were tired and sunburnt and happy. On the way back, we passed a hang-glider, corkscrewing its way up into the air.

We returned to Hobart, shared a tasting plate of whiskys at Lark Distillery, collected our bags, and flew home.


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