Dark Mofo is one of those pretentious displays of artistic expression that make most people roll their eyes and sigh. I mean, they try to be all ‘dark’ and ‘edgy’ but they end up only looking puerile and tired. Take for instance, David Walsh’s opening monologue at the inaugural Dark Mofo ideas festival, Dark and Dangerous Thoughts (DDT). Even The Guardian reported:
They didn’t want him to make a speech, he said. But he did it anyway, concluding the piece by projecting a completely nude photograph of himself on to the huge screen at the rear of the Odeon theatre stage.
Or then there was the time when they didn’t have enough towels for participants after the Nude Solstice Swim. That doesn’t sound all that bad until you realise that the average temperature in Hobart at sunrise at the moment is about 4 degrees. So, how are you supposed to welcome in the solstice when you’re standing there freezing to death?!
And let’s not forget last year’s controversy involving the bloody sacrificial ritual of a bull. As reported in hushed and reverent tones by the ABC, it:
Began slowly, with performers stripped naked and bound to crude stretchers and wooden crosses… Some were doused with blood and milk… About halfway into the three-hour show, a bull carcase was brought in and hung on a wooden structure’.
But according to one person who was there, they described it as being:
Two and half hours of her life that she would never get back … Two hours of waiting and then it was just arty boringness, boring, with another layer of boring.’
Another person who left the performance early was quoted as saying:
I think David Walsh has a lot to answer for on this. I’d like to think that life has more to offer than this crap.
So, this year they’ve tried to take it up a level. And Dark Mofo has decided to erect twelve enormous neon red upside down crosses throughout the streets of Hobart. As you could imagine, it has many Christians upset since the upside down cross—especially when it’s combined with the colour red—is commonly recognised as a satanic symbol.
Just in case you’re in Hobart any time soon and you think you’re looking at some kind of trendy advertisement for IKEA or Bunnings—or you’ve stumbled into Hobart’s little known red light district—here’s an example of what I’m referring too (enthusiastically pushed by the ABC):
According to The Guardian, the Tasmanian Premier, Will Hodgman, said that the state government supported the festival, and had “no intention to suppress and indeed censor its courageous creativity”. But can Dark Mofo really be described as having been ‘courageous’? I mean, having a go at Christians is about as new and as edgy as suggesting that they be fed to the lions. It’s so first century. With Jesus’ command to ‘turn the other cheek’ and ‘love your enemies’, they’re just such soft targets.
If the artists at Dark Mofo really wanted to show some courage and—as the Discover Tasmania website states, “explore the links between ancient and contemporary mythology, humans and nature, religious and secular traditions, darkness and light, and birth, death and renewal” then why not have a go at Islam, Hinduism and maybe even Judaism? Putting Godwin’s Law to one-side for the moment, why not engage in a bit of good old-fashioned religious persecution. You know, Aryan style. Although, that might not be ‘woke’ enough for them, hey?
You can just see it now, though, can’t you? This year it’s inverted neon red crosses, but come next winter solstice, Dark Mofo 2019 could have a massive rainbow coloured statue of Buddha, or maybe even bacon flavoured crescent moon pastries. Now, that would reveal what the artists really believe about ‘birth, death and renewal’, rather than just have some bloke being buried for three days in an air-conditioned container under one of Hobart’s major streets.
All of which is to say, the artists of Dark Mofo aren’t anywhere near being as ‘dark’ or courageous as they potentially could be, no matter what the Premier of Tasmania might say. I mean, they might think that they’re ‘pushing the envelope’, but they’re really just regurgitating the current zeitgeist of anti-Christian bigotry. Get with the program guys! It’s 2018, not 33 AD.
According to Walsh—the owner of MONA—the museum is not going that well financially. In fact, Walsh admits that truth be known, it’s less than ‘profitable’. If I could be so bold as to give Walsh a bit of artistic advice, then it would be this. Rather than continually belittling and maligning Christianity, why not promote it? I know that what I’m saying is pretty counter-cultural—radical even—but isn’t that what art is all about – pushing the boundaries and going against the flow of what everyone else thinks? Hobart’s newspaper, The Mercury, gets what I’m talking about as this Kudelka cartoon demonstrates:
So, there you go. That’s what you’ve got to do Walshy. Rather than projecting naked images of yourself, if you really want to explore the links between dark and light, then don’t just mock Christians, but go after all the religions of the world, as well as the atheists and agnostics while you’re at it.
Better still, give people who really follow Jesus a chance to express in a positive way what they actually believe.
Not only does that fulfil your intended charter, but it’s also something that I reckon people would pay actual money to see.
Mark Powell is the Associate Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, Strathfield.
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