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Tasmania’s Stories

Dark Mofo embraces danger

Edition 192_DarkMofo

David Walsh snapped up an artwork by Chris Ofili in 2007 after it had so outraged New Yorkers that it had generated a celebrated court battle.

The Holy Virgin Mary went on display when MONA (the Museum of Old and New Art) opened in 2011 and it earned lots of column inches, as we used to say.

The MONA owner sold it in 2015 for more than $4.5 million, making a tidy profit.

Now Walsh's protégé-at-a-distance, Leigh Carmichael, is applying his boss's strategy to Dark Mofo 2018.

Carmichael has signed up DDT (Dark and Dangerous Thoughts), a curated showcase of literature, film and ideas that was axed by the Sydney Opera House in 2014 amid a New York-style public outcry.

A talk by Muslim activist Uthman Badar titled Honour Killings are Morally Justified was at the centre of that row.

After interviewing Carmichael for The Australian Financial Review, Gabriella Coslovich wrote: "As Sydney moves on from dangerous ideas, Hobart is just getting started."

Carmichael told Coslovich: "We feel there’s a space in Australia to be able to have discussions about really confronting philosophies and ideas, and we’re going to step in.

“We’re not doing shock for shock’s sake. We do believe in what we are doing. This isn’t about trying to create a nightmare for ourselves.”

Last year Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch's centrepiece performance at Dark Mofo included a mock crucifixion and a freshly slaughtered bull carcass being torn apart.

The festival team received countless threats and reported more than 100 of the most menacing to the police.

Carmichael was told: "If the bull dies, you die!"

However, ticket sales for Dark Mofo jumped by almost 60 per cent to $2.1 million. Attendance figures soared from 300,000 to almost 450,000.

Despite of, or because of those experiences, Carmichael intends to feature a DDT "panel" this year that includes a sniper, an ex-jihadi and a promoter of Sharia law.

Walsh has given his blessing to the three-day DDT talkfest, with the caveat: "This cannot be a lefties' love-in!"

DDT is directed by former New Yorker Laura Kroetsch who has built a local reputation since 2012 as the Director of the Adelaide Writers' Week.

“We’ll be asking her to draw on her wealth of experience as we program some of the more challenging and dangerous ideas being discussed in the 21st century," Carmichael said.

"We’ll be looking at a broad range of issues, but it’s unlikely we’ll stray too far from the core themes of [sexual activity] and killing.”

Kroetsch said: “The ambition is not just to preach to the converted, but to have a conversation between people who don’t necessarily agree with each other."

Dark Mofo will be extended to span three weekends this year, running from 15 to 24 June.

An all-night CBD block party titled Night Mass will bring five nights of music and performance to the streets, a dozen bars and other venues, including the Odeon Theatre.

Carmichael expects a crowded, all-in event, much like the Winter Feast at PW1 which was a popular success in 2017.

A perceptive writer on the complexities of the MONA Effect, Coslovich observed: "For a festival that flirts with death, Dark Mofo is deeply life-affirming, luring people out to revel in the cold, under the stars, away from their screens, stirring their senses, laying bare the sacred in the everyday."

Coslovich questioned both Carmichael and Walsh about their sometimes tense relationship.

“We’ve had a fairly difficult few years, and I would like to see us working together again rather [than] in competition,” Carmichael, 42, told her.

“It’s not good for me if I’m in competition with David, because I’d lose. There is no competition.

"My projects are better for having him in on them and across them. And he’s proved with Pharos [the new wing of MONA] that he doesn’t need me.”

Carmichael's role as Creative Director at MONA changed in 2016 to focus on Dark Mofo, the redevelopment of Macquarie Point and other entrepreneurial ventures that might emerge and that Walsh would be prepared to back.

Carmichael is now the Creative Director of a think tank, DarkLab, that is a MONA subsidiary.

“It was his suggestion for me that we break away,” Carmichael told Coslovich. “I made some remarks about maybe letting go of some of the commercial stuff because it was getting too much for me.

"David and I had a fairly heated meeting and, for whatever reason, he decided it was time to separate Dark Mofo from MONA."

Walsh told the reporter: “DarkLab will justify its existence if all it ever does is provide support and vision for Mac Point and keep Dark Mofo being an engaging and slightly dangerous spectacle.”

And what about Carmichael? “Leigh does resist. He’s an interesting character at times. He’s abrasive, he’s extremely creative, he will take a lot of the burden off me as a target."

Walsh said Carmichael had been grumpy initially over his planned redeployment.

"He interpreted it, that he was being pushed out of it. And maybe [he] was,” Walsh said.

Image courtesy of DarkLab

8 March 2018, Edition 192

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Facts about Tasmania


Tasmania is the southernmost state of Australia, located at latitude 40° south and longitude 144° east and separated from the continent by Bass Strait. It is a group of 334 islands, with the main island being 315 km (180 miles) from west to east and 286 km (175 miles) north to south.


Tasmanians are resourceful and innovative people, committed to a continually expanding export sector. In 2012–13, international exports from the state totalled $3.04 billion. USA, China, Taiwan, India, Japan and other Asian countries account for the bulk of exports, with goods and services also exported to Europe and many other regions.


Tasmania is similar in size to the Republic of Ireland or Sri Lanka. The Tasmanian islands have a combined coastline of more than 3,000 km.


The main island has a land area of 62,409 sq km (24,096 sq miles) and the minor islands, taken together, total only 6 per cent of the main island’s land area. The biggest islands are Flinders (1,374 sq km/539 sq miles), King, Cape Barren, Bruny and Macquarie Islands.


About 250km (150 miles) separates Tasmania’s main island from continental Australia. The Kent Group of Islands, one of the most northerly parts of the state, is only 55km (34 miles) from the coast of the Australian continent.


Twice named ‘Best Temperate Island in the World’ by international travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler, Tasmania has a mild, temperate maritime climate, with four distinct seasons.


In summer (December to February) the average maximum temperature is 21° Celsius (70° Fahrenheit). In winter (June to August) the average maximum is 12° C (52° F) and the average minimum is 4° C (40° F). Snow often falls in the highlands, but is rarely experienced in more settled areas.

Annual Rainfall

Tasmania’s west coast is one of the wettest places in the world, but the eastern part of the State lives in a rain-shadow. Hobart, the second-driest capital city in Australia, receives about half as much rain as Sydney.

Annual Rainfall

Annual rainfall in the west is 2,400 mm (95 inches), but hardy locals insist there is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing. If you travel 120 km east to Hobart, you experience a much drier average of 626 mm (24 inches) a year.


The 512,875-strong community spreads itself across the land; less urbanised than the population of any other Australian state. Hobart, the capital city, is home to more than 212,000 people.

Capital City

Hobart nestles at the foot of kunanyi / Mount Wellington (1,270 m / 4,000 ft) and overlooks the Derwent Estuary, where pods of dolphins and migrating whales are sometimes seen from nearby beaches. Surrounded by thickly forested rolling hills, the city is home to the state parliament and the main campus of the University of Tasmania.

Capital City

Its historic centre features Georgian and Regency buildings from colonial times. Hobart is home port for coastal fishing boats, Antarctic expeditions and vessels that fish the Southern Ocean.

Land Formation

Mountain ranges in the south-west date back 1,000 million years. Ancient sediments were deeply buried, folded and heated under enormous pressure to form schists and glistening white quartzites.

Land Formation

In the south-west and central highlands, dolerite caps many mountains, including Precipitous Bluff and Tasmania’s highest peak, Mt Ossa (1617 m / 5300 ft). More than 42 per cent of Tasmania is World Heritage Area, national park and marine or forest reserves.


Vegetation is diverse, from alpine heathlands and tall open eucalypt forests to areas of temperate rainforests and moorlands, known as buttongrass plains. Many plants are unique to Tasmania and the ancestors of some species grew on the ancient super-continent, Gondwana, before it broke up 50 million years ago.


Unique native conifers include slow-growing Huon pines, with one specimen on Mt Read estimated to be up to 10,000 years old. Lomatia tasmanica, commonly known as King’s holly, is a self-cloning shrub that may well be the oldest living organism on earth. It was discovered in 1937.


Tasmania is the last refuge of several mammals that once roamed the Australian continent. It is the only place to see a Tasmanian devil or eastern quoll (native cat) in the wild and is the best place to see the spotted-tailed quoll (tiger cat), all carnivorous marsupials.


The eastern bettong and the Tasmanian pademelon, both now extinct on the Australian continent, may also be observed.


The Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, was Australia’s largest surviving carnivorous marsupial and is a modern day mystery. The last documented thylacine died in captivity in 1936 and although the animal is considered extinct, unsubstantiated sightings persist.

History and Heritage

Aboriginal people have lived in Tasmania for about 35,000 years, since well before the last Ice Age. They were isolated from the Australian continent about 12,000 years ago, when the seas rose to flood low coastal plains and form Bass Strait.

History and Heritage

Descendants of the original people are part of modern Tasmania’s predominantly Anglo-Celtic population.

History and Heritage

Tasmania was originally named Van Dieman’s Land by the Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman in 1642. The island was settled by the British as a penal colony in 1803 and the original name was associated with the convict era. It was changed to Tasmania when convict transportation stopped in 1853.


A resourceful island culture has generated leading-edge niche industries, from production of high-speed catamaran ferries and marine equipment to lightning-protection technology.


Tasmanians produce winches and windlasses for some of the world’s biggest ocean-going pleasure craft; large-scale inflatable evacuation systems and provide specialist outfit-accommodation services to the marine industry.


The Wooden Boat Centre at Shipwrights Point has re-established the skills and traditions of another age and attracts students from around the world.


Tasmania is a world leader in natural turf systems for major sporting arenas and in areas of mining technology and environmental management. Its aquaculture industry has developed ground-breaking fish-feeding technology and new packaging.


Tasmanians sell communications equipment to many navies and their world-class fine timber designers and craftsmen take orders internationally for furniture made from distinctive local timber.


The state is a natural larder with clean air, unpolluted water and rich soils inviting the production of 100 varieties of specialty cheeses, as well as other dairy products, mouth-watering rock lobsters, oysters, scallops and abalone, Atlantic salmon, beef, premium beers, leatherwood honey, mineral waters, fine chocolates, fresh berry fruits, apples and crisp vegetables.


Tasmania is a producer of award-winning cool-climate wines, beers, ciders and whiskies. Other export products include essential oils such as lavender, pharmaceutical products and premium wool sought after in Europe and Asia. Hobart is a vital gateway to the Antarctic and a centre for Southern Ocean and polar research.


The industries in Tasmania which made the greatest contribution to the State’s gross product in 2010–11 in volume terms were: Manufacturing (9.4%), Health care and social assistance (8.2%), Financial and insurance services (7.2%), Ownership of dwellings and Agriculture, forestry and fishing (each 7.1%).

Getting to Tasmania

Travel is easy, whether by air from Sydney or Melbourne, or by sea, with daily sailings of the twin ferries Spirit of Tasmania 1 and 2 each way between Melbourne and Devonport throughout the year.

This site has been produced by the Brand Tasmania Council © 2014

Brand Tasmania

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