Uniting Church finds light in Dark Mofo

dark mofo
NIGEL TAPP

Hobart arts festival Dark Mofo has always been at the edge offering art expressions whichhave, in some cases, attracted controversy.

The decision this year to headline the event with the three-hour 150.Action by Austrian Herman Nitsch – which has been described as “a bloody, sacrificial ritual” and involves the disembowelling of a bull carcass and copious blood poured on a naked figure on a cross – comes as no real surprise.

This is what Dark Mofo founder David Walsh does, both with the six-year-old festival and his Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) – he uses art as a medium to raise difficult and challenging questions.

So why then would the Uniting Church allow some of its churches and other properties to be associated and used as part of a Dark Mofo exhibition?

For the Presbytery of Tasmania it was simple – the congregations involved with multimedia light installation Crossing have been impressed with the vision of creators David Patman and Michelle Boyde and their willingness to work collaboratively with the Church.

Crossing imagines a post-secular pilgrimage by creating a pathway of light across a 200km stretch of the Midlands Highway between Launceston and Hobart.

From 13 to 18 June six roadside churches – Pilgrim Uniting (Launceston), Union Chapel (Cleveland), Ross Uniting, Oatlands Uniting, the former Presbyterian Church (Kempton) and Hobart’s Scots Memorial Uniting – will be progressively illuminated by lighting artist Matt Adey with musical performances led by Tasmanian-born and Melbourne-based composer Miles Brown.

Exterior and interior lighting displays will occur between 5:30pm and 9pm with performances taking place from 7pm on the night each church lights up.

Lighting will only be on for the evening of performances except for Pilgrim, which will be lit for the six days of the event.

The interior of each church will also become a site-specific multi-sensory (sound, lighting and olfactory) installation which invites audiences to participate in a simple ‘crossing’ ritual – guiding them to their next destination.

Pilgrim will also feature the use of breath-triggered light and sound effects, designed by Launceston-based classically-trained composer Dylan Sheridan.

Mr Patman said pilgrimage is found in almost all spiritual traditions, whether as a journey to sites of spiritual significance or as an opportunity for reflection and enlightenment.

“While Dark Mofo events are intentionally challenging and explore darker themes, we are conscious of being respectful to the Uniting Church and its values,”  he said.

“The work will be primarily light-based, but will also include sound and olfactory elements and audience participation.

“We have found all the people we have worked with to be extremely open, supportive and enthusiastic.

“There has also been a real understanding of where we are coming from, and a willingness to collaborate, which does not always happen.”

Mr Patman said the Launceston-to-Hobart stretch of highway was chosen because of its historical significance to Tasmania.

Pilgrim Uniting Minister Rod Peppiatt said the tide of negative publicity associated with the Nitsch performance in April did cause him, and the Church council, some heartache but the nature of the conversations with Mr Patman and Ms Boyde made all parties feel comfortable.

“They have come to worship at Pilgrim and have identified with the Uniting Church,” Mr Peppiatt said.

“They have been very easy to talk to and have been very respectful at all points along the way.”

Mr Peppiatt said he hoped people who participated in the event would leave with a sense of beauty and reverence “and find some interesting spaces to reflect on the light overcoming darkness and us (Christians) bearing witness to the light.’’

 

Where Crossing will be staged

13-18 June, Pilgrim Uniting Church, Launceston
7 pm, 13 June: Performance by Danielle de Picciotto and Alexander Hacke with Miles Brown (ticketed)
5.30 pm – 9 pm, 14-18 June: Installation by Dylan Sheridan

14 June, Union Chapel, Cleveland
7 pm: Performance by Miles Brown (free)
5.30 pm – 9 pm: Installation by Matt Warren and Gail Priest

15 June, Ross Uniting Church
7 pm: Performance by Miles Brown (free)
5.30 pm – 9 pm: Installation by Matt Warren and Gail Priest

16 June, Oatlands Uniting Church
7 pm: Performance by Miles Brown (free)
5.30 pm – 9 pm: Installation by Matt Warren and Gail Priest

17 June, Former Presbyterian Church, Kempton
7 pm: Performance by Miles Brown (free)
5.30 pm – 9 pm: Installation by Matt Warren and Gail Priest

18 June, Scots Memorial Uniting Church, Hobart
7 pm: Performance by Miles Brown (free)
5.30 pm – 9 pm: Installation by Matt Warren and Gail Priest

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