Fesitval Review : Mona Foma Hobart

Don’t eccentric millionaires make life so much easier? There are many David Walsh stories, like that’s he’s an instinctive maths genius who devised an insanely complex system of winning on horse races. Whatever the case, organisers at his Museum of Old and New Art, and its Festival of Music and Art (MONA FOMA, or MOFO), only have to worry about keeping him happy.


It’s hugely liberating for an arts festival to stage whatever they like without worrying about nervous public bureaucrats threatening their funding. Walsh claims to be publicity-shy, but is always willing to risk it. His portrait in the MOFO program is much more subtly controversial than anything Bill Henson produced.

The program, sprawling over a couple of weeks and a good chunk of Hobart’s dock precinct, shows just how eclectic Walsh’s tastes are. Amanda Palmer does rock cabaret in an Aussie flag corset. Mikelangelo plays a Balkan groove with The Black Sea Gentlemen. Neil Gaiman reads an epic revenge narrative to the sound of string quartet Fourplay. Musica de Cucina makes an interactive symphony with the help of audience members and kitchen implements.


The Puta Madre brothers bring their faux-Mexican schtick; Canadian Owen Pallett (aka Final Fantasy) brings his violin and loop pedals. Crazy old ladies and little children dance with the same lack of self-consciousness. Korean singer Bae Il Dong trained by yelling at a waterfall all day for seven years. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion probably didn’t.


There are also workshops with many festival performers. The upside is a two-way performer-audience relationship, the downside comes with questions like, “Phillip Glass, why do I love your music?” or “Amanda, will you sing me a birthday song?”


But best of all? Aside from a couple of acts, the whole thing is free. You have to love eccentric millionaires.