Review: A Forest, Dark Mofo (TAS)

Featuring works by a range of artists, A Forest is like a giant crumbling 21st century haunted house for adults.
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For, In Your Tongue, I Cannot Fit, Shilpa Gupta, A FOREST. Photo Credit: Dark Mofo/Jesse Hunniford, 2019. Image Courtesy Dark Mofo.

A Forest is a like a giant crumbling 21st century haunted house for adults. It’s full of the unexpected, the gory and the transient. The way Dark Mofo transforms spaces and sees potential in the mundane or forgotten is really quite incredible. 

Filling every creepy red lit corner and hiding in the shadows ready to surprise and disturb you’ll find a range of contemporary works, ranging from a VR piece which exposes you to an experience of violent brutality, to the poetry of a live performer slowly melting their old self from their body in complete stillness.

In true Dark Mofo style, several of these works are confronting, and at times, truly brutal to experience. When the works are most successful, the difficult imaginings of our complacent selves are shocked from the lull and brought fiercely into the present. Our minds fizz with the points of connections, our hearts sink and the difficult layers of the work unravel within us.

When works like these are not so successful, it’s easy to reject the art as indulgent, or shallow in its desire to shock without depth.

Jordan Wolfson’s Real Violence is a sadistic virtual reality experience comprising two minutes of brutal violence perpetrated by a very realistically animated version of the artist. The experience is difficult. It’s nauseating and disorientating. You experience the blood and bones cracking in real time while a soundtrack, a man’s voice singing two Hebrew blessings, runs behind the sounds of boots into ribs and passing traffic.

I watch people as they leave the space. Their reaction is a mix of dismissal, disturbance and silent discomfort. Some don’t last through the two minutes and are taking their VR headsets off in the first 30 seconds. 24 hours after seeing this work I’m still unsure whether it was successful or not, but I definitely don’t need to see it again.

Two of the works, Eric Demetriou’s Bunghole and Marco Fusinato’s Aetheric Plexus (The Field) rely on the patience of the audience. Both of the works are randomly animated, and for much of the time the audience views them as static. Fusinato’s work however has a delicious irony to it. The longer the viewer stands still and watches it, the less likely it is to do anything.

There are two works in A Forest that are absolute treasures. Cassil’s Tiresias is a poignant and mesmerising durational work that sees them clad in frozen masculine armour. Beautiful lit and matched with a soundtrack that invites you to stay and consider, it’s a work of depth and vivid imagination.

Indian artist Shilpa Gupta’s For, In Your Tongue, I Cannot Fit, stirred contemplative minds and hearts as people immersed themselves in the work’s sublime poetics. Written on each piece of paper are the words in a poem that have caused the writer to be arrested. At ear height you can hear their words, as if being whispered directly to you. Vivid in its simplicity and devastating in its message, this sea of words and sound, created by pierced lines of poetry on paper is a great note to end your exploration of A Forest.

Star rating: Varied
Some of the works within are 4 ½ stars, others a 3. As an experience it’s a solid 3 ½ stars.

A Forest
Curator: Jarrod Rawlins
Artists: Antony Hamilton Projects + Chunky Move; Cassils; Chris Henschke; Eric Demetriou; Jordan Wolfson; Meagan Streader; Marco Fusinato; Michael Candy; Paul McCarthy; Shilpa Gupta, and Steven Rhall
12-16 June, 5–10pm
19-23 June, 5–10pm
$20 timed entry on the hour (last entry 9pm)
79 Melville St, Hobart

Kath Melbourne
About the Author
Kath Melbourne is a Tasmanian arts executive who has led multi art festivals, innovative government initiatives and produced large-scale dance, circus and theatre productions in Australia, Asia and Europe. She's worked in Aboriginal communities, outback towns and off the side of 20 storey buildings. Right now she's consulting on projects nationally and internationally, and reviewing for Arts Hub Australia. She does not tweet.