ENTERTAINMENT

Hobart's 'Mofo' Is The Summer Festival Where Anything Goes

It's provocative and seriously avant-garde.

18/11/2016 4:30 PM AEDT | Updated 22/11/2016 10:40 AM AEDT
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Brian Ritchie is more than a rocker.

He is known as the bass player in rock band, Violent Femmes. But that title barely touches the surface of the breadth of Brian Ritchie's experience in music.

"I play with the Australian Chamber Orchestra. I play jazz... and I'm a licensed teacher in traditional Japanese music. Not many people know that!" Ritchie told The Huffington Post Australia.

"In my own listening and playing, I don't acknowledge any kind of musical boundary."

As the founder and curator of Hobart's annual summer festival 'Mona Foma', he applies this logic.

We create a utopian artistic atmosphere where anything goes.

"It does reflect me and the kinds of artists, performances and collaborations that I am attracted to. We create a utopian artistic atmosphere where anything goes."

'Mofo' -- as it is known fondly by regulars and locals -- is not your usual, headliner-based festival. Taking over Hobart's Museum of Old and New Art each January, it draws a range of local, interstate and international artists for those not yearning for the latest hit.

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"We are not like other festivals that are essentially the same format each year, with slightly different artists," Ritchie said. "We base our program on the creativity of the artists, not the style of music nor commercial trend."

And 2017 will be no different -- with more than 200 artists and a host of left-of-centre collaborations that fuse art, music and everything in between.

"We're encouraging artists this year to cross mediums and extend their practice. We have a couple of prominent artists coming down with some new and interesting projects," Ritchie said.

Take tetema, a world premiere performance set to take MONA's outdoor stage. It is the latest project from Australian experimental musician Anthony Pateras with American composer and 'Faith No More' frontman Mike Patton and a host of local instrumentalists.

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Aussie rockers 'Regurgitator' will reinterpret US rock band The Velvert Underground's new sound, with an added layer of synth and traditional Chinese zither. And Midnight Oil's guitarist Jim Moginie will perform with German theremin player, Carolina Eyck.

"We'll have interesting perfomative installations and visual art installations that are interactive with the public. It's a very fluid situation," Ritchie said.

And for the musician and curator, it all comes down to the space that, in itself, attracts hoards of tourists to the city.

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"We used to hold the festival around the city, whereas now, it's onsite at the museum. It becomes more about the environment that we create rather than just the names on the poster," he said. "It's interesting to see how the musicians cope with the artwork and the different venues."

And it is attracting a growing audience, year after year.

"When we started, it was almost all locals -- because it came up so spontaneously. Last year, we had more than half from overseas and interstate and that contingent is growing every year."

"People come to our festival not knowing what to expect. But they trust in this experience," Ritchie said.

And to all prospective festival punters, he says: "Come with an open mind".

Mofo will take place around Hobart and at the Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania from January 18-22, 2017.

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