Exclusive: Live from the DarkMoFo Festival #1


Writer and iconoclast Spy Emerson traveled to darkest Tasmania for the arcane arts, film and music culture festival DarkMoFo and has given FANGORIA with an exclusive account. Here’s her first entry…

Into the Darkness…

I thought it was an ugly… disturbing…  sarcastic novelty. I thought it was a bad joke, like “Get a Boyfriend” breath mints, or “Happy Childhood” room deodorizers.

Having just arrived in Australia, I sat at a table, bleary eyed and jet lagged, transfixed by a grotesque eyeball staring back at me. Scattered within the standard tabletop display, half filled glasses and overstuffed ashtrays, was a cigarette box reminiscent of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, Alex’s eyes forced open to the hyperbolic horrors, but the picture on the box was the horror I was forced to see. My local friends chatted happily, the smokers among the group unconsciously fingered their respective cigarette boxes during the conversations, unfazed by the gore laid out before us all. Bold warnings detailing the disastrous effects of smoking, written in humorously large type and bright colors, paired with giant, graphic images of cancerous mouths, gangrenous feet, and dead babies… a ghastly collection most FANGO readers would excitedly display on a shelf.  This is called “plain packaging” and according to the Internet, it has drastically reduced smoking in Australia, but from what I can tell, it’s also become a sarcastic joke.



During the Bay Area Anti-Meth campaign, people defaced the “I lost ME to Meth” billboards and newspaper ads, and with a few clever changes the potency of the message was dispelled with humor. Suddenly, the ad went from an honest human admission, to a hopped up pirates’ anthem, by simply drawing an eye patch on a man whose slogan had been changed to  “I lost ME Meth, Argh.”



On plain packaging cigarette boxes, “Dyin’ Brian” is the emaciated man in a hospital bed who has become the joke of the reinterpreted campaign.  By ripping apart the boxes and rearranging the pictures, people make their own “Dyin’ Brian” masks. “Well his name is Brian… and there’s a picture of him dying, so, it just became obvious,” said one jaded smoker friend.



So, if the plain packaging horror show is my ominous introduction to this side of the world, I must be in for a serious scare where I’m headed to next week. Far, far from California, on the island of Tasmania, the annual Dark MoFo is a festival celebrating dark things, arranged by the Museum of Old and New Art.  During Winter Solstice, MONA curates 10 days of art and events, music and films, collected worldwide. I’m on my way there with a list of things to do and see, including many of the Dark MoFo Films.

Spanning the scary movie genre from gangster flicks to proper horror, Dark MoFo Films cover the spectrum. There are a few that I’m really looking forward to seeing, and reviewing.

WHEN ANIMALS DREAM is a werewolf film about a 16 year old girl who lives in a remote Danish fishing village and discovers her long kept family secret. As if Danish fishing villages during winter weren’t frightening enough, a werewolf family really brings it to the next level, because it totally seems like it’s based on a true story.

VALHALLA RISING and SEVERED WAYS are both Viking films I want to see because they are both so very different. One is highly produced, extremely bloody and violent, and highly acclaimed, while the other has a heavy metal soundtrack and looks as if it were filmed with a VHS camcorder in someone’s backyard… so bad, yet so good.

Being here now, deep in  the shadows and the cold, one can’t help but be swept up in the excitement about things less celebrated, as if in spite of the oppressive conditions. With shameless humor and fearlessness, the darkness has never seemed so lighthearted.



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About the author
Spy Emerson

Spy Emerson is an internationally known Conceptual Artist, creator of the Hook-Up Truck. Her works range in mediums, but consistently remain as social engagements, reflecting her passion as an activist and humanitarian.

She began her arts practice as a “club kid” at the Limelight Nightclub in NYC 1992 where she escaped with her life to Oakland California in 1995, and remains there today.

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