“It goes 780 kilometres in the air. It nearly touches China,” he calmly says holding his little sister’s hand. She looks up, wide-eyed and nods in agreement saying, “I can see a Chinaman at the top. But only just.”
Light shines on both their chubby, over-awed faces as I overhear their dramatic conversation. It takes me back to the night my father took us outside to see Halley’s Comet. It was such a momentous occasion we stood for what seemed like forever with our necks craned in fascination.
I’m at Dark Mofo’s Spectra installation with my head tilted skyward alongside what feels like the population of Hobart. It’s some 4-degrees outside and yet swarms of coat-clad silhouettes are descending on this spectacle like moths to a flame. To be honest, I’ve never seen so many people out, in the cold, embracing Tasmania’s winter.
To say David Walsh has put Tasmania on the map is to understate. He may not have beamed a light straight to China, but in the imagination of two young Tasmanians, it makes no difference. For them, Dark Mofo will be etched in their memory and in their dreams and quite possibly the myth will be passed along to classmates.
But it’s not just the children that are captivated. Traffic literally rolled to a halt this morning on a main arterial when some type of whale with saggy bloody teats, floated above the city streets. Hobartians aren’t used to that.
Nor, as it turns out, are they used to lying down in the middle of a public building on a fur rug with a voluptuous woman. But this mate of David’s (perhaps?) had other ideas as part of MOFO Winter Feast, while hundreds milled around food stalls. She lured a nicely-dressed lady away from her counterparts, proceeded to pull her down to the floor, and asked that they snuggle together. Promptly, the lady obliged.
As for food choice, it’s a feast fit for Princess Mary. There’s Bruny Island cheese, Willie Smith’s delicious organic cider, grass-red Angus beef from Fat Pig Farm, Ruby’s Macarons, frothy Moo Brews, signs for sexy burgers; there’s such a flurry of Tassie goodness that I don’t know where to turn.
Suitably impressed, I turn on my heel and I’m nearly collected by a lyrca-lady on roller skates. Another mate of David’s I’m sure, along with some odd-ball who’s collecting people’s left overs and pouring them into a bucket like a science experiment. It’s time to move outside.
In my excitement to take a snap that captures the crazy fireballs shooting up outside Princess Wharf 1, I step up onto a trailer. No one seems to mind, the buzz of excited chatter reminds me of the atmosphere during our summer festival season.
The trailer happens to belong to a lovey fellow named Dan who’s brought along his wood fire on said trailer, and whips out the sizzling goodness to show me. “Take a look at this, we like to call it our drunken half lobster in whisky sauce,” he says proudly.
With that, a musician erupts into song, a local throws a log into one of the fire pits and I smile at having just been invited to Stanley for a three-course-feast with my new-found lobster chef.
Not long after, a light show begins and sends a little shower across those who have hurried across to the grassy strip beneath the action.
I join as children leap, dive and laugh around me, and grandparents gaze up with a smile that indicates they’ve been to a rave or two in their day. I realise that David Walsh has done something very special.
Is it the darkness? Is it the light? Or is it the life he has brought to our Tasmanian winter this year. I’m not sure, but what I do know is that in my three Tasmanian decades I’ve never felt a more communal cheer than I did tonight. There is a pride in the air, an electricity in the new sounds, and a glow in the campfire smiles.
If this is winter in Tasmania, it shines more brightly than the European summer I lived this time last year. And might I add, I’m blatantly proud of our little Tasmania tonight….shining more brightly than ever before.
While our beam may not be reaching China, this winter light has brought together an island of people like never before. And for the first time, we’ve all looked up in unison.
Words & images: Alice Hansen
A few more snaps....
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