MoFo’s midwinter event is moved upstream as Tasmanian Police show their funny side.
The Museum of Old and New Art’s Dark MoFo festival celebrates the cold and darkness of winter in Tasmania with a series of arts happenings around Hobart bu earlier in the week the organisers appeared to have been forced to cancel one of their signature events. Tasmania Police expressed concern that the nude plunge into the Derwent would contravene laws relating to offensive behaviour and indecent exposure.
Now it appears a compromise has been reached after Tasmanian Police Minister David O'Byrne back-pedalled and showed he had a sense of humour into the bargain. "It's not a case of turning the other cheek, it's not a storm in a D-cup", he quipped as he announced a proposed shifting of the event from Nutgrove Beach to the more discreet environs of nearby Long Beach. "It really is a case of us working together to make sure something like this can happen."
The event should involved 25 people in “artistic” body paint with all registered participants taking part in a 50-metre sunrise dip. Surf Lifesaving Tasmania will to be on hand in case of incidents. MOMA has apparently received 200 registrations from members of the public wanting to take part before the program for Dark Mofo had gone to print.
Tasmanian Police had previously branded the swim contrary to public decency, warning the museum that should they go ahead, participants could be arrested for a range of misdemeanours including indecent exposure, obscene behaviour or disorderly conduct.
“As soon as you start seeing the word ‘arrest’ coming through on the email, the fun disappears pretty quickly,” Leigh Carmichael, Creative Director of Dark MoFo told the ABC. “We thought there'd be 15, maybe 20 people, so it was going to be quite a small event…once it got to 200 people… I've got no idea, but I imagine a beach full of bums.”
Carmichael has previous at MOMA concerning naked bodies. Last year Melbourne artist Stuart Ringholt led a group of about 100 people on an after-hours nude tour of the gallery. The police were happy to let that event go ahead as it was felt to be “behind closed door”.
Hobart Lord Mayor, Damon Thomas, had pointed out that it was the police that banned the event, rather than the council. If it had been brought to them, they would have considered it but it hadn’t got to that stage as Tasmania Police were determined that the event couldn't go ahead. It was left to David O'Byrne to resolve the situation by calling on the parties to get together and find a way to allow the nude swim to go ahead.
Disappointed potential swimmers were quick to take to Dark Mofo's Facebook page with some urging people to defy the ban and take the plunge regardless. A more imaginative solution however was put forward by one bright spark: “Easy. Mass swim in pornographic swimsuits. Make it mandatory to wear a swimsuit not of your gender/species." It seems likely now that pornography is off the agenda and that nature and art will win the day.