With the dates for Dark Mofo 2023 (June 8-22) announced, comes news of a major leadership change: Lee Carmichael is stepping down as creative director of the Hobart Winter Arts and Music Festival, after nine years in the role.
2023 will be Carmichael’s final year at the helm, and a new artistic director will be appointed to oversee the festival from 2024.
Carmichael has been the Creative Director of Dark Mofo since the festival’s inception in 2013.
“I feel that after ten years of coordinating Dark Mofo, it is time for new energy and new ideas to move the festival forward,” Carmichael said in a statement.
“Dark Mofo holds an important place in the Australian art scene, and I am confident that it will continue to provide opportunities for artists and audiences to experience challenging art in the darkest weeks of the year.”
Carmichael will retain his role as Director of DarkLab, the creative agency behind the festival, which also works on large-scale cultural projects in Tasmania.
“I will be devoting more time and energy to DarkLab’s other cultural projects and pushing for better places and more public infrastructure for Hobart so that it can establish itself as a vibrant cultural city,” said Carmichael.
DarkLab projects include the Transformer installation by Doug Aitken, a new permanent art facility in Ida Bay in southern Tasmania, due for completion in January 2024; and the ongoing operation and development of the Cultural Venue in Hobart’s Hanging Garden.
The creative agency will continue to organize and produce Dark Mofo.
Nearly 72,000 tickets were sold for the 2022 festival, which featured artists such as The Kid LAROI and Briggs, bringing in around $3.5 million in revenue. Over 5,200 tickets have been sold to The Kid LAROI, the festival’s most successful event to date.
The festival’s inaugural event, a reclamation walk through Hobart’s central business district, led by First Nations Elders, attracted about 5,000 visitors, up from 3,000 in 2021. Nearly 23,000 people attended the final night of the festival’s winter feast event, while more than 23,000 visited Japanese person Free installation by artist Hiromi Tango Rainbow Dream: Moon Rainbow.
Controversy and cooperation between festivals
Dark Mufu was not without controversy during Carmichael’s tenure—most notably in 2021, when the festival called on First Nations peoples to donate their blood for a proposed artwork by a Spanish artist.
The proposed artwork led to a Petition to Blak List Monacalling for organizational change in the festival and its associated exhibition hall in Mina (Museum of Old and New Art).
In response to the backlash, the festival committed to establishing a First Nations cultural advisory team and seeding $60,000 for development work for Aboriginal artists in Tasmania.
In June of this year, Carmichael said both initiatives are underway, with the process being led by First Nations cultural advisor at Dark Lab, Bacana artist Caleb Nichols Mansell, who is appointed in 2021.
In September, Dark Mofo and DarkLab announced a partnership with Melbourne’s First Nations YIRRAMBOI Festival, titled Relatives.
Together, the festivals will support the development of four new works by local First Nations artists, which will premiere at YIRRAMBOI and Dark Mofo in May and June 2023.
Curating and supporting this new work will be a core working group of First Nations artists and arts professionals: Playwright Nathan Maynard (Balawa), Nichols Mansell (Balawa), Cory Elder (to be announced), YIRRAMBOI Executive Producer Shereen Stewart (Taungurung) )), and YIRRAMBOI co-producer Rosie Kalina (Wimba Wimba).
Dark Mofo 2023 will take place from June 8 to 22 in Hobart.