Brian Ritchie – honorary Tasmanian, co-founder and curator of Mona Foma and lover of the pork pie hat – wants you to know he is not a Satanist. On the day he takes Broadsheet through the often psychedelic and always surprising 2019 Mona Foma program, Ritchie seems energised by the festival’s move from Hobart to Launceston next year.
“It feels like there are a lot of new possibilities,” he says. “We’re really only scratching the surface of the town.”
That’s not to say the choice wasn’t met with resistance. “People warned us not to do it,” says Ritchie. “Launceston’s a very conservative place, they said, and we’ll get opposition.” The warnings were incorrect. “I just spoke last Thursday at the Launceston Club,” he says. That’s a proper old gentlemen-and-ladies club for the blue bloods of Launceston society. Even they’ve welcomed us with open arms.”
After a successful run of satellite shows held in Launceston during Mona Foma in January this year, this is the first time Mona Foma will be entirely based in Tasmania’s second largest city. The cosy, tidy town has beautiful architecture and a disproportionate population of exotic animals – something 2019 attendees will come face to face with when Ritchie leads daily morning meditation sessions in Cataract Gorge, which teems with free-roaming peacocks, or when you’re dropping in on endurance performance artist Ben Landau as he hums non-stop for 24 hours in City Park.
Just wait until the letters to the editor roll into the Launceston Examiner about how you’re all Satanists, we suggest. “Discussion is always healthy,” says Brian. “But you know … we’re not Satanists.”
Richie is proud of the 2019 line-up. It’s Australian-heavy, more than 50 per cent non-male, and spotlights some lesser-known corners of the art and music world. Big names include UK electronic titans Underworld and Swedish R’n’B icon and Massive Attack collaborator Neneh Cherry.
Update (Monday 14 January): Underworld have cancelled their Australian tour and won't be performing at Mona Foma. The festival wrote on its Facebook: “Underworld has cancelled its Australian tour. We’re devo that they’ll no longer perform at our first Mona Foma in Launceston, and shocked by their announcement” after Underworld confirmed their withdrawal from the line-up “due to unforeseen circumstances, beyond the control of the band”.
Sydney electronic trio PNAU will replace Underworld at Mona Foma on Sunday 20 January, bringing with them New York singer Kira Divine. 2019 is a special year for PNAU, marking 20 years since the release of their debut ARIA-winning album Sambanova. Since then, Peter Mayes and Nick Littlemore have released five albums and gained a new member in Sam Littlemore. PNAU said on their Facebook they’re “honoured and stoked” to be added to the Mona Foma line-up.
Other highlights include Oneohtrix Point Never, the nom de plume of Brooklyn-based electronic musician Daniel Lopatin, who has emerged in the last decade as one of the most innovative and exciting producers in the world. His records R Plus Seven and Garden of Delete are experimental masterpieces, but in Launceston he’ll be presenting Myriad, a theatrical, visual performance piece and an Australian exclusive.
Courtney Barnett will also make her Mofo debut. “It’s a long and twisted road to get Courtney into the festival,” says Ritchie. “She lived in Hobart when I first moved here and we’ve been trying to get her into the festival every year. Unfortunately she’s risen to superstardom now.”
All-female psychedelic desert rockers Les Filles de Illighadad will arrive from central Niger. “We really love this Saharan rock sound,” says Ritchie. “They’re rocking in more interesting ways than anywhere else in the world. Elsewhere from Africa, Ethiopian jazz pioneer Mulatu Astatke will bring his vibraphone, and South African singer Nakhane hisown brand of warped gospel, and dancefloor glam.
There’s plenty of Tasmanian music too, including ambient black-metal eccentric Striborg, from the very black-metal southern Tasmanian town of Snug. “I called Striborg and asked him if he wanted to do something with the Australian Art Orchestra,” says Ritchie. “He said, ‘Well, do they like to have fun and do they like to make noise?’ Check and check.”
The festival’s reliably strong visual-art line-up will ensure you’re never far from an installation or curiosity. British artist Nick Ryan has built a machine that converts location data of space junk into sound, and Launceston-based Amanda Parer will present Man, a large-scale sculpture presented as a 21st-century rethink of Rodin’s monumental sculpture The Thinker.
“We’re just as excited about the lesser-known stuff [as the big names],” says Ritchie. “It’s a mosaic, it all fits together.”
Even in … Pennsylvania, USA? The festival has erected a billboard in the north eastern US state offering anyone in the local Amish community free tickets if they want to come check it out, perhaps while on Rumspringa (a kind of Amish schoolies).
“We think they’d really enjoy it,” says Ritchie. “It’s a metaphor for our welcoming stance – we’re aiming at the least likely targets and asking them to come. This festival is for everybody and anybody. We actually believe that.”
Mona Foma takes place in Launceston from January 13 to 20, 2019. Tickets go on sale Monday October 15 from 12pm.
Mona Foma 2019
Neneh Cherry (SWE)
Oneohtrix Point Never (USA)
PNAU (replacing Underworld)
Mulatu Astatke and Black Jesus Experience (ETH/AUS)
Courtney Barnett (AUS)
Satu Vänskäaand the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra (FIN/AUS)
Adele Varcoe and Self-Assembly (AUS/FIN)
Art of the Body: Health, Beauty and Desire (AUS)
Aviva Endean (AUS)
Ben Landau (AUS)
Calvin Bowman (AUS)
Stephen Nomura Schible’s Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda (JAP)
Dana Gingras and group A and Sonya Stefan (CAN/JAP)
Dylan Sheridan (AUS)
Emily Sanzaro (AUS)
Evan Carydakis Quartet (AUS)
EWAH & The Vision of Paradise (AUS)
Heath Franco (AUS)
INNER COURSE (USA)
Interweave Arts (AUS)
Jen Brown and Helene Weeding (AUS)
Jonathan Bree (NZL)
Julia Holter (USA)
Kenny Pittock (AUS)
Kuniko Kato (JAP)
Les Filles de Illighadad (NER)
Lou Conboy (AUS)
Lou Hubbard (AUS)
Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey (AUS)
Margie Livingston (USA)
Mindy Meng Wang (CHN)
Mona Foma Soma
Nick Ryan (UK)
Parer Studio (AUS)
Pete Mattila (AUS)
Robin Fox (AUS)
Rosie Deacon (AUS)
Sabu Orimo (JAP)
Soma Lumia with Jim Moginie (AUS)
Sonja Hindrum and Karlin Love and Bruce Innocent (AUS)
Southeast Desert Metal (AUS)
Spike Mason (AUS)
Striborg and the Australian Art Orchestra (AUS)
Ubu Studio (AUS)
Yyan Ng and Brian Ritchie (AUS)
Broadsheet is a proud media partner of Mona Foma.