Risk taker: Leigh Carmichael, director of the Museum of Old and New Art's winter festival in Hobart next month.

As icebreakers go, it is hard to top a winter dip in the icy waters of Hobart's Derwent River.

The Nude Solstice Swim held at sunrise on June 22, with the mercury barely nudging 1C, was one of the attention-grabbing features of last year's inaugural Dark MOFO, the Museum of Old and New Art's winter festival.

The early morning skinny dip will feature again in this year's festival, which begins on June 12, but it is one of the few events that Dark MOFO's artistic director Leigh Carmichael is willing to repeat.

''We're really focused on exploring the dark theme and creating different experiences,'' he says. ''Some things you try to improve on, others you make radical differences.''

A graphic designer who has worked for MONA's eccentric director David Walsh for eight years, Carmichael points to the success of last year's Spectra light installation by Ryoji Ikeda, which led to calls to make it permanent.

''We absolutely wouldn't do that,'' he says. Instead, a new interactive work featuring 18 light beams piercing the skies above Hobart has been commissioned, and Carmichael admits: ''I do not know if it will be better. We can't help comparisons being made.'' Such risk-taking is a novelty in Australia's hide-bound, bureaucratic art scene.

Dark MOFO, which Carmichael says has a budget of about $3 million, will also snub its nose at Hobart's chilly weather and long, dark nights with its winter feast held outside among candle-lit trees and fires.

Add in the night ferris wheel and it is clear Carmichael is sticking to the festival's aim of embracing what had been considered a problem for Tasmania's capital - the winter chill and long nights. ''You can't argue with that. Hobart has the coldest water and the longest nights,'' he says. ''But people embraced it. They came out in droves like we've never seen before.''

Taking risks and working with the headstrong Walsh are among the topics Carmichael will discuss at REMIX Sydney, a two-day talkfest featuring speakers from the cultural and creative industries.

Not being shackled by bureaucracy or the political whims of government are factors behind MONA's success, Carmichael says. ''We were in a very fortunate situation that [Walsh] had his own funds and wasn't answerable to sponsors and didn't have to answer the government. Removing that from the equation gave us a huge amount of flexibility to take risks.''

More than 75 speakers will hold court at Carriageworks on Thursday and Friday in what organisers claim is a TED-like talkfest for the arts. They include Transfield Holdings executive director and former Biennale of Sydney chairman Luca Belgiorno-Nettis. REMIX Sydney's website does not mention the controversy that engulfed the Biennale regarding founding sponsor Transfield's links to a company involved in the offshore processing of asylum seekers that led to Belgiorno-Nettis' departure from the Biennale board.

Ironically, Carriageworks is also hosting an exhibition by artist Tehching Hsieh, who was an illegal immigrant in the US for 14 years.

REMIX Sydney's director Deanna Coleman says Belgiorno-Nettis will speak about infrastructure and not address the controversy surrounding arts sponsorship.

Hydro Tasmania, which was responsible for the damming of Lake Pedder, is one of Dark MOFO's sponsors, but Carmichael doubts whether Transfield money would be accepted by the festival.

''I think it would be a problem but ultimately these things would go to David and he would make a decision,'' he says.

Besides Dark MOFO, Carmichael is spearheading a plan to transform Hobart into a hotbed for cultural and creative industries.

He says Hobart's affordability, food and wine culture, improved communications provided by the national broadband network and MONA provide the right conditions to attract creative types.

REMIX Sydney is at Carriageworks on May 8 and 9. Dark MOFO will be held in Hobart from June 12 to 22.