October 2018

The Monthly Awards

The Monthly Awards 2018

The Monthly invited a panel of 25 eminent critics, curators and practitioners to nominate the artistic works that they most admired and enjoyed over the past year. The resulting selection highlights the best of Australian arts and culture in 2018.

The Monthly thanks the members of its Arts Issue selection committee:
Alison Croggon, David Marr, Anna Goldsworthy, Wesley Enoch, Jonathan Holloway, Stephanie Bishop, Christos Tsiolkas, Benjamin Law, Delia Falconer, Terri-ann White, Jenny Valentish, Michael Williams, Alexie Glass-Kantor, Callum Morton, Katrina Sedgwick, Gideon Obarzanek, Lisa Havilah, Brian Ritchie, Julian Day, Claire G. Coleman, Deborah Conway, Shelley Lasica, Susan Cohn, Miriam Cosic, Helen Elliott

‘You Can’t Ask That’ (ABC)

In an age when both reality TV and comedy have trended towards people looking straight at the camera in declarative mode, often brutally narcissistic, the ABC’s You Can’t Ask That is like an apology for past misdemeanours. Each of its episodes, across three series now, is smart and savvy, humorous and heartbreaking. Each is the product of a deep understanding of the work of cultural representation, and the beauty of personal expression – in one’s own voice – and the act of listening.

Producers and directors Kirk Docker and Aaron Smith give “marginalised” people in our society the forum to introduce the features of their lives that have made them distinct from the “majority”. People who live with divergence, and possibly prejudice, by dint of the circumstances of their birth, their life choices, or what someone else has done to mark them out as “damaged”.

The format is simple: a set of questions collected from mainstream society – sometimes ignorant or aggressive in tone, sometimes merely curious – is posed to the reference group of each 30-minute episode (titles include “Eating Disorders”, “Survivors of Sexual Assault”, “Swingers”, “Refugees”, “Blind People”). The participants, set against plain backdrops as singles, pairs or trios, respond with remarkable generosity, sharing the real, often raw, experiences and issues they live with constantly.

As with life, even the most harrowing stories have lightness, resilience and, regularly, humour. There is a warm rapport, usually, between the people sitting together on camera, and a weirdly wonderful and subliminal-level score that nevertheless keeps the viewer focused on the talking. I’m a serial watcher, laughing and crying and in love with the extraordinary humanness and intimacy on display. Two quick tips: the episodes titled “Down Syndrome” and “Drag” are magnificently illuminating.

Terri-ann White


October 2018

From the front page

Whose side are you on?

The Opposition can’t keep joining the government

Image of Buzz Aldrin next to flag on the Moon

Shooting beyond the Moon

Reflecting on the Apollo 11 mission as Mars beckons

The Djab Wurrung Birthing Tree

The highway construction causing irredeemable cultural and environmental damage

Detail of 'Man, Eagle and Eye in the Sky: Two Eagles', by Cai Guo-Qiang

Cai Guo-Qiang’s ‘The Transient Landscape’ and the Terracotta Warriors at the National Gallery of Victoria

The incendiary Chinese artist connects contemporary concerns with cultural history

In This Issue

Cover of ‘The End’

‘The End’ by Karl Ove Knausgaard

The ‘My Struggle’ series arrives at a typically exhausting conclusion


Blowing up the government to save it

The Coalition has learnt nothing from Labor’s leadership disaster


Performing the Anthropocene

Scientists, anthropologists and artists gather to make sense of the Earth’s new epoch


Feliks Zemdegs, Rubik’s champion

Meet the world’s fastest cuber

Read on

Image of Buzz Aldrin next to flag on the Moon

Shooting beyond the Moon

Reflecting on the Apollo 11 mission as Mars beckons

Image of Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and CFMEU Victoria secretary John Setka

Judge stymies Albanese’s plans to expel Setka from ALP

A protracted battle is the last thing the Opposition needs

Image from ‘Booksmart’

Meritocracy rules in ‘Booksmart’

Those who work hard learn to play hard in Olivia Wilde’s high-school comedy

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg

The government’s perverse pursuit of surplus

Aiming to be back in black in the current climate is bad economics