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


From the front page

Image of Anthony Albanese

How to be a prime minister

The task ahead for Anthony Albanese in restoring the idea that governments should seek to make the country better

Image of the Kiama Blowhole, New South Wales

The edge of their seats

Lessons from Gilmore, Australia’s most marginal electorate

Image of Peter Dutton and Sussan Ley

The future of the Liberal Party

Peter Dutton doesn’t just have a talent problem on his hands

Image of Australian Army Cadets on parade. Image via Alamy

Ghosts in the war machine

Does the military attract violent misanthropists, or are they forged in murky theatres of war?

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

Online exclusives

Image of Australian Army Cadets on parade. Image via Alamy

Ghosts in the war machine

Does the military attract violent misanthropists, or are they forged in murky theatres of war?

Composite image showing John Hughes (image via Giramondo Publishing) and the cover of his novel The Dogs (Upswell Publishing)

A dog’s breakfast

Notes on John Hughes’s plagiarism scandal

Image of Erin Doherty as Becky Green in Chloe. Image supplied

App trap: ‘Chloe’

‘Sex Education’ writer Alice Seabright’s new psychological thriller probing social media leads this month’s streaming highlights

Pablo Picasso, Figures by the sea (Figures au bord de la mer), January 12, 1931, oil on canvas, 130.0 × 195.0 cm, Musée national Picasso-Paris. © Succession Picasso/Copyright Agency, 2022. Photo: © RMN - Grand Palais - Mathieu Rabeau

‘The Picasso Century’ at the NGV

The NGV’s exhibition offers a fascinating history of the avant-garde across the Spanish artist’s lifetime