High­lights of the Year in Aus­tralian Arts and Cul­ture

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 (Australia) - - CONTENTS -

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

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

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