Menu

The Monthly Awards 2019

Oct 10, 2019 • 16m09s

Each year, The Monthly assembles a panel of critics and artists to decide The Monthly Awards. This episode showcases the winners.

play

 

The Monthly Awards 2019

97 • Oct 10, 2019

The Monthly Awards 2019

[Theme music starts]

From Schwartz Media, I’m Elizabeth Kulas. This is 7am.

ELIZABETH:

Each year, The Monthly assembles a panel of critics and artists to nominate ten standout pieces of Australian culture for The Monthly Awards. The Monthly’s editor, Nick Feik, and critic Alison Croggon, on the works that were recognised in 2019.

[Theme music ends]

ELIZABETH:

Well first of all Alison, it's the first time we've ever had two people in the studio so it’s feeling nice and cozy. Nick, let's start with The Monthly Awards themselves which were featured in the latest issue. What are they? How are they judged?

NICK:

As a magazine we have these great critics, great connections through the arts and culture industries to actually draw attention to the things that Australian artists and organisations created each year.

People like Wesley Enoch and Jonathan Holloway, who are the artistic directors of the Sydney and Melbourne festivals, critics like Stephanie Bishop, writers Benjamin Law. And we thought if we bring together 25 artists, practitioners, curators and asked them what they admired and enjoyed the most from the past year - we would be able to collect a sort of curated highlights list across theatre, visual arts, dance, music, books, film, TV and really to just produce a selection of ten.

ELIZABETH:

And Alison, you’re a critic and one of the judges for this year’s Monthly Awards. You also wrote an essay in this issue about what you called the “desertification” of Australian arts funding.

ALISON:

I actually approached Nick in February I think this year with this idea because I was just noticing how much more difficult it was for so many people I know. Cultural spending is about zero point five percent of the federal budget. That takes care of libraries, archives, museums these are all, I would think, really important parts of our cultural lives. It's quite shocking when you think how important the cultural industries are to the economy. They actually generate a lot of money. It employs I think more people than the mining industry, so it's a significant industry and is treated quite badly.

ELIZABETH:

Which is something that we all know and I think part of what makes the art that is produced in Australia all the more remarkable. Let's go to the film category first. Who won in The Monthly Awards this year?

NICK:

So the first one was a film called The Nightingale by Jennifer Kent. Her first film a couple of years ago, The Babadook, was a big hit internationally as a sort of a horror film. The Nightingale is set in Tasmanian colonial times.

Archival tape — Dialogue from The Nightingale:

”We don’t want no trouble.”
“That’s just the way isn’t it. You don’t want trouble but sometimes trouble wants you.”
[SCREAM]

NICK:

And it’s been a controversial film. It's got some pretty graphic depictions of violence including sexual violence, but it's also been widely talked about as a really impressive piece of filmmaking.

Archival tape — Dialogue from The Nightingale:

“What’s your name again?”
“Claire.”
“I’m not your boy. I’m Munganah, the blackbird.”
[Woman singing] “I wish, I wish, I wish in vain…”

NICK:

It's interesting because the Indigenous theme also carried across into the other film our panelists selected which is the Australian Dream a documentary about the Adam Goodes affair about racism and double standards that drove him out of AFL in 2015. I'd send anyone to it. I think it's a really confounding piece of work.

Archival tape — Scene from Australian Dream:

“...the backlash intensified..”
“...strangled…”
“...he knew why it was happening...”
“...we need need to talk about this…”
“...you get what you wish for…”
“...suddenly he wasn’t just Adam Goodes the footballer, he was Adam Goodes the angry Aborigine.”

[Music starts]

NICK:

You're looking at something as if it's an episode in history and yet it happened two years ago and you think, well racism is so close to the surface that even something like this is something we've tried to set aside and I think a documentary like this brings these themes to the surface in a way that simple conversations basically miss a lot of the time.

ALISON:

I think it's really interesting that those two films kind of capture colonialism.

NICK:

Yeah. Doesn't it show you that these themes are the sorts of themes that artists feel we need to work through in Australia at the moment? We're living in a society with a government that won't accept something like the Uluru Statement where we've been talking about recognition for ten, 15 years. Well artists are taking it upon themselves to sort through these cultural issues. And I think both of these films are great examples of artists sort of doing the hard yards.

ELIZABETH:

Let’s go now to the theatre category and talk about one of the winners in this area, Barbara and the Camp Dogs, which was performed by the Belvoir Street Theatre.

ALISON:

Yes I saw it at the Malthouse when it had a season here and it's a super piece of theatre. It was basically set in a place like a pub. Ursula Yovich performs and in the show also co-wrote it. It’s a story about two sisters, they’re half sisters they have a very vexed relationship and they go up to Darwin to see their ill mother from Sydney. And so it's a kind of road movie.

Archival tape — Scene from Barbara and the Camp Dog:

[Singing]:” I’m out of control, I am so out of control, I am way, way out of control…”

ALISON:

It's very funny but is also heartbreakingly sad in the way that it looks at lateral violence in the Aboriginal community, the ongoing desolation that's caused by our occupation of Australia. Yeah, it was a really fine piece of work.

Archival tape — Scene from Barbara and the Camp Dog:

[Singing]:” Hi-igh maintenance me, a real piece of work you see…”

NICK:

The other theatre piece that our panel recommended this year was a piece called Counting and Cracking which premiered at the Sydney Town Hall in January this year. So it won seven Helpmann awards including best new Australian work, best production and best direction. A piece with huge ambitions: 16 actors, 50 characters across four eras. It was a really monumental piece of work.

Archival tape — Scene from Counting and Cracking:

[guitar picking music]
“You’ve been in Bondi for six months now.”
“Coogee amma, Bondi is full of backpackers.”

We’ll be right back.

[Advertisement]

ELIZABETH:

So Nick next to television, a medium close to your heart, I haven't seen this before but it’s got the whole podcast team talking about it now. Tell us about Bluey.

NICK:

I was thinking you must be talking about Bluey. I guess it's not the sort of thing that you traditionally see at the top of a high culture, you know best of the year list but um, Bluey was this very rare Australian television show. It was made for kids, it's an animation series and look, anyone who has children should have a look at this. I enjoy watching it even as an adult. I have children but they weren't even with me when I watched it. Bluey is... it's idiosyncratic, rich, extremely funny series about an animated family of healer dogs.

Archival tape — Scene from Bluey:

“This episode of Bluey is called ‘The Beach.’”
“...Muuuuum, beach...”
…Beeeeeeach...
...Beeeeach...

NICK:

It's just sweet and very funny. Being picked up internationally by the likes of BBC and Disney. It's a great, very positive Australian animation series. Completely unique.

ELIZABETH:

And the episodes are pretty short they’re about seven minutes, so they're almost like these little bite sized narratives.

NICK:

Yeah well I think that's a children's attention span or adults on social media length attention spans so there's fifty one episodes.

ELIZABETH:

All right sounds good. I love it. I have to look into it more. Um, then there was Get Krack!n.

ALISON:

What a lot of fun that was.

ELIZABETH:

Season 2.

NICK:

Which was even more, sort of savage than the first one.

Archival tape — Scene from Get Krack!n:

“It’s 4:47am and it’s time to get crackin’...”

NICK:

It’s a satire of breakfast TV. The hosts Kate McLennan and Kate McCartney are these Caucasian, as Ben Lowe called them: ‘at sea’ female hosts.They’re really taking the piss out of the sort of patronising and occasionally malignant breakfast TV shows that Australia usually makes.

Archival tape — Scene from Get Krack!n:

“Well we all want to find a solution to the unfair distribution of domestic labour and restore some kernel of sexual chemistry in our relationships, don’t we?”
“Yes. And something that isn’t going to do either of those things…”

NICK:

So there’s this great line in Get Krack!n where Kate McLennan tells the audience: ‘there are definitely opinions that we're 100 percent complicit in broadcasting, not necessarily ones that we share.”

Archival tape — Scene from Get Krack!n:

[Theme music]

ELIZABETH:

All right and then Alison let's move on now to one of the picks that you put forward which won a Monthly Award this year and that was Barry Kosky’s version of The Magic Flute.

ALISON:

Barry Kosky is a director that I'm always interested in seeing his work. He comes from Melbourne. He worked here in a fairly explosive manner for a few years before he escaped to Berlin and for this he was working with 1927 which is a wonderful theatre company that combines animation with performance.

Archival tape — Scene from The Magic Flute:

[Opera singing] CONTINUES

ALISON:

They are a really interesting company because they do it in a way that is both charming and clever and also intensely subversive. I mean The Magic Flute is a charming opera. Let's face it, it always is, it has some of the most famous opera music ever.

Archival tape — Scene from The Magic Flute:

[Opera singing] CONTINUES

ALISON:

It's a ridiculous, strange story. And this version of it is totally enchanting. Also a little disturbing I found, I mean the way it kind of makes absolutely plain how deeply race is embedded in that opera. But it but it's very funny. It's sweet. You could just watch it and be enchanted.

ELIZABETH:

Alison, the best festival of 2019 was Dance Massive in Melbourne. Tell me about that.

ALISON:

So basically three major venues in Melbourne got together and said: oh why didn't we just have a program of dance. So the Malthouse house, the Art house and dance house. This year was actually superb, there was Marrugeku from Broome who have a fabulous company --

NICK:

A big works from Lucy Guerin —.

ALISON:

—Lucy Guerin. Yes, yes, but is it what it gives you is a hugely various program of contemporary dance and it creates an event that is not about words. It's one of the things I like about it; it's not about ordinary, semantic sense.

Archival tape — Music from Dance Massive:

[Music plays]

ALISON:

So to have a kind of couple of weeks where you can just go along and, and see a whole lot of established but also new choreographers, what they are doing now, is just a fantastic thing.

ELIZABETH:

And Nick let's round out the top ten, who won in books?

NICK:

It was a book called The White Girl by Tony Birch who’s a Melbourne based academic, author, activist, always has interesting things to say about history and this is a book that was set in Australia in the 1960s. It's about the inheritance, the necessary inheritance of strength in Indigenous women which clearly so many readers found utterly compelling and convincing.

ELIZABETH:

And then in the visual arts category the winner was the National 2019 team which was a multi sight exhibition in Sydney.

NICK:

Yes so this is an exhibition that's been happening every two years across the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the MCA and Carriageworks in Sydney of new Australian art. So more than 50 artists and groups, much of it specially commissioned. I mean look it's just good to see people wanting to draw attention to contemporary art. And as Alison’s essay outlined it's not a particularly easy time to be a contemporary visual artist in Australia. The funding for individual artists has dropped precipitously, even in the past five years, but a show like this reminds everyone that there is a lot going on there's a lot of challenging interesting work.

[Music plays]

ELIZABETH:

Alison, it's an obvious question but it's an important one nonetheless. Why does that matter? Why does it matter that there's diminishing space not only for art creation but for criticism of the arts in a country like Australia?

ALISON:

I think it matters hugely because the arts is one place where things can be thought about in a contemplative way that's not to do with the news media.

[Music begins]

ALISON:

The arts offers a whole range, an infinity of ways of thinking that are not conditioned in those ways, that are not about soundbites, that are not about just economic figures but different ways of thinking. And to be able to step back and think, what is it that matters in our lives, what do we value?

ELIZABETH:

Well that’s The Monthly Awards for 2019. Thank you, Nick and thank you, Alison.

NICK:

Thanks very much.

ALISON:

Thank you.

ELIZABETH:

Additional audio in this episode from The National 2019 came from Agatha Gothe-Snape’s work in the exhibition, which was called Every Act of Reading Performs The Work.

And the audio from Counting and Cracking came from ABC News.

[Music ends]

[Advertisement]

[Theme music begins]

ELIZABETH:

Elsewhere in the news:

Fire authorities say a bushfire that has destroyed up to 30 properties in NSW may have been ‘deliberately lit.’ The fires have ravaged areas including Bushby’s Flat and Rappville, with one person telling The Guardian that they witnessed birds dropping dead out of the sky during the most extreme conditions. Over 100,000 hectares have burned since Tuesday.

And bail conditions similar to those used for gang members have been imposed on climate protesters arrested as part of the Extinction Rebellion rallies. Thirty people were arrested at the Sydney protests on Monday, including former federal Greens senator Scott Ludlam. The conditions stop protestors from contacting other activists or going within two kilometres of the Sydney CBD.

This is 7am. I’m Elizabeth Kulas. See you Friday.

[Theme music ends]

Each year, The Monthly assembles a panel of critics and artists to nominate 10 standout pieces of Australian culture from the past 12 months. These works are named as the winners of The Monthly Awards. We spoke to the magazine’s editor, Nick Feik, and critic Alison Croggon, who was one of the judges.

Guest: Editor of The Monthly Nick Feik and critic Alison Croggon.

Background reading:

The Monthly Awards 2019 in The Monthly
The Saturday Paper
The Monthly

Listen and subscribe in your favourite podcast app (it's free).

Apple podcasts Google podcasts Listen on Spotify

Share:

7am is hosted by Elizabeth Kulas. The show is produced by Emile Klein, Ruby Schwartz, Atticus Bastow and Elle Marsh. Our editor is Erik Jensen. Our theme music is by Ned Beckley and Josh Hogan of Envelope Audio.

Tags

arts film television dance theatre opera




Subscribe to hear every episode in your favourite podcast app:
Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotify

00:00
16:09
97: The Monthly Awards 2019