Whilst most people would like to forget 2016 even existed, you can’t deny the fact that this year produced myriad rich and wonderful cultural offerings. Here, Collage writers present their picks for Collage’s Best of 2016 round-up.
2016 Best Album: A Seat at the Table
A pleasantly surprising new musical direction from the other Knowles sibling, Solange. Her vocals throughout this album are beautifully sparse, subtle and delicate. Accompanying her politically powerful lyrics that address issues facing women and African American people are stunning music videos co-directed by her husband, Alan Ferguson. I can’t wait to see how Solange continues to evolve in her musical career.
2016 Best Film: Swiss Army Man
Swiss Army Man was by far the most ridiculous and existential film I saw this year. The debut feature film of writers/directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (known previously for their direction of the “Turn Down For What” music video), the Dans delivered a refreshingly original, poetically crafted film, unapologetic in its weirdness. Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe performed with apt sensitivity and incredible timing as Hank the castaway, and Manny his right-hand corpse. Amidst all the fart-jokes and countless gags involving Manny’s lifeless body – too naughty to describe here – came a poignant exploration of what it means to be alive and how important it is to belong.
2016 Best Music Festival: WOMADelaide
Experiencing WOMADelaide is like being transported to many exotic countries within a couple of magical days. On Day 2 of WOMADelaide, we had the good fortune of visiting Nigeria to listen to the effervescent duo, Ibeyi; then we went to India to admire the legendary Asha Bhosle; after, we checked out the soothing sounds of Arizona-based band, Calexico; later, we ventured to Melbourne to sample the very cool beats of No Zu; and finally, we danced our hearts out to seminal French DJ, St Germain. We can’t wait to do it all over again next year.
2016 Best Novel: A Little Life
‘A Little Life’ made me cry. Fiction rarely does this to me. This second novel by the young and talented Hawaiian author Hanya Yanagihara was selected as a finalist for the Man Booker Prize and made the shortlist in September 2015. The story is a graphic, real, and palpable account a little life – within a huge novel. The representation of living in all its mismatched glory and hurtful aesthetics plays out between the some 700 pages, with the tasteful and intimate queer undertones of the novel providing a much needed fresh of breath air in popular fiction saturated by heteronormativity. Yanagihara does something to us, she studies us and manages to find that particular feeling in prose. It’s a powerful, painful and bittersweet piece of fiction that tugs at the heartstrings and captures the essence of friendship, trauma, family and the all too familiar pains of living.
2016 Best Travel Destination: Sri Lanka
Do yourself a favour and take a month in Sri Lanka – eat cheap seafood in a beachside hut, ride an old colonial train through lush tea country, watch herds of elephants graze in world-class national parks, discover the many remnants of ancient cities, take a zippy tuk-tuk across bustling Colombo, eat some of the best food of your life in dingy local cafes, accompany sari-clad women to technicolour Hindu temples, and read a book or two on a beach to rival Australia’s best.
– Julia McCarthy
2016 Best Television Show: Cleverman
An American-Australian-New Zealand joint production, Cleverman reimagines Aboriginal Dreaming stories into a dystopian landscape. Focusing on race, asylum seekers, and identity, the storyline parallels the current political climate in Australia. Cleverman was addictive and deserving of the reception that it received. I am eager to see what’s in store for season 2 in 2017.
2016 Best Art Exhibition: TARNANTHI
Curated by Nici Cumpston, TARNANTHI comprised an ambitious contemporary Indigenous arts festival, centred around the Art Gallery of South Australia’s quarterly exhibit during late 2015–early 2016. Attended by over 50,000 people and showcasing works from artists of a wide array of ages, tribes, and backgrounds, it marks 2016’s most important exhibition, for both South Australia and the nation as a whole. For, as Paul Keating describes, the most tangible sign of Australian progress in the Arts would be to “reach the point where Aboriginal art and culture become so integral and so central to Australian art and culture that each becomes indistinguishable from the other.”
– Julia McCarthy
2016 Best Board Game: ‘Scythe’ designed by Jeremy Stonemaier
A blend of everything that makes modern boards so wonderful: tight European mechanics, theme deeply spread across the art and text, and a satisfyingly neat amount of depth.
Scythe is an unconventional 4X game, with a tidy playtime, and minimal combat. It amalgamates many of the systems and ideas from elsewhere into one holistic package.
2016 Best Theatre: Golem
It’s been a wonderful year for theatre in Adelaide, but I really can’t go past ‘Golem’, the incredible multimedia theatre piece from UK company, 1927. Blending live music and theatre with 2D animation and claymation, this amazingly imaginative, funny and unsettling show has stayed with me all year!
2016 Best Music Single: Lazarus
From the xx-like licks that introduce the song, David Bowie’s ‘Lazarus’ engages facetiously with references spanning decades and genres. An ambient noise – like an aerosol mist – lingers throughout the track, punctured with dirge-y saxophone. The overall effect is something oddly showtune-y, recalling the earliest pre-Bowie work of a young Davy Jones, while sounding dissonant in a way that complements the strained, higher pitched delivery of latter-day Bowie, and finishing with a lengthy outro of monotonous, but visceral guitar chords. ‘Lazarus’ has a brooding, sepia-tinged quality and wouldn’t seem out of place setting the mood in Deckard’s apartment on a summery evening. In this odd and understated manner, without aspiring to repeat the career highs of the past or making any sort of grand statement, Bowie’s penultimate single lives and breathes on, forever and ever.
– Tin Do
2016 Best Podcast: Homecoming
Unlike any other podcast I listen to, Homecoming is a radio drama. Eli Horowitz took inspiration from shows of decades past to create this incredible series. Heidi Bergman works for the U.S. Department of Defence’s Homecoming initiative and she primarily helps troops to re-integrate into their old lives. At least that’s what she thinks she’s doing.
With an all-star cast, each episode is better than the last and I am constantly awed by how Horowitz paints such a vivid storyline using audio alone. If you’re going to listen to anything this year, listen to this.