UNSW initiative the Big Anxiety Festival returns

02 Oct 2019
the big anxiety

The Big Anxiety Festival returns this month to transform the ways people think about and communicate when it comes to mental health. 

Hosted by UNSW Sydney and the Black Dog Institute, the Big Anxiety Festival is a biennial event combining art, science and technology to deliver the largest arts and mental health festival in the world. Leading national and international artists, technology experts, scientists and thinkers will present more than 60 events across Sydney from 27 September to 9 November. 

The 2019 festival, which coincides with Mental Health Month in October, focuses on empathy. The main exhibition of the festival is the Empathy Clinic, which brings together renowned national and international artists investigating their own and others’ experiences of anxiety, mental health, stigma and oppressive circumstances. The Empathy Clinic aims to use art to enrich communication, particularly through virtual reality and the concept of perception sharing.  

“It is a different kind of festival. We are breaking new ground and occupying space between art and health,” said Professor Jill Bennett, UNSW Art & Design Scientia Professor and the Festival’s artistic director. 

“Those things are usually quite separate. There are not many big art festivals in Australia, or anywhere else in the world, that bring art and health together despite the data showing that engaging in art does improve health. It is not something that we systematically harness in a big way.” 

The festival will also feature the world premiere of two new virtual reality works exploring mental health and healing from Aboriginal perspectives, created by the acclaimed collective project Uti Kulintjaku (UK). Formed from the Ngangkari traditional healers and artists of the NPY Women’s Council, the UK addresses community issues of mental health from both Aboriginal and Western perspectives. Both virtual reality projects are designed by UNSW Art & Design’s Volker Kuchelmeister, a senior research fellow in fEEL at the National Institute of Experimental Arts. 

The Big Anxiety Festival opens on 27 September and runs until 9 November 2019 at venues across Sydney.  It features a huge program of events and you can access here.