The Big Anxiety Festival (2017, Australia)

The Big Anxiety brought together artists, scientists and communities to question and re-imagine the state of mental health in the 21st century. It presented over 60 events across Greater Sydney (Australia) from September 20th – November 11th 2017, tackling the major anxieties of our times, as well as the stresses and strains of everyday life.

“radically new kind of international arts festival, in which every project is an open conversation, designed to promote curiosity, awareness and action … Whether through hi-tech interactive environments or one-on-one dialogues, our goal is to create the rich engagements we need for our collective mental health. …”

The festival’s Executive and Artistic Director (Professor Jill Bennett) writes:

“For centuries, the arts have charted the anguish and trauma of mental life, bringing to light experiences that are barely expressed in everyday language. Historically, a romantic view of madness cast the artist as a disturbed genius, somehow distinct from normal society. Today we know that our collective mental health depends on the richness of our cultural expression. Not on cultural artefacts locked away in museums, but on living cultural expression that connects us to ourselves and to each other, that creates a pathway to reflection and self-knowing, and gives us the confidence to shout about what’s wrong in our current Age of Anxiety.

When we first conceived The Big Anxiety, we were motivated by two ‘big’ factors. One was a mental health crisis – manifested in high rates of anxiety across the general population, an alarming increase in the numbers of teenagers in severe psychological distress, the catastrophic health consequences of mandatory detention, suicide emerging as the biggest killer of young people under 45, and appalling rates of youth suicide in Indigenous communities. The other was political – the legacy of the global economic crisis and festering politics of fear during the first decade of the 2000s, now giving rise to Trumpism and new mutations of xenophobia, stoking anxieties at-large in the wider population. In other words, The Big Anxiety is not simply concerned with anxiety as an individual ‘disorder’ but with exploring the many forms of stress and anxiety that permeate society and the impact this has on quality of life.

These big factors are entangled. …”

Read more from here.


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