27 Sep 2019 — 16 Nov 2019

Monday to Saturday

10am – 5pm

VENUE: UNSW Galleries, Art and Design Campus, Paddington

How do you imagine the future when you can’t see it? Edge of the Present melds art with science to create an immersive VR environment that literally cultivates the capacity for future thinking.

The Big Anxiety Commission – World Premiere.



Inspired by suicide survivors and neuropsychological research into the workings of memory and imagination, this compelling virtual reality exhibit was created by a team led by artist Alex Davies, using technology in new ways that help you better engage with the present moment with openness, curiosity and confidence.

Edge of the Present draws from research on suicidal ideation, supporting the capacity for individuals to create positive images and thoughts of the future. Visitors move through physical spaces wearing VR goggles, enabling dramatic, positive changes to occur as a result of their actions and choices.

Would you like to participate further? The NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Suicide Prevention/Black Dog Institute is organising a program of engagements with this work, for people with lived experience of suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety and/or other mental health issues. On Monday 21 October we will run a ‘visual matrix’ for people with lived experience [insert description of vis matrix]. If you are interested in participating in this or other guided sessions exploring the mental health benefits of Edge of the Present, please contact Stephanie Habak

Installation by Alex Davies, based on original research and concepts by JR Brennan and Alex Davies, in association with Alessandro Donagh De Marchi, Faisal Sayani, and collaborator Michaela Davies.

Artist: Alex Davies

Artist/Psychologist: Michaela Davies

Programming, VR, Media Development: Boris Bagattini, Mark Swartz, Patrick Younis

Executive Producer: Professor Jill Bennett

First Phase Research: JR Brennan, Ashley Dyer, Alessandro Donagh-De Marchi and Faisal Sayani


Supported by NSW Government, Department of Mental Health.

Artist Biography

Alex Davies

Alex Davies is an award winning Australian media artist whose practice spans a diverse range of media and experiments with interaction, technology, perception, mixed reality and illusion. In 2013 he was awarded a PhD in Media Arts at the UNSW College of Fine Arts examining the relationship between the techniques of stage magic and the creation of illusion in media arts. He is a Scientia Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Media Arts at UNSW Australia Art & Design and has exhibited widely in Australia and internationally. He is the recipient of Qantas Foundation Contemporary Australian Art Award, UNSW Scientia Fellowship, Creative Australia Fellowship and has received numerous grants from the Australia Council’s Inter-Arts, Music, Visual Arts, and New Media Boards.

Michaela Davies

Michaela Davies Phd(Psych), MA(Psych), BA(Psych)Hons combines arts/performance and clinical practice, to offer a non-judgmental and supportive environment where clients can feel safe to address whatever challenges they are facing. Using evidence-based treatment, she tailors therapy to the particular needs and experiences of each individual and creates a supportive collaborative partnership between herself and her clients

James Brennan

J R Brennan is a director, performer and composer based in Hobart. In recent years his practice has interrogated ideas of crime and virtue. His work is research led and often performed in site-specific locations. He has presented original theatrical, musical and live art works in Australia, Finland, Indonesia, Germany, Japan, Poland, The United States and Brasil. Currently James is producing a series of performance and video works that draw on the auto-ethnographic research collected and observed in his role as a parole officer in Long Bay Prison, Sydney and his ongoing work in experimental theatre in Australia and Europe. These projects have been developed in partnership with Arts House, Monash University and Bialoleka Prison, Poland. Since graduating from VCA School of Drama, James has worked and trained with Teatro Vertigem, Brasil; Wooster Group (USA), Deborah Hay (USA), Zapaleni.org (Poland), Gardzienice (Poland), where he was company member between for three years. His most recent work The Chat (winner Green Room Awards for Best Male Performer) is a new contemporary performance work created and performed by artists and ex-offenders.

Alessandro Donagh-De Marchi

Alessandro Donagh-De Marchi is nearing the end of his Bachelor degree in Psychological Science. He has spent many years acting as a mental health ambassador and advocate, both within his community and across Australia, through his work with headspace, The Primary Health Network (PHN), Lifeline, and more. In 2015 Alessandro was nominated to be a part of the headspace Youth National Reference Group (hYNRG). Through Lifeline, Alessandro is also a member of the Suicide Prevention Network. in 2016 he worked to inform mental health related policy by collaborating with the Mental Health Commission, the PHN, former Health Minister Sussan Ley and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Alessandro has worked with local schools and youth organisations, using his own lived experience of depression, anxiety, and suicide to connect young people with service access points. In 2017 Alessandro was Festival Ambassador for The Big Anxiety, and currently he continues his work with mental health through the South West Sydney Primary Health Network.

Ashley Dyer

Ashley Dyer is a performance maker, workshop facilitator and producer. His interdisciplinary practice extends across more traditional art forms, often integrating tools from dance, new music, visual art, and performance. Recently, he devised and/or led artistic processes with some of the most marginalized people: former and currently serving criminal offenders (JR Brennan’s The Chat, in Australia) and victims of human trafficking (SK!N, in Malaysia). In each case contemporary, sometimes experimental artistic processes were balanced with progressive social outcomes.  Internationally, he has been invited to teach master classes at the Centre for Performance Research (Wales), The Gothenburg Academy of Music and Drama, and The Grotowski Institute, Poland.

Faisal Sayani