21 Sep 2022 — 15 Oct 2022

VENUE: RMIT City Campus

The Big Anxiety brings together creative thinkers – including artists, researchers, scientists, health and community workers, and people with a wide range of lived experiences — to re-imagine mental health care for the 21st century.   

A radically new kind of arts festival, in which every project is an open and continuing conversation, designed to promote curiosity, insight and action, The Big Anxiety presents arts events tackling the major anxieties of our times, as well as the practical challenges of supporting emotional distress and trauma recovery.

Whether through hi-tech interactive environments, stage performances or one-to-one dialogues, our goal is to create and showcase the rich engagements we need for our collective mental health.

Founded in Sydney in 2016, The Big Anxiety comes to cultural spaces throughout Melbourne CBD, RMIT University and venues in the Yarra Ranges in 2022.


The Big Anxiety Naarm presents a growing archive of lived experience – and an array of creative media tools, programs and experiences, generated from experimental collaborative work with the aim of creating effective resources for survival and wellbeing. Responding to the call for a cultural and community-based approach to mental health (rather than just a medical one), The Big Anxiety speaks to the diversity of lived experience and asks the practical question, how do we design the support we need for good mental health, ultimately making this available 24/7 in everyday living spaces?   

Our Naarm 2022 program highlights include a Two-day experiential Forum at Storey Hall, the festival’s Awkward Conversations program – one-to-one conversations designed to break down the barriers to good conversation about mental health, a showcase of Creative Media tools for Mental Health at ACMI; an Australian world-first Virtual Reality experience for suicide prevention and mood change at Warburton; a large-screen work at Federation Square by Australian-American multimedia artist Anita Glesta; performances and a Speaker Series co-presented with The Wheeler Centre at RMIT’s stunning art deco theatre on Swanston Street, The Capitol; and Archives of Feeling, an exhibition that spans two of RMIT University’s gallery spaces and explores and imagines new ways to communicate and record the affective and ongoing dimensions of trauma. A Children’s Sensorium, aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of young children through contemporary art practices that activate the senses, will also take place at RMIT’s Design Hub Gallery. The artistic program will also extend to locations across Yarra Ranges (including Yarra Ranges Regional Museum), to Footscray Community Arts Centre, JOLT Arts, and Frankston Arts Centre. 

New commissions to be released during the festival include a project on self harm and its silencing by Indigo Daya; and a video with US author Siri Hustvedt – one of the authors contributing to our book The Big Anxiety: Taking Care of Mental Health in Times of Crisis (Bloomsbury, 2022).

For full program, see the home page The Big Anxiety

Image: Hiromi Tango, Art Magic, Remnant, with community members, Lismore Regional Gallery, 2015, Photography Dean Beletich