Big Anxiety Research Centre

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Transforming mental health through cultural innovation

The Big Anxiety Research Centre [BARC] is a unique transdisciplinary enterprise, dedicated to transforming thinking and practice in mental health through creative collaboration and cultural innovation.

We research lived experience through a distinctive combination of trauma-informed, psychosocial research and creative practice, developing the rich communications and engagement practices we need to understand, connect with and support everyday experiences of mental health, trauma and suicidality.

Our mission is to attune to lived experience, to promote innovative creative experimentation and wide community engagement, and to collectively generate the tools, programs and creative media we need to support mental and emotional health throughout our communities.

BARC has evolved from the former National Institute for Experimental Arts [NIEA] and builds on the success of The Big Anxiety festivals in Sydney (2017 and 2019) and the growing research base in arts and health at UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture.

Participatory Research & Engagement

Creating impact by designing immersive experiences

ARC Laureate & UNSW Scientia Professor Jill Bennett and her team co-design immersive art projects with individuals and communities with lived experience of trauma across regional, rural and remote Australia. Founder of the Big Anxiety Festival and the UNSW Big Anxiety Research Centre, Jill shares insights into the kinds of impact immersive art can have, and on the ways we think about mental health services, pointing to new ways of supporting people from the perspective of lived experience. The projects featured are Waumananyi (Man in the Log), led by Uti Kulintjaku (commissioned for The Big Anxiety, 2019), Parragirls Past, Present (The Big Anxiety, 2017) and EmbodiMap (fEEL) - visit fEEL Lab for details.

We are currently reviewing our program for 2023-26. Research areas include:

  • Virtual reality environments for mental health and trauma support
  • Digital Story-telling with embodied media
  • Dementia and ageing experience
  • Trauma-informed participatory design
  • Psychosocial design and qualitative evaluation
  • Suicidality and future thinking
  • Transgenerational trauma
  • Experience-led research methods
  • Music and emotion
  • A machine for Shame

Core Team

Highlights from The Big Reach, Brisbane 2022

Highlights from The Big Anxiety Forum, Naarm 2022

The Big Anxiety – Taking Care of Mental Health in Times of Crisis (Bloomsbury 2022) brings together essays and dialogues from thinkers and artists across a range of disciplines to re-imagine approaches to crisis, support, and care.

Features artists/writers/researchers from The Big Anxiety festival including Siri Hustvedt, Claudia Rankine, Evelyn Araluen, Noreen Giffney, Lynn Froggett, Marianne Wobcke, Jill Bennett, fEEL Lab, Uti Kulintjaku.

BARC is partnering with the Australia Council for the Arts to advance policy and practice in relation to arts and mental health
Online launch of the Big Anxiety Research Centre, 11 November 2022

Contact us

UNSW School of Art & Design 
Cnr Oxford St & Greens Rd 
Paddington NSW 2021 

T: (02) 9065 0455