The Australian premiere of acclaimed British filmmaker John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea is just one of the standout works being exhibited as part of UNSW Galleries’ 2016 program.

An immersive and poetic meditation on man's relationship with the ocean, Vertigo Sea merges documentary and Akomfrah’s own footage in an exploration of the sea’s role in the history of slavery, whaling and the refugee and environmental crises. The film was one of the most highly acclaimed works at the 2015 Venice Biennale.

The 2016 program builds on the Galleries’ research-led approach to the investigation of some of the most pressing challenges of our time. The health and wellbeing of mind, body and natural environments is examined in exhibitions that bring together new research and international contemporary art. A focus on medical and environmental science, water and resources, spearheads a program punctuated by major new projects from Australia and the world.

“With diverse and engaging exhibitions accompanied by workshops and symposia, our 2016 program offers an international perspective on how cutting edge research, transformative ideas and new technologies can engage with global challenges,” says Dr Felicity Fenner, UNSW Galleries Director.

The program kicked off with a Sydney Festival program featuring an Australia-first exhibition of politically timely films by Albanian artist Adrian Paci. Audiences have been enthralled by The Column, a compelling story about labour and the impact of the global economy, set on the high seas between China and France.

INK REMIX: Contemporary Art from mainland China,Taiwan and Hong Kong reveals the ongoing centrality of ink in contemporary Chinese art. Curated by renowned contemporary Chinese art scholar Dr Sophie McIntyre and presented in partnership with the Canberra Museum and Art Gallery, the exhibition includes video and installation works by high-profile Asian artists such as Charwei Tsai, Peng Hung-chih and Qui Zhijie. The exhibition will be accompanied by a range of public programs.

Danish-Scottish artist Shona Illingworth’s Lesions in the Landscape is the culmination of a partnership between UNSW’s National Institute for Experimental Arts (NIEA), the UK’s Wellcome Trust and the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT). Through a major new three-screen video and multi-channel sound installation, and the accompanying project Amnesia MuseumLesions reflects on the experience of Claire, a woman living with amnesia, drawing parallels with the depopulated island of St Kilda, a remote archipelago located west of the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, in the North Atlantic.

The Patient casts the artist as a subject of medical science through the lens of new commissions by Guy Ben-Ary, John A Douglas, Eugenie Lee and Helen Pynor, and historical works by leading international practitioners including ORLAN and Jo Spence. Curated by Performance Space curator-at-large Bec Dean, the exhibition tracks artists’ personal exploratory journeys at the intersection of art and medicine.

In the Troubled Waters season of exhibitions, Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea is accompanied by a major research project where Australian artists work closely with researchers from UNSW’s School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (BEES). Led by high-profile environmental scientist Professor Richard Kingsford, the project brings a precious river ecosystem to life in the gallery space. Working with artists Andrew Belletty, Bollywood sound designer and founding member of Yothu Yindi, Kingsford’s team is creating an inter-disciplinary installation that also coincides with Science Week. Additionally, esteemed documentary filmmaker Georgia Wallace-Crabbe’s new multi-channel installation provides rare and thought-provoking insights into the mining and shipment of Australian natural resources to China.

This year, UNSW Galleries will again support the work of emerging professional artists with the John Fries Award and Freedman Foundation Travelling Scholarship. For the first time since the opening of the new Galleries, an exhibition season will be dedicated to a selection of Art & Design’s postgraduate student projects, some of whom are already high-profile Australian artists.

UNSW Galleries is also proud to be touring two exhibitions that premiered in 2015: the international new media exhibition People Like Us visits 15 venues across all states, while Streets of Papunya will be seen at three university galleries across Australia in 2016.

Program partners include: Sydney Festival, National Institute for Experimental Arts (NIEA), Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT), Wellcome Trust, Australian National University, Canberra Museum & Art Gallery, Performance Space, Australia Council for the Arts, Arts NSW, Museums & Galleries NSW, UNSW Centre for Ecosystem Science, Viscopy and National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA).

You can RSVP for the opening of INK REMIX and Lesions in the Landscape on March 3.

For exhibition dates visit UNSW Galleries