It’s 2018 and we’re in uncharted territory. Luckily, the young artists, curators and performers of Next Wave are here to lead us through. Next Wave, now in its 34th year, is a biennial platform for Australia’s new voices in art, and with a new generation comes new approaches, and a hint at the future. Every show in this stellar program feels like a question that leaves the audience to suggest the answers.

So how do we navigate these avenues? Consider this as one possible map.

Ritual (until May 20) is part of our everyday lives, but not these kinds of rituals. Every night at sunset, at a new location, an artist will lead festival-goers through a new rite. Sixteen artists, 16 locations, 16 nights, 16 rituals. Each day brings a new observance or act, including a tea ceremony, a guided meditation, a hair-braiding ritual and an offering by a river. The location and artist for each session is revealed each morning of the festival, so follow #nwritual for announcements.

The next wave of artists is intensely aware of the history of the ground they work on. Not Good Place (until May 20) at Blak Dot Gallery centres around three vibrantly coloured shields and uses them to discuss contemporary Indigenous identity alongside sound and projections. Understanding history is a big theme for this year’s festival. Meanwhile, artist Shireen Taweel’s installation Tracing Transcendence (until June 16) explores just how far Islam reaches back into Australian history, from 1800s cameleers to contemporary suburban mosques.

The ways in which we’re changing our bodies and environment are explored in Estrogenesis (until May 13), a new work by collective Embittered Swish, which interrogates the realities of transgenderism in the form of a lyrical, gender-fluid performance piece. Olivia Tartaglia and Alex Tate introduce us to the Bureau of Meteoranxiety (May 10 to 19), a live-art experience responding to our “ecoanxieties” and offering participants “new language and coping strategies to help stay above the metaphorical and literal flood line.” Sounds satirical and dystopian. On the same frontier, Zak Pidd and Charles Purcell’s Apokalypsis is a high-octane performance of 100 historical events and disasters in 60 minutes, beginning with the big bang.

It’s not all politics, eco-catastrophe and shifting identity. Danielle Reynolds’s Canine Choreography (May 11 to 12) promises us a look at the world of freestyle dog dancing, which we’re assured is a thing. It’s part dog training, part exercise, part absurd spectacle, and all an expression of the loving relationship between human and canine.

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And before Next Wave is finished, the process of responding and remixing will have already begun. Athena Thebus’s Deep Water Dream Girl (until May 20) is a video work exploring the different experiences of two cousins and their Filipina backgrounds. On closing night, Marcus Whale and Jikuroux will perform a new live score to the film. Chances are it will descend into a dance party. Just like the event that will bring the festival to a close: a collaborative, indoor-outdoor block party that pays homage to the sound system.

Next Wave runs until May 20. The whole program is available here.