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Exhibiting Pain: Viewing creative works of life with long-term physical pain

Updated Thursday, 4th August 2016

An invitation to view artwork capturing the feeling of long-term pain - and to share your responses.

Long-term pain affects growing numbers of people each year. It becomes known as ‘chronic’ or ‘persistent’ pain if it has lasted for over three months. Recent research has shown that two fifths of the UK population are living with persistent physical pain, which amounts to approximately 28 million people. One study1 noted that 62% of people aged 75 or over experience long-term pain. Therefore, with an ageing population it is important to consider good management and treatment of persistent pain.

Pain is invisible to other people and tissue damage may have healed, not showing on x-rays or in scans. This can be frustrating for the person in pain who may feel that (s)he is not believed or that people think s(he) is exaggerating. The condition can lead to great distress for the person experiencing it who may find that many areas of their lives are affected. As a subjective condition our personal experiences of pain cannot be shared by others. It has been said that pain shatters language’ demonstrating how inadequate words may feel to describe life with pain. Consequently, it can be helpful to use alternative means of communicating the experience of persistent pain - for example through creative techniques, such as the visual arts or in poetry.

My research is using two online exhibitions to share creative works representing life with persistent physical pain. I am collecting feedback about how the works are viewed by audiences and discussions or questions arising by viewing them. For example, are the works helpful to understand more about life with the condition? Do they help other people with pain to feel less isolated? Do any of the works show pain in a way that someone viewing them may feel that their experience is represented too, thereby helping them to explain their own pain a little more?

Analysis of the responses will include keyword analysis and an examination of the symbols and signs (semiotics) that are used by audiences to form their interpretations. By looking at visitor responses I hope that my findings will contribute towards improving communication of long-term pain, helping people to feel less isolated or to share their own experiences more effectively. It may also help clinicians, friends and family to gain insight into living with persistent pain.

You are invited to view the works and share your feedback by visiting Feedback may be given through the Visitor Feedback Form which is available in the main menu and linked to following each exhibit. Additionally, discussions are taking place in the Exhibiting Pain Facebook Group, it is lovely to be joined by some of the creators of the works in the group discussions also.

Please drop in to visit the gallery – I look forward to reading your thoughts about the works and exhibitions. Thank you!


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