Between Agony and Ecstasy: Investigations into the Meaning of Pain

Barbara Macek
Abstract Pains are moving, alluring us to world-making-activities, attuning our bodies with other bodies and therefore putting us in relation to others. Pains cut into our net of habits, and even the slightest pain causes a transformation. Pains are crushing, deeply distressing, showing us our limitations – but also our capability to go beyond our limits, to outgrow ourselves. In the course of my literary research for this project I generated 10 PAIN CATEGORIES that I derived from poems, philosophical and literary texts on pain, and my own experiences. These poetical/pictorial categories differ profoundly from pain categories as they are to be found in common pain questionnaires: They refer to the existential dimension of pain and do not differentiate between physical and mental pain in order to overcome the myth of this dichotomy. The next step of my project consisted in going into the field to look at, imagine and feel into pain. I conducted methodical observations in the casualty departments of two Viennese hospitals and developed my own method of "self-reflective observation in the mode of seeing/feeling". The assemblages as part of this exposition present the results of these investigations and reconstruct different perspectives on PAIN as an EXISTENTIAL PHENOMENON.