The notion of turning pain into art is not new.
For generations, troubadours and sculptors alike have made use of the jagged emotions within to hone their craft – Adele, Taylor Swift and Eric Clapton have made successful careers out of it – but while most link emotional labour to the task, few have tackled the all-consuming nature of physical pain to create art.
Award-winning visual artist and theatre-maker Áine O'Hara has gained a name for herself by way of creating work for and about people who are traditionally eschewed from the narrative.
Currently at a turning point in her career – as she imagines how to work with her recent diagnosis of fibromyalgia – her newest work is 'The Patient Will See You Now': an interactive installation and one-to-one performance work focusing on "the inadequacies and farcical nature of accessing healthcare in Ireland, the work questions and exposes bureaucracies that oppress those who fall outside certain definitions of ‘normal,’ ‘valuable’, and ‘productive’."
Áine's work experiments focus on form, connection, conversation, and care.
Her long term ambitions include demanding adequate access to theatre and the arts for disabled and marginalised communities through the creation of large scale, ambitious work as well as the continuation of community-building projects like Chronic Chats; a creative and social group for chronically ill people which grew from their research as part of her artist residency.
"I've been sick since before I was born and my mother also has a long term illness so I have spent a lot of time in the hospital with her too," she tells Irish Tatler.
"I had mostly kept my artistic practice and that side of my life separate, but about two years ago, just before my diagnosis, I was really frustrated with being sick, with the lack of options for pain management, with how I had been repeatedly dismissed by medical practitioners and my sister said to me: 'Would you make art about it?'
"That really encouraged me and shook me out of hiding I suppose. I saw a call out for a residency at A4 Sounds Studios and applied. I started sharing work online with some drawings and posters at first and found a whole community that I could connect with from my bed," she continued.
"This community – mostly other Irish women with chronic conditions – were really encouraging and made me feel like the work was important and drawing attention to the gaps that we keep falling into when trying to access care. With the support of A4 sounds Gallery, I was able to facilitate an online creative group for people with chronic illnesses from across Ireland and this was really the highlight of my year."
The Patient Will See You Now exhibition runs from September 24 with performances running from September 26 - October 14. For more information on how to book, accessibility information or social distancing measures, you can check their website here.
For those unable to attend, Áine's virtual notebook – creating beauty from the general malaise of chronic pain diagnosis – is available to view online.
Main image by @misc.aine
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