Chronic pain is a complex bio psychosocial phenomenon affecting 1 in 3 Americans, yet the social context in which pain is suffered remains relatively less studied. The dynamic interplay between the social environment and the individual in whom pain is experienced affects outcomes; indeed several studies have demonstrated that social isolation can be algesic and that social connection can be analgesic. How to translate these experimental findings into clinical and/or artistic practice remains unclear, rich territory.
On September 12th approximately 30 pain specialists, artists, activists and museum professionals, including representatives from the Museum of Fine Arts, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the Institute of Contemporary Art came together for a symposium titled, “a(n)esthetics: the art of analgesia” to explore these questions and the intersection of art and pain management practices.
The very next evening, as part of the Cultural and Humanitarian Agents Seminar series at the Mahindra Humanities Center, Ian Koebner offered a presentation, “The Analgesic Museum,” on his research exploring the role of museums as public health partners in the effort to reduce chronic pain.