Performance of Pain: Exploring Performance Art, Pain and Neuroscience


Since the 1960's we observe the hurt body in performance as a means of presenting diverse experiences ranging from intimacy and complicity to confrontation (Jones, 2002). It has the ability to offer audiences direct, unmediated encounters that destroy pretense, create sensory immersion and open up different kinds of engagement with meaning. Its potency as a 'live' form that disrupts the nature of contemporary art is one that can be trace backed to origins within theatre and it continues to defy expectations of who is making art, how they are making it and who they are making it for. It is not uncommon for the body to find itself caught up in a discourse at the intersection of art, technology and body politics with categories such as 'technological body', 'gendered body', 'historicised body', 'politicised body', 'aestheticised body', 'performing body', 'fragmented body', 'hurt body' etc., all these terms signaling the inescapable historical discursivity of the body. This paper proposes a move towards a new discursive theory of the hurt body in performance art, through the lens of neuroscience, in other words a neuroscientific interpretation of pain used in performance art.