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Pain Pageant Exhibition

Jess Coldrey - September Artist in Residence from Australia

Exhibition displayed September 24th, 2021 at 6.30pm until sunset


Jardin Botanique de Marnay-sur-Seine - Aube Champagne

Chem. des Gougins, 10400 Marnay-sur-Seine, France





Pain Pageant is a conceptual fashion and photography series exploring endometriosis diagnosis' social barriers and emotional impact. Endometriosis (endo) is a chronic pain condition related to mensuration that affects 1 in 9 women. However, the normalisation of women's pain drives an average diagnosis time of 7 years. The performance of pain required to obtain medical help, often through surgery, is almost like a pageant. It can feel excessive, cringe-inducing, and be interpreted as fake or over-exaggerated due to inner pain's abstract and invisible nature.


Drawing on her personal experience of endo and the week of her first laparoscopy surgery, Coldrey expertly fuses workwear, hospital gowns, and child-like embellishments. Her series reflects on her illness's physical and mental tell-tales, her long diagnosis wait, and symbols of anaesthetised dreams in surgery. Supported by The Australian-French Association for Innovation and Research, Coldrey developed this project through a series of pain visualisation art workshops in The Australian endo community. She plans to continue her practice-led research in France to spark international connections. Coldrey also aims to improve endo communication by facilitating the Australia-French Endometriosis Pain Communication Forum.


Surreal and metaphorical in style, her pieces allude to the mysterious, isolating, and complicated experiences of navigating endo. As a social scientist, Coldrey persists that endo is much more than a physical illness. Instead, it's a set of interacting social norms against women, outdated medical practices, dismissive community behaviours and unsatisfactory health educational practices. Whimsical, satirical, and glitteringly alluring, her artworks draw the eye, inspire the mind, and compel viewers to think twice about how they understand pelvic pain. Using the familiar, beautiful, and delicate flower symbol, Coldrey makes this conversation soft and accessible. Her use of flowers builds on a deep history of patriarchal allusions to flowers based on virginity and beauty to make them radical and empowering emblems of her forbidden suffering.