Lani Maestro’s neon installation No Pain Like This Body (2010/2022) is a direct response to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood. The work was the centrepiece of her rain, a 2010 exhibition curated by Makiko Hara at Centre A: Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, formerly located on Hastings Street. The work is a text-based, ruby-red neon sculpture that spells out “No pain like this body,” situated adjacent to another sculpture that echoes “No body like this pain,” creating tension and intimacy. Through her minimalist visual language, Maestro addresses the complexities of human nature and dignity to reveal the conditions of the social, cultural and political realities of everyday life.
Taking on new resonances wherever it is situated, No Pain Like This Body has been exhibited at Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art, Winnipeg, 2010–11; the Philippine Pavilion for the 57th Venice Biennale, 2017; and the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, Manila, 2019. The work returns to Vancouver after twelve years to reflect on that original time and place and resituate itself in a city altered by post-Olympic urban development and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“‘No Pain Like This Body’—these are the words that first came to my head when I walked down Hastings Street in Vancouver… It has not gone away. It repeats itself. How can one ignore the particularity of that place? As much as I just want to think about making work without thinking of the people who inhabited that neighbourhood, these words seem to sum up the energy that I absorbed there.” —Lani Maestro
Organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery on behalf of the City of Vancouver’s Public Art Program and guest curated by Makiko Hara. This exhibition is an initiative of the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Institute of Asian Art