The Khyber Centre for the Arts
Halifax, Nova Scotia
February 23 – March 31, 2022

“Pain”? What is that? “Pleasure”? What is that?
An exploration of botany, chronic illness, and humour within the medical system

I spent most of 2020 in bed with pain and fatigue at my mom’s in small town Ontario, waiting for a diagnosis that turned out to be Crohn’s Disease. During this period of time things either stood still, or changed very quickly. I became obsessed with the properties that allow plants to re-grow completely from a hacked off cutting; empty prescription pill bottles full of propagations sprouting new roots covered the kitchen window sill.

My younger sister was diagnosed with an Inflammatory Bowel Disease over a decade ago, and has been a pal through this transition. Someone to reflect, joke with, and send infusion selfies to. Through surgery, a new third hole, getting hooked up to infusion meds every seven weeks and becoming immunocompromised during a global pandemic, these last 2 years have been spent learning first-hand what the “chronic” means in chronic illness. My relationship to the word recovered has been in flux ever since.

In my sickly gardens, I’ve been researching methods and processes of healing, control, and resiliency found within the field of botany. The most sci-fi process so far being plant grafting.

All forms of plant grafting require cutting, healing, and regrowth.

After the cuts, incisions, and surgeries, the wound needs to be protected, wrapped and bandaged until it heals to avoid pests and diseases entering the new graft. It’s also important for the graft union to remain moist, so the plant’s tissues don’t die before the new growth can occur. Plants have given me imagination, escape, future thinking, and a picture of what resiliency and healing can look like.

It’s quickly coming up to two years from when my IBS progressed to Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and this new body keeps offering up surprises. I’m asking it:

“Pain?” What is that? “Pleasure?” What is that?

– Sarah Mihara Creagen, 2022

Photo documentation by Michael Creagen, courtesy of The Khyber Centre for the Arts


The artist gratefully acknowledges support from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.