Observing both my parents enter old age, devastated by terrible degenerative diseases, I have experienced first-hand how disabled and “disgraceful” bodies trigger unease, contempt, and/or indifference, even violence. Living in a culture that equates old age with disease and decline (Calasanti 2005) compelled me to find ways to resist and transgress such discriminative gazes.
The work presented here is a culmination of many years of extensive research creation that investigates the nature of women’s negative body
representations associated with ageing. Visual iterations explore the implications to self-identity and agency of current negative body definitions in women’s lives through the implementation of creative case studies. I study how artistic transformative encounters, wherein underlying, unifying motifs evoke horror and frailty, also speak to common humaneness, regeneration, solidarities, and shared vulnerabilities.
My initial research investigated notions of ageism, through empirical observations and reminiscence of family histories, and revealed how unconventional bodies clash with and destabilize the dominant social order where successful ageing is considered attainable solely through individual choices and effort (Gilleard and Higgs 2000). I was saddened to realize, then and now, that instead of being offered solutions for well-being grounded in diversity and adapted to evolving cultural lifestyles, the ageing, disabled bodies are forever more isolated, excluded, disembodied, and left responsible for their own fate - North American governments’ appalling contemporary policies have indeed resulted in dehumanizing and disengaged political agendas that now consider later life as a personal responsibility (Gilleard and Higgs 2000).
My current research-creation takes a closer look at the negative, mostly explicit, aspects of ageism that manifest on all levels and affect cognitive, affective, and behavioral components. Specifically, what are the implications to self-identity and agency of current negative body constructs in middle-aged women’s lives? How can we challenge the idea that ageing is intrinsically defined by disability, ontological decay, and death? While it explores narratives of inclusiveness and visibility outside normative representations of women’s bodies, the work also proposes images of embodied things where materiality has agency that relates to its surroundings and divergent bodies are revealed and celebrated for their uniqueness and generative attributes. I explore visual strategies that defies limited anthropomorphic views that might falsify or alter phenomenological experiences of nature and steer viewers away from a place of origin situated in the body and propose a compassionate and vibrant humanism prone to generating re-interpretations and re-considerations of ageing negative bodies. Therefore, the work challenges, in varied ways, the idea that ageing is intrinsically defined by disability, ontological decay, and death.