Ageing, corporeality and embodiment by Chris Gilleard, Paul Higgs

By Chris Gilleard, Paul Higgs

This booklet investigates the emergence of a 'new ageing' and its realisation in the course of the physique. The paintings explores new kinds of embodiment keen on identification and care of the self, that have visible the physique develop into a domain for getting old in a different way - for growing older with no turning into old.

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The search for a unity of the oppressed, one to which all marginalised groups could connect (in the 1960s, this included black people, the young, women and the poor) was short lived. The market for such revolutionary radicalism rapidly fragmented and by the early 1970s, individual bodies were aligning themselves with distinct ‘communities’ of difference, each claiming its own identity and pursuing its own struggles to create and sustain ‘authentic’ lifestyles.

Lastly, the turn to the body in second modernity provides another prism through which we can review our own ideas about the shift in the social understandings of age in second modernity and the boundaries of a presumed ‘third age’. Before pursuing these very contemporary issues, however, we need to step back and reflect on the history of ageing and especially the changing historical significance of the body in representing ageing and old age. Without such a historically situated understanding, bodily ageing can appear as a relatively unproblematic expression of a life course that pivots naturally around a binary divide between ‘age’ and ‘youth’.

First, because the transformation of the terms ‘sex’ and ‘sexual difference’ into the more socially oriented term ‘gender’ served as a major vector through which the body emerged as a source and signifier of socially constituted forms of ‘difference’; and second, because gender provides one of the most important vehicles through which the embodiment of ageing can be examined. The 1960s’ sexual revolution involved a ‘rejection of the biological determinism implicit in the use of such terms as “sex” or “sexual difference”’ (Scott 1986, 1054).

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