Ageing, corporeality and embodiment by Chris Gilleard, Paul Higgs

By Chris Gilleard, Paul Higgs

This booklet investigates the emergence of a 'new getting older' and its realisation throughout the physique. The paintings explores new varieties of embodiment occupied with id and care of the self, that have noticeable the physique develop into a domain for getting older in a different way - for getting older with out turning into old.

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Its representation as ‘false consciousness’ and its consumerist practitioners’ ‘cultural dupes’ seem curiously outdated like the voices from the old ‘classical modernity’, where the proletarianisation of the masses was seen as corrupting the manly virtues bred in work and war (Livingston 1998, 423). While critics of consumer society’s culture of narcissism (Lasch 1979), destructive individualism (Bellah et al. 1996), commodity fetishism (Lefebvre 2002), celebration of the superficial (Wolf 1990) and oppressive dehumanisation (Ritzer 1996) still abound, consumerism and consumption continue to thrive, disembedding selves from older, more stable sources of identity and community into a variety of flexible, for now lifestyles.

Many of these old close-knit neighbourhoods were falling apart, a process that a host of British community studies sought to document throughout the 1960s. A decade later and not just the communities but community studies themselves were pronounced dead (Bell and Newby 1971, Macfarlane 1977). Life had moved on, and the position of older people was beginning to shift, though it would take more than a decade before ageing moved from being framed entirely through material neediness and corporeal dysfunction to become a site of contestation over embodiment and identity.

Major texts of the new ageing, such as Laslett’s New Map of Life (1989), the Gergens’ chapter on ‘The New Aging’ (Gergen and Gergen 2000) or the edited volume, Productive Aging: Concepts and Challenges by Nancy Morrow-Howell, James Hinterlong and Michael Sherraden (2001) have all passed over the question of the body to address more general issues of civic contribution, personal consumption or employment opportunities in later life. We want to focus on the body not as some kind of ‘asocial’ corporeality out-trumping the capacity of culture, society and the economy to determine human lives, but as itself, an always-emerging site for embodiment from which new ageing lifestyles can be fashioned.

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