Aging

In the late 1990’s I presented a slide lecture on how my art references impermanence and dying. In 2014, video artist and editor Tobe Carey scanned the slides from the lecture and we collaged together the spoken narrative, images both of my own work and also of death rituals from many different cultures, creating an Endgame-like collage. There are images from my study in Benares at the Burning Ghats, images from my film Mitchell’s Death, and descriptions of ways that my work and death seem to be close cousins.

Locke’s Way is the photographic path to knowledge, full of twists and turns, treacherously steep. What has happened down here? A family’s photographs tell us everything and nothing about the subterranean past. "One of the central questions of philosophy has always been: what can be known? Locke’s Way provides a vivid illustration of this perennial philosophical dilemma. In this short video, Donigan Cumming is preoccupied with the story of his older brother, who seems to have been brain-damaged and spent much of his life in institutions.

Loss Prevention combines documentary and fiction to tell the story of Irene, arrested at the age of 79 for stealing a bottle of aspirin from a Miami Wal-Mart and sentenced to ten weeks of Senior Citizen Shoplifting Prevention School. Narrated through the voice of her daughter, this film explores the alienation of aging and the evolving relationship between a daughter and an elderly mother.

A lonely dowager's last, desperate fling at reactivating her long dormant libido leads her on a path toward depravity and lurking danger.

From The Crystal Quilt performance, Suzanne Lacy, Phyllis Jane Rose, Nancy Dennis, Sage Cowles, Minneapolis, 1987.

Kipnis describes this tape as "an appropriation of the aesthetics of both late capitalism and early Soviet cinema—MTV meets Eisenstein—reconstructing Karl Marx for the video age.” She presents a postmodern lecture delivered by a chorus of drag queens on the unexpected corelations between Marx’s theories and the carbuncles that plagued the body of the rotund thinker for over thirty years. Marx’s erupting, diseased body is juxtaposed with the “body politic", and posited as a symbol of contemporary society proceeding the failed revolutions of the late 1960s.

Part bio, part memoir, Mom’s Move is an intergenerational film about mothers and daughters, women and photography, remembering and forgetting, and the tension between women’s private and public selves.

Rhoda Mogul, housewife and mother of six, was a lifelong avid amateur photographer.  Her creative drive – though confined to the home – had a major influence on my public life as an artist and filmmaker.

In My Dinner With Weegee Donigan Cumming weaves together two life stories. The central figure, a man in his seventies named Marty, remembers his experiences in New York as a young Catholic labour organizer and peace activist, his friendships with David Dellinger, the Berrigan brothers, Bayard Rustin, Weegee, and James Agee. This mixture of first-hand knowledge and gossip brightens Marty’s dark passage—he is old, sick, depressed, and alcoholic.

My mother's life and death were both extraordinarily epic. A painter who art therapized herself out of depression. Her resiliency could have rewarded her with a Badge of Courage; alchemizing trauma into art, activism and humor. Modeling these gifts for me, I look at our lives which could have been charted and copied page for page, letter by letter, and I recognize that I have imitated her style, not missing a beat.

— Linda Montano

Nang has lived outside the box. Born in a Trinidadian village in 1934, she grew up poor, illegitimate, mixed-race and female, but she survived by defying convention. She left the first of five husbands when he cheated on her. With no formal training, she danced with choreographer Geoffrey Holder, who later won Tony Awards for The Wiz. In her twenties, she went to work in the Orinoco delta in Venezuela, and saved enough to buy a house.

Nine Fish, 1996

From childhood memories to recurring nightmares, Nine Fish attacks and illuminates the indecision and confusion surrounding euthanasia and care of the elderly in the United States. In this deeply spiritual and personal video, director Kip Fulbeck chronicles his Cantonese grandmother's physical decline and its continuing impact on his family. The shifting complexities of personal identity, family communication, and cultural assimilation are explored through nine semi-fictional stories.

Invoking a biblical story of life coming from dry bones, Condit constructs an experimental narrative about an older woman’s confrontation with her own mortality after the death of her mother. The bone represents the promise of youth and hope—a promise jealously coveted by the young, but needed more by those grown old. Inverting cultural values, Condit represents feminine youth as a mannequin, and seeks humanity in the form of the older woman, who is reborn by overcoming her fear of death.

A young boy caught in an emotional web spun by adults must untangle the relationships that are deep as the sea surrounding him.

This title comprises State of Mind (2007) and Zoology (2006) which were compiled into this form by Mike Kuchar in 2022.

A daughter leads her mother on a rope while they take a walk, looking for a place where the mother can bid her final farewell. Before she leaves, they have a picnic, she sings a song, and they chat about the family. An absurd domestic drama played out against the background of a summer’s day by the seaside.

Christmas Eve. A man alone finds someone he can talk to.

"Pétit Jesus, a man speaks in his native French about his loneliness, his desperate need for love. The content of his speech is a poem of his own creation which he holds in his hand (off-camera) and from which he recites. With tears and snot pouring from his face, and a voice wracked with sobs, his "performance" is compelling in its rawness, its stark honesty."

--Scott McLeod, Curator, Moving Stills, Gallery 44, Toronto, 2000

In these "plays" for the camera, the lushness of an afternoon tryst with it’s perfumed colors is displayed center stage. You’ll experience too, the oppressive moods that permeate the lonely streets of a city at night and witness the antics of it’s desperate, guilt-ridden inhabitants.

A video adaptation of James Joyce’s Ulysses shot at the Parkville Senior Center, Connecticut, with the seniors reading the lines from cue cards. The piece addresses society, war, and personal mortality.

Pulling Up Roots is the emotional journey of a woman who is navigating the tenuous strain between the past and the future.

Filmed in an abandoned housing project in Western Ireland, she uproots exotic plants and flowers, as one might collect stories and memories one can’t understand. Condit’s operatic songs and childlike rhymes give a sense of naiveté and strength that comes from her solitude. From a playful skip around the yard, to a moment where profound sadness gives way to unexpected laughter, she explores an entire lifetime of emotions in mere minutes.

 

A portrait of the artist as a not-so-young man. The filmmaker attempts to enter the digital age by making a new video version of one of his old films.

"The award of the Short Film Festival goes to a video in which the reflection of artistic work becomes a form itself. John Smith manages to give us a self-ironic humorous experiment about art and time."

—Prize of the International Short Film Festival, Oberhausen 2000

This title is also available on John Smith: Program 2.

Inventing freedom as they roam, videomaker Ellen Spiro and her dog Sam go west in a vintage Airstream trailer in search of elderly dropouts and their dogs who have pulled out of society and into by-the-side-of-the-road trailer communities. Our mutt narrator tells his tale, sharing his thoughts on America’s smells, the foibles of humans, and his view of aging as another journey. In unplanned meetings with gray nomads, psychic misfits, and free spirits, Roam Sweet Home takes the myths of growing older and turns them on their head.

This tape functions on two levels. Montano addresses menopause and acts out her worst nightmares around that issue—playing the out-of-control, alcoholic crone. By doing this publicly on tape, she felt that she could look at, share and make friends with, her concerns with aging. The experience of viewing this video moves from an autobiographical look at Montano’s process to an interactive game for the viewer.

Shifting Positions is a semi-autobiographical/fictional trilogy exploring becoming queer later in life, my father's dementia, and our mid- and end-of-life crises. The selling of our family home of forty years prompted the making of the first section, entitled 'Last Home', which investigates the ways memories and spirits inhabit a house. In the remaining two sections— 'Napping' and 'Behavior Of Fascination'—the relationship between father and daugther is looked at through 'home movies' and documented intimate moments of private life. —Kathy High

Adopting the movements of various animals, Forti begins the performance by walking hypnotically in circles. She falls to the floor and begins a cycle of walking and crawling that becomes an open metaphor for evolution and aging. Through the course of the performance, the camera follows Forti's circling motion at increasingly close range, creating an interactive dance between camera and performer. While "rustic" in respect to the quality of the video image and sound, Solo No. 1 serves as an engaging document of Forti's dedicated study of natural movement.

"In Some Dark Place, filmmaker Cecelia Condit explores the dislocations of identity and memory that aging forces upon us, without losing sight of life's beauty."

— Milwaukee Film Festival, 2016

"I have always explored the eerie, dark side of human nature."

— Cecelia Condit

Told through the voices of three elderly South Carolinian's who reside in the homes in which they were born, Steven Go Get Me A Switch is an oral history mapping dichotomies of gender, familial mythologies, sexuality, and belief. A heavy use of symbolism comingles with suggestions of narrative proof. The desire to be good and the impossibility of such desire becomes a sharp inaudible pitch, like a dog whistles call to violence.