Call for Papers: Playing Age
University of Toronto, Feb. 27-28, 2015
The symposium “Playing Age” offers a humanistic exploration of aging, old age, and inter-generational relations. Seminal theorists of play, from Johan Huizinga to Roger Caillois, claimed that rule-bounded games and mimetic enactments create a “magic circle” in which conflicts within the self and the community can be negotiated at a safe remove. More recently, performance and game theorists have insisted that even playing within the bounded precincts of a stadium, a theatre, or a video game influences everyday conduct, particularly when we play with volatile topics like inter-cultural representations, social class, race and gender. This symposium asks how aging and old age can be investigated through playing, specifically the playfulness of artistic representations, and whether aging is uniquely available for or resistant to imaginative inhabitations.
As British historian Pat Thane maintains, old age “cannot simply be a social construct, an artifice of perception, or fashioned through discourse – unquestionably bodies age, change, decay – but the images, expectations, and experience of older men and women have been constructed in different ways at different times and for differing people at any one time.” Until recently, there has been relatively little attention paid to the stories and images produced by artists about aging and old age and how these aesthetic representations interrelate with medical and political norms and expectations. These imaginative constructs are crucial precisely because they offer insight into the “images, expectations, and experience” that have changed and, in some cases, been forgotten over time. To broaden the view of aging and old age beyond biomedical and social science terms, this symposium explores works produced by a host of sound artists, video game designers, theatre and performance artists, film makers and authors—works that enable us to recognize aging and old age as not only a biological process but also as malleable, culturally mediated experiences.
There is, of course, a growing interest in the representation of aging in the humanities. We are especially interested in examples, theorizations, and analyses of theatre/performance, film, video games, graphic novels, and literature that raise the following questions about age, aging, and intergenerational relationships:
— How do you pretend to be older than you are? How do you instruct someone else to play at being older than they are? What are the benefits of playing age from the outside in or from the inside out?
–When and why is simulating old age—as an actor, an author, a painter, a graphic novelist—evidence of virtuosity? Is “playing” an older person an act of self-effacement or of self-expansion?
–How do you represent an older person to an older audience and how do you represent an older person to a younger audience? How do artistic programmers imagine the receptivity of differently aged demographics?
— How do the different arts evoke aging minds and bodies differently? Which neglected visual, aural, or tactile experiences of aging can an artwork make available?
— What were the conventions of representing old age in other periods? What arguments can be made for resuscitating those traditions?
— What characterizes evocative artistic instances of youth imagining age, or age recalling youth? What kinds of fidelity to the experience of aging can intergenerational estrangement, displacement, or desire produce that empirical observation cannot?
— What are the affects, exuberant and abject, of aging? Can art simulate, evoke, or even create affective experiences of aging? What are the erotics of aging, and how does art evade or call attention to the libidos of old age?
— How do individual artworks represent aging as a kind of ability or disability, and how do they combat ableism as a frame for thinking of aging?
— When and how are new technologies and new media made available to aging audiences? How do video game or social media designers create characters, stories, and interfaces that will appeal to older users?
Please direct inquiries and submissions (50 word bio; 700 word proposal; 100 word abstract) no later than Sept. 5, 2014, by email to the co-organizers, Profs. Marlene Goldman (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Lawrence Switzky (email@example.com).