Activity: Talk or presentation types › Oral presentation
Talk given at the “Women Ageing and Media, Creative Research Methods in Ageing Studies Symposium”
The Hi Fi Club, a popular dance club in central Leeds – holds an over 50s, Northern Soul event every month… on a Sunday Afternoon. Downstairs in the club, alcohol is served and old people hit the dance floor, spinning, stepping and kicking, but upstairs it is daylight, or at latest very early evening. The timing of this regular event not only responds to a perceived safety need and acknowledges that energy levels might lower as we age, but it also produces and confirms the segregation of night and day in the urban environment into profoundly aged zones.
Frida Kerner Furman – drawing on Victor Turner – argues that “[f]rom the perspective of those who embody dominant cultural norms, the old represent a disruption of the visual field” (1999: 11). It is my hypothesis that this is particularly the case in the centre of the city at night. The eating, drinking, dancing and entertainment areas of UK cities and large towns give the impression – after dark – of being reserved in most part for the young. In the same way that spaces can be gendered, they can also be aged, times of the day too (depending on the place) can be age-friendly or age-hostile. Central, urban night-time seems to be almost exclusively occupied by the young. The old and middle aged may be visiting for an endorsed purpose, such as going for a meal or to the theatre but if we are seen on the street, old and middle-aged people are most likely to be in a process of leaving. With some exceptions, it is rare for an old or middle-aged person, women in particular, to be comfortable in a bar or club or in the connecting streets, especially unaccompanied. This prohibition guards the visual field from any potential disruption.
This presentation engages with the following questions: how can performance-research, probe, challenge and acknowledge normative prescriptions for the acceptable visual, temporal and spatial presence of old bodies in the urban environment? What can performance as a research method do to generate knowledge about these structures of urban embodiment? To this end, I am undertaking a series of walks and interventions in the youthful night-time city-centre space. I walk unaccompanied into places that are youth orientated and where I am sure that I will unduly disrupt the visual field. Some film will be shown, excerpts from a journal of reflection will be read. My autoethnographic practice-research hovers somewhere between Allan Kaprow’s “lifelike [performance] art”, one that is “contiguous with […] life, inflecting, probing, testing and even suffering it” (203: 206) and what embodied practice researcher Ben Spatz calls “research in everyday life” (2015: 176, italics in original). I aim to explore the effect that the presence of a middle aged unaccompanied woman in the youthful urban space has, particularly on a sense of age and gender identity.