Confronted with the aging of our society and the challenges this raises, it becomes clear that we need new images to address the subject of aging. These two exhibitions investigate this subject by presenting contemporary artworks dealing with the topics of family and society, paying special attention to the aging body and moving between deprivation, anxiety and intimacy. Thus, the exhibitions offer impressive portrayals of the issues of aging, of nostalgia and of remembrance. They move between self-perception and the myths of youth by focussing on the view younger family members have of their parents and grandparents. The video and photographic works exhibited in the Gallery Museum in Bolzano aim to point out both the problematic and the enriching moments provided by the presence of old people in our families, documenting their integration as well as their exclusion.
An intimate look at the presence of old people in our families is provided by the artist Marcell Esterhazy in his video “v.n.p. v.2.0.” (2005). For the duration of a family supper the video camera focuses on the grandfather, then the artist increases the tempo of the film, adapting it to the grandfather’s slow movements through providing an acceleration of the movements of the other family members.
In his video work “Kitchen” (1997) Aernout Mik stages three elderly men fighting in front of the backdrop of a recently installed kitchen. Following the instructions of the artist they change their roles, playing in turn the aggressor and then the victim – reprising roles that they might have played long ago in the schoolyard. Nonetheless one can still recognise who used to be the loser at that time, and who the winner.
In the video “Elocution” (1996) of Imogen Stidworthy a negotiation of power is performed between an old man and a younger woman, reflecting upon the roles of parent-child, father-daughter, teacher-pupil, man-woman.
Elisabeth Hölzl accompanied the old people of the “Seisenegg” nursing home in Merano over a fixed period with her still camera. In her installation “Souvenir” (2007) she arranges scenes that show everyday objects and photos, objects that in the old people’s eyes represent their past lives.
Marina Ballo Charmet in her video “frammenti di una notte (2005) explores in the most sensitive way a single night in the geriatric hospital department, her work moving between the themes of illness, advanced age and medical care. Her pictures explore how sleep presents us with the possibility of dissociation, at the border of consciousness and unconsciousness, how they follow the rhythm of the nursing shift changes, the rhythm of the hospital’s medical staff, characterized by ritual gestures of taking care.
The photographer Melanie Manchot exhibits portraits of her mother, a means not only of pointing to their close relationship but also of presenting the skin as a projection screen for advanced age. No other organ can act as such a sensitive seismograph of how we have lived than our skin, which seems to bear the traces of every scar, every past and present action that we perform.
David Zink Yi took pictures of his Italian grandmother in his work “Roma 395-6” (2006). Despite having emigrated from Italy to South America a long time ago, she still keeps and arranges the porcelain figures and lacework that serve as a remembrance of Europe. The artist focuses on the cultural memory all human beings possess, and on the importance of the family roots that link us to our pasts and to our sense of belonging. We have a great variety of images at our disposal when we talk about aging, but have so few images that genuinely reflect our present time. These two exhibitions try to move in this direction by focussing on the beauty of the old.