[-empyre-] sex death love - on AGEING

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Sat Sep 28 11:19:40 AEST 2019

I just have a few comments to make; at the age of 76 I should be entitled 
to! :-) Aging, in the U.S., is the last refuge of violent caricaturing, 
laughter, and ignorance in the mainstream media. Almost every episode, for 
example, of Saturday Night Life, a comedy/political show, mocks the 
"elderly" qua elderly, bumbling fools forgetting everything. There have 
been similar skits on Samantha Bee (for all her astute analysis of 
gender issues, she doesn't hesitate to mock older Americans), Stephen 
Colbert, and the like. In advertising, "grandparents" seem to have one 
role, taking care of grandchildren and occasionally taking walks by 
themselves into  a sunset. It's violent, disgusting, and reflects 
attitudes that are taken for granted here. When I bring the issue up, it's 
considered a non-issue. But it's deeply prevalent with real world 

My highschool has a magazine, and I wrote as part of my bio a few months 
ago, "Alan Sondheim, Looking forward to not retiring." We're expected to 
retire. We're considered outdated, in need of constant tech help, and 
unable to comprehend the world we're in. I don't curate any more (I 
started things like the Atlanta Biennale), but if I did, I'd want to 
organize an angry show, not "images of aging" but a show of pushback, an 
exhibition of fury. An exhibition to start a conversation, not about art 
or aesthetics, but about what's happening and what can we do about it. And 
a show created by older people, a show about ugly caricatures. And 
pushback in the media as well. (I know there are exceptions - but they're 
exceptions btw.)

There's more; if we're not working within an (academic for example) 
institution, we're forgotten for the most part. I have to constantly push 
myself, legitimize myself as someone with something to offer. I constantly 
write reminder letters, which a friend of mine calls "begging letters," 
etc. This is the result of another split, those within and without 
academic and other institutions. The divides have a complex relationship. 
Sooner or later almost everyone is "let go."

But the real problem, the fundamental problem, is one of disappearance, as 
if there is nothing "we" have to offer. It's true that there are 
conditions and diseases associated with aging - death of course being 
fundamental - but it's also true that we don't have to live _as if that 
were the only case._ (Recently I put out a cd called Future Speed Future, 
which is composed largely of furiously fast instrument playing - in a way 
ugly-edgy, showing-off: look what I can do, forget the age. I'm inspired 
by Hokusai's "Old man mad about painting" - that one can do things at any 
age that one never thought was possible before.) And I'd like to see that, 
as well as protest, as the substance for an exhibition - a show that in 
other words would leave no one behind. A show that protests, a furious 

(Btw this isn't directed at anyone or any show proposal etc. here - this 
has been on my mind for at least a decade.)

Best, Alan

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