Intergenerational - a term for (hetero) normative families?

My experience at Luminate was particularly interesting as it followed the week in Brighton, allowing a direct comparison between the two cities in relation to queerness. Being thrown in to discussions on arts in dementia (to which I had little previous knowledge), and intergenerational performance (to which I didn’t know I had so many opinions on) made me consider relationship to age within queerness and perhaps how intergenerational relations are more natural within queer culture. As J. Halberstam discusses in Gaga Feminism, queer culture differs from the heterosexual mainstream tending not to ‘outgrow certain forms of cultural activity (e.g clubbing)’ meaning:

‘queer spaces tend to be multigenerational and do not subscribe to one generation giving way to the next’. (Gaga Feminism, Halberstam, 2012, p.2)

This goes against the idea of being defined by your age, as age is in part defined by what cultural acititivities you subscribe to, making it easier for people of different ages to connect. Halerbstam futher explores the different relationship queers may have to time in her book 'In A Queer Time and Place'. She talks of the 'imaginative life schedules' queers tend to have, due to the fact that:

'(queer) futures can be imagined according to logics that lie outside of those paradigmatic markers of life experience - mainly birth, marriage, reproduction, death' (In A Queer Time And Place, Halberstam, 2005, p.2)

That is to say, plently of queers do not take part in many markers of life experience or 'bench marks' such as getting married or having children, another thing that can seperate people of different ages. But, when age is not marked out by these life experiences, people of different ages cannot be separted by what 'bench mark' they have and haven't yet reached.

'queers use space and time in ways that challenge conventional logics of maturity, adulthood and repsonsibility' (In A Queer Time And Place, Halberstam, 2005, p.13)

Another way in which queer relations lend to being intergenerational is that queer spaces often work outside of typical notions of safety and secutiry, unlike the family unit. There is a long history of queer spaces that induldge in radical sex practice, and here the notion of 'reliable adult' (structured day around child-reering, involvement in a monogamous relationship) is challenged. That is not to say queers aren't reliable, but that they challenge maturity being defined by how 'settled' you are. In normative terms, age is pressumed to bring about more responsibilty in having reached these 'bench marks'. Queerness goes against this, meaning age is not necessarily defined by being settled and sensible, and youth by being care-free.

Certainly for some gay male communities during the AIDS epidemic, men of all ages were brought together. Growing older is associated with greater threat of disease/death, but here threat of disease was present for all, no matter your age.  'The constantly dimishing future creates a new emphasis on the here, while the threat of no future hovers overhead like a storm cloud' (In A Queer Time And Place, Halberstam, 2005, p.1).

Hence the notion of intergenerational performance, people of varying ages on stage together, as a novelty often does not apply within queer art. Queer artists do not need to label their work ‘intergenerational’ nor explore this idea so overtly as it already naturally transcends age gaps and the idea of a person being defined by their age. Furthermore, queer art naturally attracts a range of ages in its audience members due to there not being expectations of what cultural activity one should partake in at a given age.

Given this lack of pre-determined roles of how to act at a certain age, and the tendency for queer space to be multigenerational, how useful is it to label a performance, or a type of performance, as intergenerational? Shouldn’t we just accept it to be? For example, at Luminate the clearest example of intergenerational performance was seen in Barrowland Ballet’s Bunty and Doris, a community dance piece that saw lots of bodies, from babies to over 70s, mainly female, dancing together.  It was advertised and talked about as a great celebration of all different ages. Although in many ways it was, because age was the focus, that was all the piece came to be about. I found this problematic, as what I then felt emerged was a piece where the elderly were performing old, and the children performing child, everyone was adhering to stereotypes.

buntyanddoris

photo: https://twitter.com/Barrowlballet

In comparison to Walking:Holding, which due to seeking a range of participants and putting itself in a queer context simply is intergenerational, I felt I got to see far less of the individual on the stage. Walking:Holding allows participants and audience alike to not be confined to pre-conceived notions of age, as well as gender. This is due to being shown in queer contexts/spaces, but also because it does not cling to being multigenerational as its selling or focus-point.

Of course, W:H is a very different genre of work to that choreographed by a theatre company such as Bunty and Doris. But, this week I also managed to see Janice Parker’s Private Party. It was a similar vein to Bunty and Doris, it too placed a range of ages on stage and celebrated human connection through dance. Only, although you could see people from various communities and ages had come together to collaborate, identity had been transcended so that what you were witnessing was the interconnectedness of bodies in space. The difference in looking at age from a queer perspective, and my experience of these other pieces of work is perhaps why the ‘performing’ of age and therefore perpetuation of stereotypes became so apparent to me at aspects of Luminate.

privateparty

photo: http://www.joverrent.co.uk/