Critical Turns of Time, Age and Ageing

Prof. Jan Baars | IAGGER 8 April 2015

Prof. Jan Baars | IAGGER 8 April 2015

If I had had only the opportunity to attend the opening keynote presentations at the eighth IAGG-ER Congress, the visit to Dublin would already have been worth it.

Prof. Jan Baars, Desmond O’Neill and Rose Anne Kenny gave brilliant and inspiring lectures. You can listen to the first presentation at the end of this post (click continue reading).

Professor Baars’ lecture offered an interesting conceptual analysis on time, age and ageing. As the good tradition of critical science commends, he invited us all to think, once more, about the very basic concepts and assumptions that we use in our works.

Henry Matisse’s work and ageism

Image: PANEL WITH MASK | source: http://www.henri-matisse.net/cutouts/ha.html

“An artist must never be a prisoner of himself, prisoner of a style, prisoner of a reputation, prisoner of success…” – Henry Matisse (Edlerfield, John (1978). The Cut-Outs of Henri Matisse. New York: George Braziller. p. 8. ISBN 0807608866. – Reference via Wikipedia)

His presentation started by recalling Henry Matisse’s late work with cut paper collages, a technique Matisse began using after a cancer surgery left him with severe physical limitations. Baars called attention to the fact that a number of critics did not appreciate his work, not only for aesthetic reasons, but also because they considered it an expression of his senility. That, to Baars, is a stark example of “ageism”.

Ageing and time

According to Baars, ageing and time are interconnected because ageing is, basically, living seen in a temporal perspective, “specially living after having already lived for a relatively long time”. This interconnection explains why time is an important concept in trying to explain ageing.

Baars also highlighted the fact that time is usually connected to ageing through the concept of age, the latter meant as an indicator of ageing. However, despite the fact that we can precisely measure the age of a person – is in the sense of time since birth – the meaning of such of a fact differs depending on specific context and interpretations.

Unlocking the humanistic dividend

Getting back to Matisse’s work, Baars concluded: “The inspiring example of Matisse shows us that vulnerability and complexity interact to reignite creativity and that his vulnerability was of constitutive importance to the path-breaking creativity of his late work”. To Baars, this type of fundamental contribution to humanity will remain hidden as long as we give privilege to the so-called “normal adulthood” and categorize people according to their ages.

Prof. Jan Baars | IAGG-ER 8th Congress Keynote:

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