Artistic Practices in Later Life – Creativity and the Practices of Growing Old

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 08:45
Oral Presentation
Vera GALLISTL, University of Vienna, Austria
In the cultural field of the third age, cultural expression, creativity and artistic practices gain importance in the doings of age in everyday life. Findings so far have supported the notion of creativity and ageing as processes of individual expression, underestimating the role of symbolic power that is inherent in artistic practices in later life. Drawing on the notion of creative assemblages (Fox, 2013) and Pierre Bourdieus’ (2014) concept of cultural fields, this paper aims to analyze how ageing becomes relevant in artistic practices and how the meanings of age in artistic production differ due to different positions older adults have in their cultural fields.

Drawing on data from 10 qualitative case studies with older adults regularly involved in artistic practices, this paper analyses the different actors of ageing that shape processes of doing age in artistic practices of older adults. Results identify three main narratives through which ageing was made relevant in the analyzed case studies: The artistic biography, the ageing body and productive subjectivity, all of which differ in their meaning depending on the social position the artists had in their cultural fields. Narratives around the legitimacy of artistic production reveal a hegemonic age-less ‘artistic habitus’, which holds the power of consecration (Bourdieu, 2015) in the analyzed cultural fields.

The paper emphasizes the role of symbolic power in artistic practices of older adults - creativity in later life cannot be understood without taking into consideration different positions in the cultural field from which art in later life is being produced. Hence, future research on late-life creativity should focus more closely on the mechanisms of age-related social inequalities that are involved in artistic practices in later life.