Lighting an old flame


"On 12 October 1968, a young Mexican woman, Norma Enriqueta Basilio, ran into the Olympic stadium in Mexico City proudly carrying the Olympic torch – then up a long flight of steps that took her to the very top of the stadium where she lit the cauldron – the signal for the start of the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games. In doing so, Basilio was the first woman to light the Olympic flame.

Lighting an old flame is a re-enactment of this moment, where I – an older woman wearing a similar white running outfit – ran up a flight of steps in suburban Wellington carrying aloft a fake cardboard Olympic torch to ‘light’ a fake Olympic cauldron at the top of the steps.

In comparison with the young runner, Basilio, I’m old and slow and I’m clearly out of breath when I get to the top of the steps. This work is both homage to Basilio and a celebration of the ageing female body – challenging the lack of value inscribed through social and cultural conventions on the public figure of the older woman. Extending my explorations into the paradox of failure, I am interested in the representations of the cultural production of hope and optimism bound up in the ageing of bodies." SG


Director/Editor: Sandy Gibbs
Drone camera operators: Alex Paterson and Isaac Paterson at SkyzoneNZ
Camera: Chris Williams
Costume: Clare Weterings
Voiceover excerpt from Olimpiada en Mexico (1969)