Sandy Gibbs

Lighting an old flame (2017)

2 min 35 secSingle channel / Digital Video / Colour / Sound

"The 1968 Mexico Olympics was the first time that the Olympic flame was lit by a woman. Beautifully captured in Alberto Isaac’s documentary, 'Olímpiada en Mexico', the young Mexican hurdler Norma Enriqueta Basilio runs into the stadium with the Olympic flame, completes a lap and then—effortlessly—she bounds up a long flight of steps to the very top of the stadium where she symbolically lights the cauldron.

I resolved to restage this moment in suburban Wellington and the end result is 'Lighting an old flame', an amateur theatrical performance: the badly-made cardboard props, the not-quite-right replica of the running outfit, the cheesy yet satisfying moment when the fake flames suddenly appear in the ‘lit’ cauldron, the underwhelming balloon release at the end, the voice-over copied from Alberto Isaac’s documentary, but, most of all, here’s this crazy older woman still striving to live out the fantasy. 

Publicly performing 'Lighting an old flame' was also a means of countering the invisibility of the ageing female body. Through postmodernism and poststructuralism, it is well established that the body is constituted socially, and that the ageing body is never simply a body subjected to biological decline: inscribed and re-inscribed by society and culture, and regulated through the youthful crosshairs of the aged gaze—as argued by age critic and theorist Margaret Morganroth Gullette, “we are aged by culture.”

In 'Lighting an old flame' I intentionally set out to take control of this narrative, using humour buoyed by a bodily precariousness as a means of subverting the invisibility of the ageing female body."

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