We interviewed the amazing, British artist Jess Bishopp after her new film Lifespan came out. It is an exploration of the future of aging. In her film she interweaves interviews with scientists, anthropologists, and Bishopp’s family and friends. It as visually stunning, as it is thought provoking. Enjoy!

TAONR Hi Jessica, Can you tell our readers a bit about who you are?

Jessica I’m a director/filmmaker with a background in graphic design. My films usually feature ordinary everyday quiet things; the small things. Recently I’ve been directing more experimental documentaries interviewing scientific specialists and juxtaposing their interviews against architectural imagery for example. I was recently commissioned and funded by Film London to direct my next short film 'Wargames' — an experimental documentary about obsession, camaraderie within the Wargames Society and which asks, 'what does it take to go into battle?

TAONR Can you tell us a bit about your role in this project and your motivation for making it.

Jessica Lifespan was one of the first films I directed after leaving university and it was certainly the first film where I worked with such a large crew. Before Lifespan I would do most of the filming/shooting, editing, sound recording, direction, production etc. myself. I liked working alone before I made Lifespan but in order to push the film, meet new people and raise the quality of the film I wanted to collaborate with some talented individuals. The original idea for the film probably came to me through my interest in the intersection of science and art, and also my personal insecurities about age and mortality. I combined this concept with architecture because I believe people and space are integrally linked; we influence the physical space around us and in return the space ultimately changes us. We tend to think of old people living in cluttered spaces, surrounded by memories and personal effects, but as our lifespan increases and our concept of age changes, so to will our ideas surrounding age and space.

We are currently living precarious lives in a time of great change; potentially incredibly longer lives thanks to our increasing life expectancy. I question the quality of life and the need to preserve this life. Natural selection has disappeared and technology and medicine has increased our average life expectancy from 71 years (1950) to 82 (2015). If we continue to gain an extra 11 years of life every 65 years and the level of growth accelerates due to technology, scientists predict that living to 100 years will be the norm by 2057. Will we have a better way of preserving and storing memories and bodies by then, or will we be a forgotten generation stuck in a nursing home, not remembering our own names? Medical developments continue to excel in human preservation, however we are no closer to finding a cure for memory loss illnesses that plague the elderly. What is the point of living to 100 years when you cannot guarantee a decent quality of life or a home to live in?

TAONR Has working on this film changed how you view age?

"We tend to think of old people living in cluttered spaces, surrounded by memories and personal effects, but as our lifespan increases and our concept of age changes, so to will our ideas surrounding age and space."

Jessica Bishopp.

The crew behind Lifespan.

Jessica This project has not necessarily changed how I view age, I have always had a huge respect for people older and younger than me, but it has changed how I view life and what we do in it. Hearing the experts discussing the ways in which our concept of time will have to change as we live longer, has made me think about my life more in sections rather than in a linear way. We used to live shorter lives so it made sense to have one career, one marital partner, one life, but as we are now living much longer we might be able to have two or three careers for example. It could allow us new beginning and fresh starts, and you can already see some of this affecting life now.

TAONR Do you think how old you are today, is relevant to how you think about yourself?

Jessica I think I’m getting older but a lot of the world sees me as young, I think younger people see me as old. It is something I had never really considered too much before I left university to be honest. During university there was a mean/medium age of people, which in real life does not exist. I am currently enjoying the fact that since university I have met so many more people of all ages and backgrounds. I am not sure if age influences how I see myself, but how other people see me is definitely affected by my age. One of the reasons I like the internet is because I can be judged on my work, rather than my age or appearance. My Grandma says that she doesn’t feel old, but other people make her feel old.

People who know me will know my journey; they will know the nerdy teenager and the ambitious adult. People who have just met me will probably see my crazy red hair that I’ve recently cut off and notice the fact that I like to talk a lot, both of these things are assets when I’m interviewing people who I meet for the first time, I feel. But I think this question says more about how I see myself than how other people see me?

TAONR What is the biggest stress in your life at the moment? Does this have anything to with how old you are?

Jessica My biggest stresses are also by biggest enjoyments, I can get stressed when I make work and films, but I would not have it any other way. I have found that as I get older, I am more able to cope with work related stress better, I see it coming and prevent it, or because I’ve experienced it before it therefore worries me less.

"This project has not necessarily changed how I view age, I have always had a huge respect for people older and younger than me, but it has changed how I view life and what we do in it, hearing the experts discussing the ways in which our concept of time will have to change as we live longer, has made me think about my life more in sections rather than in a linear way."

Jessica Bishopp.

Image by Will Hazell.

TAONR What do you think are the biggest challenges we share across all ages?

Jessica Sexism and racism have no age.

TAONR What can you learn from people who are older and the ones who are older than you?

Jessica A lot. Patience, forgiveness, acceptance. My grandparents come to mind and also people who I have interviewed for documentary films previously; and I think of all the changes they have witnessed in their life time, and then think of how accepting and forgiving they are. I witnessed a small heated discussion between older people born in London and some were against immigrants and feared them, while most were accepting and supportive and had a wonderful understanding of time, place and change.

And with younger people, once again acceptance, but from a different perspective and through a different lens, younger people have not witnessed the same prejudices an older person alive today has, so to younger people our multicultural, gender fluid society is normal. My gay friends used to get physically and verbally bullied at secondary school when I was 16, however when I ask my 16 year old cousin now if her gay friends get bullied she looks at me with horror and surprise and says, “No”. I think young and old have a lot to share and a lot they can learn from each other.

TAONR Finally, what do you think a society where our age does not define us would be like?

"I am not sure if age influences how I see myself, but how other people see me is definitely affected by my age. One of the reasons I like the internet is because I can be judged on my work, rather than my age or appearance. My Grandma says that she doesn’t feel old, but other people make her feel old."

Jessica Bishopp.

Jessica Bishopp.

Jessica We might be able to see each other for who we are, instead of the labels and judgement we put on each other.

If you want to find out more about Jessica Bishopp, we would encourage you to have a look through the the links here.

@jsbishopp (Twitter / Instagram) https://twitter.com/jsbishopp

http://filmlondon.org.uk/wargames

http://jessicabishopp.com/

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