FaceAge is a multi-media installation created from guided cross-generational encounters documented through digital recordings. The installation places audiences within a synchronized, three-screen surround where younger (18-22) and older (70+) participants can be seen studying, describing, and touching one another’s faces.

A 45-minute loop of moving and still imagery forms a fluid space in which time can slow permitting a close study of faces rarely afforded in social settings. The installation proposes a liminal territory that unhinges viewers from social circumstance and opens a loop of timeless human stories.

The multi-screen installation is the project’s artistic centerpiece, and it forms the first stage of our work for this project. As we craft a new film loop of cross-generational interactions and biographic imagery, we will also design a surround of curved screens to hold the imagery in a spatial continuum. The installation experience will move viewers into and through the lives of the filmed participants aiming to be a potent, museum-ready artistic work compelling viewers toward participation in arts-based activities based on the cross-generational interactions they just witnessed.

The second stage of our work involves developing interactive features and programming for audiences exiting the installation. These activities include an interactive digital component allowing an older and younger person to morph faces between one another, speeding or slowing the aging process, and a booth for filming low-res versions of cross-generational encounters prompted by specific instructions, e.g. touching one another’s face, sharing what lives “behind” facial features, or partners interviewing each other about age and perceptions of aging.


Faceage Website

The culmination of the exhibition invites audiences to write about their FaceAge experience and empowers them with opportunities for cross-generational engagement within families and larger communities. We intend for the FaceAge interaction template of seeing, touch, and storytelling to become a useful tool for younger and older generations to see into a shared humanity.

The filmmakers—editor/director Dave Monahan and cinematographer Nate Daniel—continue as core artistic collaborators. Amy Lorek, Research and Outreach Associate with the Center for Healthy Aging at Penn State, will create community engagement components. Cody Goddard, multi-media specialist at Penn State’s Institute for e-Learning will create digitally-based interactive components.

We intend for the FaceAge interaction template of seeing, touch, and storytelling to become a useful tool for younger and older generations to see into a shared humanity.

Our aging faces encode important community knowledge. However as fluent as we are in “face language,” much of that discourse remains an inwardly directed conversation, veiled behind sensitivities around aging, beauty, and vulnerability. Youth may experience tenderness toward the elderly, but also be affected by awkwardness of generational distance, and have no context for direct experience with an older person. Older adults may desire cross-generational contact, but find little natural opportunity for it, rendering them with a feeling of community invisibility. By directly approaching a taboo area with artistic care, our project affords a cultural meeting space aimed at nurturing information gained from the empathic knowing of another’s face. Our real medium is the intimate space of the human face, a landscape sensitized to perceptions and sensations of our own faces, and attuned to the subtlest changes in others’ faces.

We see an American culture in which aging is suppressed through subtle and explicit messages bombarding us through products idealizing youth, differing images for beauty between genders, and the threat of declining workforce viability. The work opens space in which a community of generations can begin to reconstitute those messages by challenging commonly held cultural perceptions.