Defence of dissertation in the field of Visual Culture, MA Oona Tikkaoja

The result of the thesis research, reality tinkering, is an ethical method that aims to cause an appreciative and participatory attitude towards the world
Lamb and box of wool

Title of thesis: Reality Tinkering. An Artistic Approach to the Abundance of the Familiar

Opponent: DA Annette Arlander, University of the Arts Helsinki

Custos: Professors Harri Laakso, Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Department of Art

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The research topic emerged from a feeling that the familiar everyday phenomena are far more complicated and marvelous than shown by their surface. The familiar, nevertheless, is not easy to scrutinize precisely because it is so near to us. I needed a tool for reaching the familiar, so I selected to focus on the moments when familiarity momentarily breaks up. These "everyday anomalies" are fleeting curious events that take place in the middle of the familiar flow of everyday life. They are often experienced at a moment when routinized perceptive or cognitive patterns are disturbed by something different from the usual. An anomaly causes the experiencer to pause for a moment when things do not proceed as she expected.

In the dissertation I ask, how could everyday anomalies be used for recognizing the abundance in the familiar and playing with it? I scrutinize the research question from two viewpoints: experience (anomalous occurrences) and production (anomalous acts). I figure out what kind of occurrences make people experience moments of confusion in order to find suitable ways to produce new anomalies.

Reality tinkering is an artistic approach developed during this research process. When making anomalous acts in environments that are not demarcated for art, one inevitably affects the shared reality. Reality tinkering is an ethical method that aims to cause an appreciative and participatory attitude towards the world. It is essentially about the both-and mindset, instead of the either-or mindset. Reality tinkerers are able to see both the intended use of the things they work with and the unorthodox possibilities hidden in them. Working with the anomalies can be seen as a strategy for making one’s life one’s own by investing in the near environment, and by increasing the amount of stories around oneself. This makes it possible for a person to remain enchanted by phenomena one already has around her, and may decrease the need to continually chase after something new.

On the basis of my research, I claim that although getting used to phenomena and categorizing them are automatic features of the human being, it is possible, at least sometimes, to maintain curious and appreciative attitude towards the world. This attitude does not take anything as taken-for-granted or shallow, showing instead the multiple possibilities in the familiar. In this dissertation, reality tinkering is offered as one possible approach to gain this attitude.

More information: Oona Tikkaoja, [email protected], tel. 0406744188

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