Everyday anomalies are unexpected situations resisting the conventions of everyday life: a stranger giving a precious gift, an alien plant growing amongst the ordinary ones, a peculiar object found in one’s pocket. These situations cannot be easily recognizable as art because that would ruin the ambiguous impression they aim to cause. They have to be subtle in order to gain the effects of coincidentality, authenticity and intimacy. They come near to pranks and hoaxes, but like art, these categories are too well-established. Pranks usually render someone ridiculous, offering fun to someone else, while anomalies have far more open-ended nature, often lacking the final punchline.
In this dissertation I ask, what can be learnt about the familiar by paying attention to everyday anomalies. I scrutinize the research question from two viewpoints: experience (anomalous occurrences) and production (anomalous acts), trying to figure out what kind of occurrences make people experience moments of confusion in order to find suitable ways to produce new anomalies. Along with this written report, the dissertation project consists of 1) Everyday Anomaly Archive containing collected experiences of anomalous occurrences, 2) a series of artistic experiments planned and conducted on the basis of the information found by collecting anomalies, and 3) tinkering tools which aim to help to scrutinize the everyday and to produce new anomalies. All materials are located on the website everydayanomalies.com.
This work continues the tradition of avant-garde art, finding plenty of inspiration especially in Situationists’ and Fluxus’ urge to affect the world at large. I have selected to use as a lead concept Allan Kaprow’s term lifelike art, which refers to a meaning-making activity situated in the middle of life. Bricolage is considered in this project as a method for both investigating and affecting everyday life. I find the concept of bricolage useful because human life in contemporary society has essentially the nature of producing new combinations out of given concepts and objects. We rarely build or cook something which would be totally new – everything has its history, and connections to dozens of other things. Because the objective is to hide the anomalies into the fabric of everyday life, I consider bricolage as an appropriate artistic method in this project.
Reality tinkering is the application of bricolage developed during this research process. When producing lifelike art in the environments which are not demarcated for art, one inevitably affects the shared reality. Reality tinkering is available to everybody because there are no special skills or resources needed. It operates along two different strategies, which aim to 1) cause disruptions into the flow of everyday life, or 2) help to sharpen one’s perception of everyday details by concentrating on them. Reality tinkering is an ethical method, aiming to cause an appreciative and participatory attitude towards the world. It is essentially about the both-and mindset, instead of either-or. We humans cannot have everything in the world, but we can affect things in various ways. For some extent, we are able to select how we do things and relate to different issues. Bricoleurs 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.
The specific issues learnt about the familiar in this artistic research project are: the malleable nature of reality, the profound importance of tangible acts in the world, entanglement of agencies in all activity, and the possibility we have to deliberately produce meaning into things/events which at first might seem uninteresting. This makes it possible to stay enchanted by phenomena one already has around her, and may decrease the need to continually chase after something new.