“The Real” as Kant says “contains no more than the possible. A hundred real dollars do not contain a penny more than a hundred possible dollars…”
(Hume cited by James in the Principles of Psychology, 296)
Dear reader and fellow reality tinkerer,
this guide is written to help you in your efforts to actualize fragile possible realities.
Realities are complex constructions of emerging possibilities – sometimes more, sometimes less deliberately organized and managed. They unfold well by themselves, but their unique features can also be manipulated in many ways. If you are an experienced practitioner, you undoubtedly know a lot about reality tinkering already. Nevertheless, because of the practice-based tradition of our trade, that is probable tacit knowledge learned straight from the work itself, and that is why I believe you will benefit from the organized view to the knowledge offered by this guide. If you are a mere novice, you are warmly welcomed to our most unofficial league. You are free to join us anytime – and starting to work is now easier than ever, as you can learn previously scattered basic knowledge from this guide.
The guide brings together various ways to actualize some of the myriad realities hovering within reach upon our highly normalized everyday life. The focus is on the fleeting moment, when one suddenly gets confused in the middle of her ordinary tasks, encounters an anomaly in the predefined system of “reality”. These moments render visible the nodes of branching realities, revealing simultaneously multiple possibilities. Although working with the anomalies differs from prank-making for some extent, the following quotation expresses beautifully the position and attitude of reality tinkering:
“A good prank is a social commitment. One has to have a good analysis of the society: who has power and who doesn’t…the fact that the basic tenets of our society are intrisincally stupidifying, inane and evil. A good prank pokes fun and is illuminating, whereas a bad prank supports the society and is a conservative action enhancing existing power relationships, conventionality and all that one is rebelling against. A good prank raises life up to what art should be: a critique of society, and a glimpse into a better, more poetic future!” (Andrea Juno in Re/Search: Pranks, 17)
Tinkers, classically, travel around, coming and going, trading their skills and goods, taking care of households’ kettles. Present day tinkerers are amateurs, who concentrate their efforts to things they love – people with creative attitude, believing that anything can be fixed with a packet of bubble gum. Because of the detached position of a traveler, the tinkers were at the same time disdained and fascinating. People needed them, but on the other hand, they were anomalies, forming a possible threat to the local social system. They carried with them objects from distant places, which one could possibly buy if s/he was lucky. And, at least, they had their stories. The character of tinker(er) is the one of a crafts(wo)man, trader and vagabond – essentially paradoxical, like is the working field of a contemporary reality tinkerer.
The writer of this guide does not claim herself as a leading authority of the area, but rather as a humble tradeswoman who wants to write down and pass forward our traditional knowledge. Her understanding is one of a practical tinkerer, based on the method of trial and error during several decades in the trade. Her interest in the reality-shaping power of the moments of uncertainty can be most accurately depicted by two incidents (which both, accidentally, are related to her wedding years ago). Her friends organized her a beautiful bachelorette party. The participants traveled to a small island by bus and boat, and spent a night making a bunch of traditional rituals needed to achieve a good marriage. Her last task was to walk blindfolded through “Jatulintarha”, a round-shaped maze made of stones. Her friend told her, that she would see her fiancé in the center of the maze once she would get there. Instead of being present in the experience, she spent all the walk pondering how should she behave once she would reach the center. She really wanted her friends to notice, how much she appreciated their efforts and their time together, so she did not want to let them down. Should she pretend to see her fiancé as a mirage, or what would she do? The surprise was tremendous once the blindfold was undressed: in the front of her stood her fiancé, in real. She did not have any idea, that her friends could have planned to bring him there, because of the long travel. She had so strong preconception of the nature and content of the “play” that the deconstruction of it was really a striking experience. The “play” turned out to be real, the words of her friend concrete instead of metaphorical.
The other experience was a full-blooded prank, very revealing as such. In a game played on their wedding party she had to try to recognize the legs of her brand new husband from some other men’s legs. She had to make this blindfolded (again), by feeling. The task was easy, she was very soon positive she recognized her husband’s legs, and she exclaimed it in very certain voice. After a while she got permit to undress the blindfold, still on her knees on the floor. She looked up, and saw her husband’s father standing in front of her. She could not understand, how could she mistake them (of course, how it happened, was that they did silently change their places after she announced her selection). The prank was simple, but in the situation it was really expressive: wedding party as a peak of romantic relationship, he becoming her father-in-law, she kneeling on the floor. The prank played with many taboos of sexual and familial relationships. And, of course, it was fun. Both of the experiences were so striking because of the sudden failing of strong preconceptions. At those (and similar) moments the writer learned the possibilities dwelling in the illuminating power of the abrupt interruptions of the taken-for-granted, and decided to start her own reality tinkering practice.
This guide is aimed fully to the fields of practice, but there is no practice without understanding of the principles and context of working. The guide strives to offer its reader the knowledge needed to work as an independent reality tinkerer (or, to be realistic, the beginning of understanding), and that is the reason why it is not constructed of mere instructions. Reality tinkering is a practice transforming the shape of everyday reality, which can be seen as the flat, blank surface of a sheet of paper. The meaning this paper bears can be changed by filling it with words, or by transforming its shape in the space.
The first part of the guide draws a map of the working environment focusing both on our nearest, taken-for-granted reality and the flexible possibilities around it. The everyday reality is our paradoxical home base, where the pieces of other realities will be smuggled into. Our strong background with the everyday often helps us to do this unconsciously, without intentional analysis, but taking account on some of the numerous theoretical and practical attempts can open new possibilities. This is essential, because, as you know, one of the most important features of an influential reality tinkerer is the ability to find relevant locations for our uninvited plants to successfully grow in the overwhelming everyday reality.
The second part considers multiple ways to use anomalies as tools for bridging the different realities. This is done by offering case studies, reporting and analyzing various reality tinkering attempts and aiming to map out the essential working methods and techniques.
One of the best analogies of reality tinkerer’s work is the practice of grafting trees. Both the base and the added materials are there already – the tree is interesting as such, offering plenty of possibilities among its forking branches. But by adding branches from other trees, making new combinations, we can make the tree even more interesting, surprising and fun. Grafting is an easy technique to learn, like are all the practices offered in this guide, whose objective is to help you in a most concrete manner in your demanding, sometimes so lonely work.