Performing Fantasy and Reality

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph

Abstract

Fantasy is a phenomenon that has a strong presence in both everyday life and in research. Fantasy is a central part of contemporary, consumption-oriented culture through its strong ties to the development of identity, the construction of communities, the attainment of desires, and the creation of meanings. Nevertheless, fantasy in itself is rarely the focus of research and thus remains undefined and under-explained. Moreover, research that does note fantasy tends to accentuate only its entertaining and leisurely aspects, presenting it as something unserious, irrational, and escapist. Studies further tend to present fantasy as something purely cognitive and imagery-based. However, fantasy is also a bodily and shared experience that is tied to materiality, space, and culture. It therefore becomes important to explore fantasy as a phenomenon in its own right from a bodily and negotiated point of view. In this research, I explored how individuals engage in the performance of fantasy in order to gain a better understanding of the phenomenon as a subjective experience that is a part of contemporary Western culture. Talking on a performance methodology that focuses on experience, participation, and interaction, I collected data ethnographically in the context of live action role-playing games. I supported the ethnography with art-based research that took form in visual art addressing the theory and data analysis of this study.I propose that fantasy can be described as the conscious engagement in two parallel performances, the performance of reality and its transformation that is outside of our symbolic order. Fantasy is therefore a different approach to and interpretation of normalised performance and reality. I further show that fantasy is intrinsically tied into the performance of reality. Fantasy allows investment into reality through its explicitly reflexive nature that pushes individuals to become aware of and thus also critical of the structures of their everyday performances. Lastly, I map out two different types of fantasy performance, entertainment-driven fantasy and exploration-driven fantasy. These differ in the ways individuals negotiate roles, interaction, space, time, and materiality as part of the performance. Entertainment-driven fantasy allows momentary attainment of personal desires, while exploration-driven fantasy leads to more long-term agency through reflexive learning. All in all, this research brings new insight into the understanding of fantasy as part of contemporary consumer culture, tying it into experiences of space, materiality, agency, desire, Utopia, nostalgia, mass media, and entertainment. Through shedding light on fantasy's intrinsic connection to reality, this study examines not only the human experience of the non-real, but also our current subjective experience of reality, society, and shared meaning.
Translated title of the contributionPerforming Fantasy and Reality
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Schouten, John, Thesis Advisor
Publisher
Print ISBNs978-952-60-6901-2
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-6902-9
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)

Keywords

  • Fantasy
  • imagination
  • performance
  • theatre
  • LARP
  • live action role-playing game
  • consumer culture
  • art-based research

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