Floating Peripheries
mediating the sense of place


is an artistic research project (consortium) funded by the Academy of Finland (2017–2021). In this project we aim at enlarging the understanding of ‘peripheries’ into areas that are difficult to verbalize.

Peripheries are conventionally conceived as marginal geographical locations, whereas our purpose is to look at peripheries as a multifaceted phenomenon – as conceptual, spatial and site-responsive domains, aesthetically and spatially experienced sensory spheres, states of mind shaped by associations and mental images, and activities through different mediums in arts and epistemologies.


We aim at producing new art-based strategies for unraveling the spatial and conceptual hierarchies and biased assumptions of what and where the ‘periphery’ is in relation to the ‘center’. Our research is site- and situation-based. In each specific case we ask: How do we define here/now our relation to ‘peripherality’?

We live in an age where peripheral cultural phenomena tend to be overwhelmed by centralized systems and mediated global assumptions. Our living environment is a space of political, economical and legal exercise of centralized governing and control. It is strictly operated according to what, where and when is legitimate and to whom. It is substantially a normative space, the uses of which are to a great extent guided through the organization of space.

In relation to a wider societal context, we ask: Who and what gets to be objectified as ‘peripheral’ within the social and spatial hierarchies of the society? What are the rights of those who represent the fringes of normativity? Various ‘marginal’ and even ‘extreme’ phenomena have become pressing subjects of debate in the political and social discourse as well as in everyday human interaction. Our premise is that peripheral phenomena have occupied a significant amount of public space today on multiple levels, and hence the need for a multidisciplinary analysis is critical.

This multiperspective artistic research concretely moves into the public sphere in the form of artistic interventions, artworks and city-square-events to interfere and interrelate with different peripheral contexts and realities. It tackles art as an active and effective agency of change; art addresses pressing issues directly through the senses and affects us on a deeply emotional level, exceeding the operations of the rational mind and everyday reality. The peripheral phenomena appearing in sub/urban space, social space, media/digital space and nature are the basis for analysis and for artistic production.

In our view art not only has the ability to break the normative surface of everyday existence, but it can operate like a secret virus, making peripheral and ‘Other’ hidden spaces and narratives visible, felt and infective. The artistic interventions include interaction with local communities and ordinary people whose personal narratives, images, dreams and experiences of site catalyze the birth of new spatial stories. Our hypothesis is that actual engagement with space adds awareness, attachment and responsibility to both immediate neighborhoods and the environment at large. Similarly, the other side of the coin is acknowledged here: alongside ‘my/our’ narrative always appears the ‘other’ narrative of someone else.

The research aims at bringing to the fore the existing, hidden and controversial margins of human life and nature from an equal, ethical and empathic viewpoint. It proposes a more holistic and sensuous vision that adds value to urban and community planning by increasing the potential for more extensive collaboration between artists, urban planners, environmentalists and residents in the future. It brings the practical and theoretical skills and epistemologies that have traditionally belonged to performing arts, visual arts and media art, to be distributed among a wide spectrum of societal forums.

When our built and natural environments are planned and utilized according to market value alone, our sense of cultural identity, site-related history and thus our ‘sense of place’ are in danger of disappearing. Everyday practices like work, participation in society, leisure, care and interaction with others are governed, controlled and guided by means of spatial organization.

In our view, our knowledge-based society has subordinated the perceived, sensed and personal to the ‘hard sciences’, banishing these dimensions to the discursive margins. Economically driven decision-making and urban planning alone cannot provide the means for re-calibrating the spatial organisation of society so that each citizen is able to reclaim her/his sense of belonging to sites and places in our living environment.

The consortium is a collaboration between two leading institutions: Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture (Department of Film, Tv and Scenography ELO, and the Department of Art: Visual Cultures, Curating and Contemporary Art ViCCA), and University of Lapland (Faculty of Art and Design). The consortium strengthens the existing collaboration of Aalto ARTS and ULAP by deploying artistic research and its epistemic interests in a new way between the arts, body and society from a unique peripheral perspective.


The consortium consists of 5 Postdoctoral researchers, 2 Senior staff researchers and 1 Artist-of- Consortium.


Aalto University School of Art, Design and Architecture, Helsinki/Espoo:


Department of Film, TV and Scenography ELO:

Liisa Ikonen, PI, Postdoctoral researcher, Professor, Design for the Performing Arts

Maiju Loukola, Postdoctoral researcher, Scenographer and spatial artist

Elina Lifländer, Postdoctoral researcher, Scenographer and spatial artist


Harri Laakso, Senior staff, Associate Professor of Photography Research, Department of Media

Pia Euro, Artist-in-Consortium, Visual artist and University lecturer at ViCCA, Department of Art


University of Lapland ULAP: Faculty of Art and Design, Rovaniemi:

Mari Mäkiranta, Subproject PI, Postdoctoral researcher (Mäkiranta is also an Adjunct Professor/Title of Docent, in the University of Jyväskylä, Department of Art Education)

Eija Timonen, Senior staff, Professor of Media Studies (*Timonen is also Docent of Narrative Media Research in Aalto ARTS, Department of Film, TV and Scenography ELO)

Jonna Tolonen, Postdoctoral researcher



The website was designed by Else Lagerspetz and the project logo is a work by Valeria Nekhaeva.