From Down Under to Suomenmaa: Empirica’s visiting researcher Danica Karaičić shares her experiences

Posted on October 2018

It has been more than five years since I decided to pursue PhD studies. I have spent almost two years searching for the school that had practice-led or practice-based PhD program. Before applying to Victorian College of the Arts and getting a PhD offer, I was more focused on Europe, specifically North Europe. That was the first time I learned more about Aalto University and got in touch with a few academics working in the School of Arts, Design and Architecture.

Finally, in March 2018, I got a chance to come as a visiting researcher, and work alongside Aalto’s amazing female researchers and lecturers for the next two and a half months. I was introduced to professor Maarit Mäkelä earlier by my supervisor Katve-Kaisa Kontturi. Professor Mäkelä was generous with sharing her expertise in practice led-research, but also with help in organising the student workshop Helsinki Dress Me Up.

A snapshot from the workshop

This workshop is a part of a larger project about conceptualisation and translation of architectural spaces to clothes I started a few years ago. I was extremely enthusiastic to start Helsinki workshop with architecture and fashion design students, but getting participants was not an easy task. After the first call for participation that was unsuccessful—not as a result of a funny spelling mistake that changed the name of Helsinki into Helskinki—I changed the strategy and got four applications. I was pretty disappointed with such a small number (one student had to drop out), but I soon learned that it was not unusual to get even one application for a workshop or a participatory project.

Poster for the call for workshop participation

All three participants had different background and were studying different courses—Liisa, an exchange student in Product and Spatial design studied painting, Nazanin, Fashion, Clothing and Textile design student, has a degree in industrial design and Talisa, Creative Sustainability, holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture. The workshop started with the individual walks through Kallio, Siltasaari and Merihaka neighbourhoods to make a sensorial archive. I enjoyed taking another walk through the city looking for details that would give me different perspectives and experiences. Differences in interests of the participants made our conversations interesting and productive, as well as the final outcomes of the workshop.

One result from the workshop is avalaible online:

During the time of my visit, I worked not only on my research, but also participated in an interesting project Affective Patterns by Julia Valle and Maarit Aakko, and in Matter Seminar organised by Bilge Aktas, another member of Empirica research group.

Julia’s and Maarit’s project was a relaxing creative break that reminded me of the time when I was making clothes and working more on small sewing projects.

Affective Patterns by Julia Valle

The Matter Seminar took place on a beautiful Suomenlinna island. I enjoyed lectures by Christena Nippet-Eng on working with non-humans and Camilla Groth on collaborative research between art and science. Camilla’s presentation was an excellent warmup for the following discussion on different perspectives and approach to the topic of the agency. We ended the seminar with enthusiasm to stay in touch and to share interests and knowledge in the future. I spent a few more hours on the island, enjoying my last days in Helsinki before leaving for Serbia and later Melbourne. I feel this will not be my last visit to Helsinki and Finland.