Ville Väisänen & Mateus Manninen
Can you say you have done good ethnographic fieldwork, when afterwards you feel you can relate to ”I`ve been everywhere, man”, the words made famous by the late Johnny Cash?
Parts of our relatively small everywhere can be found in this video*. It contains footage from Tower Hamlets in London and Malmi in Helsinki. Small glimpses of the people with whom our paths crossed and maybe some idea of the feelings and thoughts that the fieldwork in Helsinki and London evoked in us.
Our camera was not a neutral observer. Quite the opposite, since it was always trying to follow our rapid brainstorming and people’s responses to that. Neither did our camera have the time to know people better. It usually stopped them for a moment or two and then went on to look for the next person willing to share a thought or a dream with us.
Because we chose not to film everything, we have to think that the something we filmed was then done not with a 360 degree lens but with a Youth Street Politics filter—that we were somehow successful in invading the everyday life of people with our questions, and both sides of the interview richer for the experience. ”When the conversation began, I never thought we would end up this far”, was something that a young man said after a spontaneous interview in a Tower Hamlets park.
Those kind of conversations hopefully showed us that our abstract ”youth street politics” –slogan was in fact not a filter at all, but a starting point to end up exactly that far.
So you go to a place, you meet somebody who shares something with you. That story wanders in the past, present, future, Tower Hamlets, Malmi, what have you. Then you share that experience with others and reflect upon it yourself. Maybe you watch some footage, photos, listen to sound recordings and even try to write about it. There can be a thought or an idea forming, slowly taking shape based on that conversation in that particular place. And you keep repeating this process.
Everywhere? Close enough, we`d say.
* The video was shot and edited by Mateus Manninen. Music and lyrics by P.R.C. In addition to making this song, P.R.C. participated in the project as informants. They and two other youth groups also participated in filming Malmi with video cameras.