Photo: Sakari Viika
Pekka Kantonen editoi videota Studioeteinen-installaatiossa Galleria Välivuodessa elokuussa 2008.

Pekka Kantonen’s doctoral dissertation reveals the origin of a method for communal video making

Visual artist Pekka Kantonen’s doctoral dissertation discusses the origin and applications of Generational Filming, a method designed for viewing films and reflecting upon filmmaking. The dissertation includes eight case studies that were shown as installations or video works at the visual component of the dissertation in the Kodin väreilyä exhibition, organised by Lea and Pekka Kantonen, at Kunsthalle Helsinki.

Kantonen’s dissertation, Generational Filming. A Video Diary as Experimental and Participatory Research delves into its method from the perspective of artistic research, communal art, visual ethnography and film studies.

The method of Generational Filming was inspired by the concept of shared anthropology, developed by the French ethnographer Jean Rouch. Rouch used to show the raw editions of his films to the people who appeared in them, and he then edited the final version based on their comments. A finished documentary is not the goal of Generational Filming; rather, the point is to examine how the meaning of a scene in a film changes when people watch it with others, and how the visual recording can performatively affect the present.

In this method, several generations of the video will be created, as people watch and comment on it again and again. The first generation consists of the item under study, the second one of its comments, the third one of the comments made on these comments, and so on.

The method transforms the watching of the video into a communal event, which is referred to as the shared space of viewing in the study. Ideally, different cultural and societal views are valued equally, so that differences in opinion will not lead to polarisation. When someone sees their own comments in the video, they obtain analytical distance to them.

Video diaries depicting the everyday life of a western, white nuclear family, the norm for how families are depicted, form the starting point of many of the case studies. The critical assessment of filming is created through shared discussion, which gradually shifts to deal with the viewers’ own lives, memories and values, and makes them reflect upon the viewing experience thanks to the generational method. Indeed, the method facilitates the creation of a temporary community of viewers.

Three of the case studies have been produced in collaboration with three different communities. In Tunuwame, the method is applied to the planning of a communal museum among the Wirrarika people. Another study was filmed in Estonia with the Seto people; Sääti meile Säksä aigu is based on a video recording of a song performed by a women’s choir. The third community consists of a bilingual artist family, who were filmed in the Turku archipelago over the course of many summers.

Generational Filming provides a particularly fruitful method for ethnographic studies because it documents, produces and reflects upon the changing knowledge of human societies. Information about the topic of each case study accumulates in a cyclical fashion, and it is also diversified with every new video generation.

Pekka Kantonen’s doctoral dissertation was supervised by Grant Kester, a theoretician of site-situated art, and Ray Langenbach, Professor of Live Art and Performance Studies at the Theatre Academy, University of the Arts, Helsinki.

Pekka Kantonen, MA, (b. 1955) is one of the pioneers of video, activist and performance art as well as environmental and communal art. He has produced communal art projects for over twenty years with his wife, Professor Lea Kantonen. The couple’s video diary project has continued uninterrupted since 1990. Pekka and Lea Kantonen were awarded the AVEK Award in 2011.


Public examination on Thurdsay June 15

Pekka Kantonen’s doctoral dissertation, Generational Filming. A Video Diary as Experimental and Participatory Research, will be publicly examined on Thursday, June 15, 2017 at 12 o’clock in Kino K-13 theatre, Kanavakatu 12, 00160, Helsinki.


Dr. Roger Sansi-Roca, a Catalonian anthropologist, expert on the relationship between art and anthropology, Goldsmiths, University of London


Professori Mika Elo, the Academy of Fine Arts, University of the Arts Helsinki