I was happy not to be alone
The video work is dedicated to probably the only remaining cruising spot for men with same-sex attraction in Helsinki. Against the backdrop of Finland’s unique nature, three intimate narratives told by young men in the 1960s-1970s, captured by Finnish researcher Waldemar Melanko (1939–2022), are heard. The author’s ancestry originates from Southern Ukraine, and in the process of immigrating to Helsinki via Vyborg, his grandfather changed his Ukrainian surname Maksymenko to Melanko.
Melanko’s book “Park Homos – a Report on Gay Culture in Helsinki in the 1960s” (“Puistohomot: raportti Helsingin 1960-luvun homokulttuurista”) was published 40 years after its completion and became an exceptionally important work for the queer history of Finland. The initial footage for this work was captured a few days before the news of the writer’s death.
The artist himself discovered such places in his mature age. The most intriguing aspect for him was the discovery of the secret language of the queer community, which ensures safety and anonymity when meeting potential partners in public spaces before the use of modern dating apps.
What is cruising? It is a form of social interaction that men with same-sex attraction create for themselves. By physically defining a place and time, a relatively safe space is created for seeking a partner for 10 minutes, a year, or a lifetime.
The open landscape captured in the work provides a narrative space for imagination and desire – a space where stories of sexual availability or avoidance are staged, like leisure where, by default, the act of erotic gaze between strangers is permissible. The author of the work considers anonymity to be the most important aspect of cruising, allowing people to feel free to explore their sexuality and experiment, and, most importantly, not to feel alone.
Video: 13min. 39sec.
Text: Valdemar Melanko “Puistohomot: raportti Helsingin 1960-luvun homokulttuurista”
Subtitles: Justinas Šuliokas