Text by Sarah Neiger
Translation by Joseph Campbell
Hidden behind his camera, Laurent Hou takes us with him to share intimate moments of his sleepless nights from a recent past, in 2010’s China. He takes us on a journey through old and new China, from the Lama Temple to the narrow Hutong alleyways where new businesses and bars are popping up everyday. Awkwardly-named concert halls such as the Old Man Moving Mountains welcome aspiring musicians who bring with them their amplifiers and their hopes. With impactful and unvarnished black-and-white pictures often very close to the subject, Hou brings the very essence of Beijing’s underground nights back to Paris. In his own words : « This universe was my extended family. I didn’t have to call anybody... I could simply go to a concert and I knew that friends will be there. »
After seven years in China and three in Casablanca, he returned to Paris. His return from China is a new beginning. He has returned to his old Parisian hub, but with so many adventures under his belt, he isn’t quite unscathed. With him, he still carries many distant memories, all captured in time thanks to his camera’s lenses.
Pictures from this past become today’s talismans. Memories and marks affect the mind that flees towards terrestral and celestial fronteers of those eclectic nights. Pictures reduce the distance through space and time and provide a comforting feeling to be here and there at the same time.
After he left China in 2017, Hou is still full of nostalgia for Beijing : « I realize that my experience in Beijing was truly unique and irreplaceable, with exceptional intensity. I miss it. This feelings of void and nostalgia have made me go through the archives of these Beijing nights .»
The more time passes, the more the occidental and Chinese worlds change behind the mask of pandemic and shifting power balance. As Beijing’s hutong bars close and the underground social circles disappear, the soul of this dying, once-flourishing world is at stake. Memories are no longer enough. Laurent Hou has to keep on revisiting his photographs, and is now resorting to serigraphy to restore them for a wider audience. Serigraphs become the final marks, the ultimate imprints which can outlast recollections of the past, like tattooes that exorcise the current world’s metamorphosis.