CHINA: BEIJING NIGHTS-CHINA YOUTH
The topic of "Chinese Youth" or more specifically "Chinese outcasts" occasionally appeals to photographers, both local and foreign. You’ll see photographs taken in the late eighties, around 1989, .... in the nineties (Xing Danwen’s images of the community in the Summer Palace; Ling Fei’s pictures of youngsters on death row) .....and even now.
I initially came across the subject around 1999, when I stumbled into a tiny emerging punk community in Beijing's student's district Haidian ( see : CHINA: Punks ).
Four or five bands would perform several evenings per week in a bar called Scream, railing against anything they considered " mainstream." At the same time I was freelancing for a US magazine. One day, the China bureau chief and I visited acclaimed poet " Shizi" ( Guo Lusheng) in a psychiatric ward. Shizi was the man who wrote the poem "Believe in the Future" during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), a time when mainstream youngsters were Red Guards. His poem was a comfort to those who may have felt they were going down the wrong path while attacking their parents, superiors, teachers. Talking with Shizi, it was clear that being a young "outcast" or being "underground" could get you into serious trouble, more like a dissident. Or you ended up in a psychiatric ward like Shizi. He’s been living there since the late seventies.
In spring 2009, I set out again to see what was out there. I can't claim my discoveries went terribly deep. Compared to what I’d witnessed before, being “underground” nowadays is more like adhering to a trend or lifestyle, searching for something out of the ordinary, with a certain coolness attached to it. However, the silent opposition is still there: not to a socialist society, but one obsessed with materialistic values and monotonous nationalism. In the end I was just playing around with style.