The whole concept of a love hotel is odd. It's a place you go to share these intimate experiences, you know? Why can't you do that in your own home — why not be romantic in public?
Jesse Lizotte’s recent series of photographs explore Japan’s public yet voiceless subject of the Love Hotel.
Jesse Lizotte’s recent series of photographs explore Japan’s public yet voiceless subject of the Love Hotel. Lizotte’s interest in these short-stay hotels, originating around 1968 in Osaka, stems from his concerns with the cultural suppression of sexuality in Japan over several generations. The purpose of allowing couples privacy for sexual activities has given birth to the culture of these Love Hotels.
Spending one night in a Shinjuku Love Hotel, Lizotte was confronted by erotic imagery and sounds emanating through the walls from neighbouring rooms. These photographs are a memento of a sleepless night that would ensue.
‘Hotel Love’ depicts a mysterious girl and moments of passion which capture a nostalgic destination, perhaps of couples who lusted after a time when their love life was simply more alive. The nature of Lizotte’s images are ambiguous when seen in close proximity. The expanded scale of the images viscerally blurs the distinction between abstracted forms and explicit content.
‘Hotel Love’ is an uncomfortable play between participation and suppression. Lizotte’s work questions the conflicting attitudes of a traditional and contemporary Japan, where expressions and fantasies of sexuality can seemingly only be played out in these ambiguous spaces.
“It is a place where a lot of infidelity happens and it has become a home for clandestine relationships."
Your previous works ‘Lowrider’ and ‘Born Too Late’ similarly commented on the evolution of traditions within minorities. With ongoing conflict between the values of old and new in Japan, Love Hotels are a profound result of this, and your series has identified the paradoxical nature of these spaces, not only in subject matter but in medium also.
To the Western world, the Love Hotel is a somewhat incomprehensible necessity to society. Let’s talk about the phenomena of these spaces and why they only surfaced in Japan.
Jesse Lizotte: Love hotels originated in Osaka in the late 60’s. They were a place where couples could share privacy for sexual activities but now it’s deeply ingrained in Japanese culture. It’s very public but still quite a voiceless subject.
Would you say it’s considered a shameful act? Where are the boundaries in discussing this with other individuals?
Jesse Lizotte: It’s not necessarily shameful, but it is a place where a lot of infidelity happens and it has become a home for clandestine relationships.
And do you think that the Love Hotel has evolved through a sexual suppression in society?
Jesse Lizotte: Definitely. The whole concept of a love hotel is odd. It’s a place you go to share these intimate experiences, you know” Why can’t you do that in your own home or why not be romantic in public”
What was your experience in the Love Hotel?
Jesse Lizotte: I spent six weeks in Japan. I was there photographing a series called Born Too Late, revolving around Tokyo’s underbelly – the Yakuza, bikers, and people on the fringes of society. I spent one night alone in a love hotel in Shinjuku which was a very bizarre experience. These photographs are of the television screens in the hotel room. There were these weird 80’s pornographic films playing.
Photography by Jesse Lizotte
Interview by Jodie Hill