Interview: Chen Shih-Ting
Chen Shih-Ting is a member of the Green Citizen Action Alliance, was a member of the Untouchables’ Liberation Area, as well as a DJ under the name Vice City. The following interview was conducted on November 1st, 2017.
Brian Hioe: How did you begin to participate in social movements? What kind of issues did you participate in and why did you participate?
Chen Shih-Ting: I began to participate in my freshman year of college. The first issue I participated in was protests against evictions on Treasure Hill. Later on, it connected to the movement to preserve the Losheng Sanatorium.
t was a movement that influenced me quite deeply. So it was probably during college. But as for why, that might go back to high school. I’m not sure how, but I started reading Coolloud and Pots Weekly in high school. Maybe because of who I knew. I participated in the rock music club, so I got to know other people from the rock music clubs of other schools.
I started reading Coolloud and Pots Weekly and felt that there was something to the world outside of just textbooks. So I saw this. And when I went to college and started to have my own time, I started to see what young people around me were up to. So I went to Treasure Hill then. Afterwards, I continued going to Losheng.
Why would I participate? I studied mass communications then and so I felt that in studying communications, you should try and understand what is going on in this society. So I kept going off campus. Later on, I interned at Coolloud, writing some reports around that time.
Brian Hioe: How did you start to participate in the anti-nuclear movement? Such as with the Green Citizen’s Action Alliance (GCAA) and so forth.
Photo credit: Felix the Bear/Flickr/CC
Chen Shih-Ting: Participating in the anti-nuclear movement was also because of reporting. I went to Gongliao and reported on an activity that the GCAA had organized at Gongliao. At the time that I began reporting on this, this movement was not very heavily attended. It wasn’t something that people concerned themselves with. Not a lot of people discussed this. It wasn’t an issue that a lot of people concerned themselves with.
Participating in their activities and attending their press conferences, there wouldn’t be a lot of people. It’d be quite empty when I went. But the more I reported on it, the more I realized that this was something that should be discussed further, as well as a topic that touches upon many things. Yet it wasn’t paid attention to by a lot of people.
So I stayed there a while reporting on their activities and press conferences. Because I got to know them, I began to work as one of their volunteers when they organized film festivals, music festivals, and other events at Gongliao, hoping to bring more people to Gongliao to understand this issue. It was reporting on their activities and then becoming one of their volunteers, helping organize their events, up until when the Fukushima incident happened in 2011. They realized then that they had to develop more resources to this issue, so they asked me if I wanted to become a worker there. That’s more or less the process.
Brian Hioe: You and some others organized an anti-nuclear album then. How did that come about?
Chen Shih-Ting: That took place after I joined the GCAA, I began to research and make proposals and through this process, I had started to think about how I could use my own means to participate in this event. From my own perspective, my way of living, the things I identify with, or the language that I am used to, could I bring that into the movement?
I thought that seeing as I working on electronic music, I could use this. Because in the past, people would feel that the kinds of music which had to do with social movements would be folk rock or rock music. People might think that electronic music is a more problematic form of music. I thought that it wasn’t necessarily like this.
In any case, whether you’re working on graffiti, films, or anything else, you would use this to express your views or make some connections, using the culture that you are familiar with. I thought, why not use this way to find some friends. Who may not have been so familiar with the topic, but through this, we could allow everyone use music to consider this.
On the one hand, I think many people would think that discussing this issue was a very specialist or very scientific, objective, and rational. But no matter what issue, I think that there need to be many angles. Such as considering it from a more emotional or abstract angle. Or considering it from a more philosophical or artistic angle. I thought that, because we already had a lot of statistical data and scientific facts that discussed nuclear energy, could we use music or more abstract electronic music to consider this? Because of these two reasons, I thought I would try it out.
Brian Hioe: Later on, there was also the anti-nuclear electronic music truck. I encountered that in 2013 and 2014.
Chen Shih-Ting: Yes. That was also feeling that the culture street protests in Taiwan hadn’t changed too much. In ten years or twenty years, the atmosphere, or the language that people used in street protests hadn’t changed. Like it would be very upset or angry. That’s not to say that this is bad. But it doesn’t mean that this is the only way either. Maybe there would be other ways, using other form of language.
So I thought I would try what had the most resonance with me. I would have to find something with resonance to me, before I tried to see if this would resonate with other people. I thought I would use a style that I liked and was familiar with, which was electronic music.
And at the time, I felt that electronic music is a very concrete thing. It requires participation from everybody in order to establish itself as a form of culture. On some level, I think it’s very compatible with street protests. It’s a source of stimulation. Electronic music parties are a source of stimulation.
In the past, friends of mine who may not have been so concerned with this issue, whether in music circles or electronic musicians, they might not gather together for this issue. But this could allow for everyone to understand the issue and to gather together.
Brian Hioe: What were you doing at the time of the Sunflower Movement?
Chen Shih-Ting: That day was not too long after the anti-nuclear protest commemorating the anniversary of the Fukushima. It’s quite funny, because I was in a meeting with others from the anti-nuclear electronic music truck then. With Zixuan and Jiaying. We had just had a meeting to review and go over what had happened during the protest. And after we were done meeting, we got a phone call that they had charged in. We went directly to the occupation site.
Before that, we hadn’t been focused too much on the issue. But because we had that there was an action that was so drastic, we thought we would go and see what the situation on-site was.
Cover of the “I Love Nuclear 我愛核子能 !?” album
Brian Hioe: How did you participate in the movement?
Chen Shih-Ting: At the time, it was an event that suddenly reached a high point. When we began, we formed a small space, and we organized discussions there. It came before the Untouchables’ Liberation Area. We also found some DJs and played music there.
We hoped to have a space for people to discuss issues and interact. Because after staying awhile, we felt that we weren’t sure what to do. There were many people there, but people seemed to be waiting for something to happen, or were listening to those who were speaking on-stage.
Lots of people was sitting there not sure what to do. So we thought if we could use discussions, with the microphone being passed around, or music, as a freer area to allow people to exchange opinions. After doing this for awhile, because the atmosphere was very chaotic then, whether through media reports or because of the so-called decision making group and the outside situation.
I felt it was quite hard to grasp. I would feel as though I knew less and less what to do. So later on, my participation was less active. At the Untouchables’ Liberation Area, we all organized some activities, but I later felt that because the Untouchables’ Liberation Area was very peripheral, we also had to consider what direction this movement was headed to. It was a bit like being at a loss what to do.
Brian Hioe: Why do you think that you would participate in this movement?
Chen Shih-Ting: I would participate seeing as a movement had reached such a state of conflict—towards these things such as the black box, or the undemocratic process, of course, which I think may have led to the largest consensus. But in reality, I also feel that there were a lot of differences within the movement.
For example, if you ask about free trade, or the CSSTA itself, or China and Taiwanese independence, although I think there were different representative social forces within this movement, with different views, no matter what view, I think these all must be looked into. So I feel that I should go see for myself.
I participating, in looking into it, and observing up to a level, some would feel that they could take action while I would gradually feel that I couldn’t take action. On some level, it was because it was too big as a movement. And, on some level, it felt like there was organization, but I also feel at the same time that it did not have organization.
It was very large and felt like clear decisions were being made, but at the same time, it was a very chaotic and very contradictory situation.
Brian Hioe: Did you have any views towards media reports or the core decision making group during that time?
Chen Shih-Ting: I didn’t follow the core decision making group too much, because I spent more time observing people on the street. Many people will discuss the meaning of the movement in terms of many results that appeared because of the movement. As for me, I wandered around in the movement, seeing what people were doing, concerning myself with these new phenomena or what these people that didn’t appear before were doing. I didn’t see what the core decision making group was doing too much.
On some level, as far as I knew, I also felt what the core decision making group was talking about or discussing was not what would resonate with me. Or that on some level, I felt that their way of criticizing or their discourse was something that I could not totally identify with. So I didn’t really follow what they were up to.
As for media reports, I would feel that it heroicized things too much or discussed this as a student movement. I wasn’t too sure why it kept emphasizing that this was a student because it very clearly wasn’t. The amount of people that participated was very high and, at that time, those occupying the space were many NGO and social movement groups.
But these people weren’t paid attention to by the media at all. I thought it was quite strange, why it was posed as a group of naive students protesting against the government black box. So I felt that the media reports were very slanted and that I wasn’t sure why they were reporting it like that.
Brian Hioe: What kind of influence do you think this movement has had, three years later?
Untouchables’ Liberation Area banner. Photo credit: othree/Flickr/CC
Chen Shih-Ting: I can’t really judge this, because I feel that my observation was that for many people, my participation. I also participated more from the periphery, so I can’t imagine what the influence of the people participating on the inside was.
What I think of more is that people who haven’t appeared before, who maybe haven’t been led by organization or weren’t listened to. For me, I would see some things from afterwards, such as when people charged into the Executive Yuan. The kind of movement injuries from then. I think that this needs to be discussed further or reflected on, because at the time, everyone knew. Many friends who may not have had too much experience may have been hurt physically or mentally. I think that this is something which needs to be reflected on.
For such a large source of stimulation, this affected how many people look at social movements. That influence—I’m not sure about that, but I think that this is something which needs to be paid attention to.
Brian Hioe: What are your friends from then doing now?
Chen Shih-Ting: It wasn’t the first time participating in social movements for my friends from then, so everybody—I don’t actually know too many core people, the majority of those I know may still often participate in social movements.
For me, this kind of experience may be a deep investigation as to how through this process, social movements and maybe different political forces would develop. I think this is a good practice, but I don’t know too many people who have changed very concretely because of this movement. Maybe just the people I know may be like that.
Brian Hioe: Do you have any other reflections on the movement?
Chen Shih-Ting: I believe that the movement may have been too romanticized or too heroicized, but I am sure it wasn’t just that. I am sure that it may have some positive meaning, but I might also be someone who has had to struggle with the movement.
I went through the strange experience of there being such a huge amount of people on-site discussing democracy, but not actually living this out. People were just following orders and reacting emotionally, without reflection or dialogue. So you could also say that I experienced something frightening in the movement and under those circumstances, it was hard to preserve a positive form of participation in the movement.