by Brian Hioe

Photo Credit: 共生音樂節

Earlier this month, New Bloom editor Brian Hioe sat down with fellow New Bloom editor Yeh Jiunn Tyng (葉俊廷) to discuss the 2015 Gongsheng Music Festival (共生音樂節), a music festival held annually at Freedom Plaza in Taipei in order to commemorate the 228 Massacre Incident, of which he is one of the founders.

Brian Hioe:  It is somewhat strange to be interviewing you, considering we’re both editors on New Bloom. Moreover, before the founding of New Bloom, and, although in fact I didn’t know you particularly well at the time, I recall selling crackers with 陽明大學有意思社 (“Yangming University Interesting Society”) at the last Gongsheng Music Festival (共生音樂節) and talking to you there while you were directing activities.

But first, especially for international readers who might not know anything about Gongsheng Music Festival, can you explain what Gongsheng Music Festival is and what it does? How were you involved in its founding?

Promotional video for crowdfunding the 2015 Gongsheng Music Festival, featuring Yeh Jiunn Tyng. Film: 2015 Gongsheng Music Festival

Yeh Jiunn Tyng:  Gongsheng Music Festival is an event organized by the young people in Taiwan to commemorate the 228 Massacre Incident, which caused serious trauma to our country. A lot of people commemorate this incident, but most of them are old, so the form of such events is quite rigid and fails to express the younger generation. So we decided that we would found an event to commemorate and tell more people about the 228 tragedy, using a form young people will easily understand. By holding a music festival, we can attract a wider audience of young people whom may or may not be interested in Taiwan’s history or political status. Once they’re in the event, they can learn more about the incident by looking at our exhibition.

Gongsheng Music Festival is far more than a single music event, actually, it’s a series of activities lasting half a year. We started from holding film festivals at universities, tours of the places related to the incident, then building up to the music festival and exhibition. By telling this story in a variety of forms and aspects, our goal is to reach as many people as we can, letting them understand and become aware of the history of their home.

The reason I was involved in its founding is because there’s a preexisting personal network, most of the people involved knew each other already because of participation in social movements. One day, an organization founded by the families of victims of 228 came to us and told us that they want to commemorate 228 in a different way, which was how we started this project.

BH:  Gongsheng Music Festival, of course, commemorates the 228 Massacre which occurred in 1947 when the KMT violently put down an uprising against their rule by Taiwanese after a KMT law enforcement shot dead a woman selling cigarettes on February 27th, 1947. Gongsheng Music Festival is one of the many activities which commemorate 228 annually in Taiwan.

Can you explain what you see as the importance of Gongsheng Music Festival in commemorating 228? Why is it important to commemorate 228? And what does Gongsheng Music Festival allow for as a musical event and serves to bring out a lot of young people?

10873566_453581464788922_123610548733082380_oPromotional image for the performers for this year’s Gongsheng Music Festival. Photo credit: 2015 Gongsheng Music Festival

YJT:  There are several reasons that the Gongsheng Music Festival is very important. Firstly, it is literally the largest commemoration of 228 in Taiwan, especially this year, in which we have expanded to Taichung. We have held more than 30 movie screening events in universities, two printed books, three music festivals and exhibitions, and reached more than 8,000 people in attending the event or browsing our fan page, there’s surely no other event so far that has such a great impact on people. Secondly, the target audience of this event is young people in Taiwan. It is another breakthrough that we can reach out to those young people who have no interest or curiosity about the history or political status of Taiwan. Only through the political awareness of young people, will change be possible.

The reason to commemorate 228 is related to transitional justice. We want to draw people’s attention about the incompleteness of transitional justice in Taiwan. Though the government apologizes for 228 Massacre every year, they’re not willing to deal with it from the bottom of their hearts.

There are several criteria to examine whether transitional justice is completed or nor in a country, which includes the unveiling of the truth, the trial of the victimizer, and the compensation of the victim. None of these standards is fully met in Taiwan. Historians that want to study this incident are interfered by the government, and the victimizer is often not identified by the government, etc. As long as transitional justice is not complete, the country cannot move on, and the trauma of the related people cannot be healed. Most importantly, the same tyrant government still exists now, doing the same thing to the people in Taiwan but in a more sophisticated way. By commemorating 228, we recall the historical incident again, which is also a reminder of our present political reality.

As a musical event, the effort of getting involved has much decreased. Unlike other social movement or campaign, you only need to physically be there or browse our fan page to get involved. By making it easy to get involved, we aimed to reach as many people as we can, and raise awareness by providing information, the historical truth which is buried in history textbooks by the government, and forcing them to think in order to find the truth. We believe that only by the awareness of the majority, that transitional justice could be done.

1622444_889644134389055_8420959934130356010_oOne of the official handbooks of this year’s Gongsheng Music Festival. Photo credit: 2015 Gongsheng Music Festival

BH:  What are the challenges in maintaining Gongsheng Music Festival as an activity yearly? Shortage in volunteers?  Resources? Maintaining the same level of activity? Can you speak a bit about what you have lined up for this year, including performers, speakers, and attendees?

YJT:  The biggest challenge is money. We rely on the funding of several NGOs every year, but we faced some difficulty when we wanted to expand the scale of the activity. To deal with this problem, we launched a crowdsourcing project this year, seeking help from the people. We’ve raised approximately 150,000 NT now, and are trying to get more. With this money, we can held more speech and activities in the universities even in high schools, creating more opportunity for the student to understand transitional justice in Taiwan.

This year, we had ten movie events in universities in Taipei and two tours to the places related to the massacre. On February 28th, there will be six independent musicians and bands playing, and we invited a total of ten scholars, celebrities, and families of victims to share their stories and memories about 228.

BH:  Lastly, what is the future of Gongsheng Music Festival? What do you aim for in the future and beyond?

YJT:  Of course, I hope this is a long-lasting event. But more than that, I hope that the it will expand to an event that goes on throughout the year, consisting of different activities. Our aim is to complete transitional justice and raise people’s awareness about the history of their own country. It’s a long road to go, and we’re still working hard on it.

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