Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Go fighting with Underworld (an open letter)

To the Fans of Underworld and Independent Art:

As you may already know, Underworld is once again in trouble and in need of your support. With this letter, we hope to clarify why we closed in July, why we re-opened in August, and what is happening right now.

Why did we close?

We closed because we could see the writing on the wall. After being open for over 15 years (during which time we had passed all the yearly fire inspections), we were suddenly told by inspectors that our fire exits were too narrow, despite the fact that our space had not been altered, and the law had not been changed.

We were left to conclude that the inspectors had suddenly taken notice of us due to pressure from the Shidahood Association, a group of residents that has made it their mission to close the majority of businesses in Shida, regardless of their legality. Their campaign has been remarkably successful. A quick stroll through Shida reveals a neighborhood in transition, its streets now lined with shuttered storefronts.

Once the Association took notice of us, we knew then that we had a short lease on life. We closed up shop to lick our wounds and consider our next move.

Why did we re-open?

We did not waste any time after closing our doors. We sought the help of the government, trusting that they would have an interest in protecting one of Taipei’s most valuable sources of independent art culture: us.

We were right. The Taipei City Department of Cultural sympathized with our plight and began work on a Livehouse project, which would grant a new form of business license to music clubs around Taipei City. This was indeed great news. Being granted special designation as a livehouse would help protect us from being bullied by the Shidahood Association. The city government even agreed to help us build another fire escape, ensuring that we could remain open despite the efforts of others to shut us down.

Confident now that we had the support we needed, we re-opened in August.

What is happening now?

Things have not been going well. Since re-opening, we have seen a rise in the level of harassment from police and government inspectors. The Livehouse project that offered so much hope to the independent music scene has mysteriously stalled. We know now that we will not receive the help we were promised from the government.

It is not our purpose now to speculate on the reasons why, but it would appear as though there are some powerful people in Taipei City that would love to see Underworld shut down for good.

In 10 days we’ve received 2 fines (60,000NT each) from the Taipei City Construction Management. One is due to the fire exits being too narrow (though this should have been prevented by the Livehouse project). The other fine is due to them arguing that our business registration is as a restaurant, which means it can’t be a livehouse. But by this rationale, there can be no livehouses anywhere in Taiwan, because there is no license for livehouses!

The fines have begun, and the clock is now ticking. It is only a matter of time before we are extinguished by a group of people who do not value youth culture, who view us only as obstacles in their way.

What can we do?

We are going to take the fight back to the government. The main goal of the protest this Friday is to demand that the Department of Culture follows through on their promise to designate us as a Livehouse, and to do it quickly!

10/26(Fri) 9 AM, Taipei City COUNCIL
join Underworld fight for INDEPENDENT ART CULTURE!!
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
SEE U at Taipei City Council 9 am This Friday (10/26) !!!


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