Plastic bags are everywhere, and they aren’t going away anytime soon. But for a small island nation like Taiwan, perhaps the presence of plastic bags is more overbearing–the country used to be a place where everything (and I mean everything!) used to come in colorful plastic bags. Whether that was from groceries, the myriad of street-side night market vendors, or even the many boba shops that line the streets, plastic bags became well integrated into the Taiwanese landscape due to the country’s pick-up-and-go lifestyle. That all changed in 2018, when the government issued a nation-wide ban on single-use plastic items in order to help the environment. In a move that hopes to severely reduce the amount of trash that is being produced, the nation announced that they would be phasing out plastic straws (metal boba straws are now a thing), plastic drink lids, and plastic cups by 2030.
But before all of the unnecessary plastic is (hopefully) removed from the cultural landscape of Taiwan, they’re still being utilized today in art. Case in point: Taiwanese indie-rock band 落日飛車 Sunset Rollercoaster use them as the main focal point for the newest music video for “Slow” / “Oriental”, two songs that were released from their breezy sophomore album Cassa Nova this year. As their first music video ever (no visuals were released from their viral EP JINJI KIKKO, or their debut Bossa Nova), the smooth-rock masters hone in on the relationship between plastic bags and the environment, all backed by their glimmering, haunting, synth-drenched songs.
The first part of the video, “Slow”, sets up the premise for the video: actor London Lee sits on a plastic chair peacefully while the world slowly moves around him. There’s scenes of dripping water, trains cruising by, and a lone plastic bag is drifting in the wind. So far, nothing too exciting. But once the song transitions into “Oriental”, the pace quickens and the video becomes more chaotic. Suddenly, the visuals are more tumultuous. The dripping water scenes are replaced with deep bodies of water that swallow Lee up, and the once-clear air is now infested with dozens of plastic bags. As the plastic bags start taking over, Lee’s casual walk turns into a rapid sprint as he runs through the city, passing through night markets, a famous bridge (cinephiles might recognize it from Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Millennium Mambo), and empty streets. Lee’s destination? A beautifully clear beach, just in time for sunset.
Taken figuratively, the video for “Slow” / “Oriental” could be a comment on environmental issues and how youth is turning their attention towards the environment, rather than the city around them. With mayoral elections coming up in Taiwan, citizens are taking note of more than just the things immediately around them. But political or not, it’s hard to deny that the video makes a damn good visual.