[***English translation follows from the Chinese text. Please scroll down.]
世上模型種類萬萬千千，有人喜愛豪華跑車飛機遊輪，有人喜歡古堡城鎮火車帆船，更多人喜愛的是科幻漫畫和電影的主角人偶：或是物質慾望的投射，或是對古舊物事的懷緬，又或是潮流所趨，我卻鍾情於這些二次大戰的戰爭機器，這裏有一個奇特的原因：一本書。它的名字叫《第二次世界大戰實錄》，「讀者文摘」出版，這本硬皮封面重甸甸厚達兩吋的書，是孩提時代我的「書癡」姊姊送給我的禮物，在那遙遠的歲月，我吃力地捧著這本書一遍又一遍的翻看，一段段事蹟，一個個故事，一張一張黑白的照片，一幅一幅兩軍搏奕的戰略地圖，到今天我仍牢牢記往 － 從震驚世界的「閃電戰」攻克波蘭，到碧血長空的「大不列顛戰役」；由「偷襲珍珠港」到香港以至整個東南亞淪陷；由北非沙漠如武俠小說高手決戰的隆美爾和蒙哥馬利，到寸瓦不留的「史太林格勒戰役」；從「登陸諾曼第」反攻歐洲大陸到太平洋的逐島血戰，以至投向廣島及長崎的兩枚原子彈…。 幾多滅絕人性的暴行，幾多英勇絕倫的事蹟，對於孩童時代的我，雖然只當故事般觀看，心靈卻已被深深地震撼。年長了，明瞭到戰爭中生死既等閒，時間，文明、信仰頓變毫無意義，幸運是，人的價值仍能透過勇氣、忠誠和團結得以體現。二戰於現代人來說，確實太遙遠了，我們生於安逸的時代，自由與和平仿似與生俱來，自然難以理解換取這些東西的代價是何等高昂。
Box opens. I reach out with my hands. Skin contact with racks after racks of plastic parts: what a familiar sensation. Instruction notes found. From beginning to end, tiny fonts of alphabets form the dense English text mingled with symbols, arrows and small diagrams, guiding the dizzy me. This is a game that demands perfect eye-sight and versatile fingers plus absolute patience.
Taken aback and hesitating, I stepped out, not knowing what’s in my mind.
Two days later, I returned to the box, which was then surrounded by a big pile of tools – brushes of all sizes, glues of many functions, a large amount of paint, thinner, cleansing agent, scissors, pliers, drills, cutters, different kinds of polishing paper, putty, sprays and many more. … … These items may not all be necessary; one can also just enjoy making models leisurely and with ease. But I was determined to put in my utmost effort. I wouldn’t want to let go of any small bits that the designer had put into the kit.
I followed the instructions closely. I cut out every small part with care, smoothened the edges with a cutter, and carefully glued the different parts together. Some of them are as small as biscuit crumbs, which you can only pick up with the help of a needle-nose plier. For the obvious crevices between the bigger parts, apply sealant and wait until it totally dries and firms. Then feel free to smoothen the parts. Gradually, and it takes time, wheels, tracks, the bodies of vehicles, turrets and equipments carried on the vehicles are ready. Apply color in ways to give the parts a realistic look. For the camouflage tone, use a sprayer: do it layer by layer. This done. Choose the vehicles’ plates and the corps’ badge and attach the watermarked paper on the right place. The front and rear sand board must be applied by soft “baking” followed by slight extrusion with a screw-driver to imitate the metal body of a car being destroyed. One may also melt a plastic stent mildly, elongate it to extract the thread-like material for an antenna to put at the back of the turret. The next step is to “age” the scenario, that is, to create the effect of painting falling off, rust, mud stains, smoke stains and oil stains, which can be done with different kinds of color pigment, by rubbing and brushing. Black enamel paint is needed next to fill up the lines of the vehicles to strengthen the “shadows” for better visual effect. Finish with a spray of a thin sand-yellow layer to imitate dust. At this point, you must already have in mind the complete scenery to build…
Back to reality… It had taken me four full days to struggle through all the steps I just described.
The work was done. I looked at it, and couldn’t help feeling immense joy flowing inside me. No veteran I am, but my skills have not failed me. It was nonetheless a bit too heavy to recall the process. I wonder, what a big burden I have brought to myself! And there came Andio while I was caught in puzzlement. He gave me some suggestions, which re-fueled the diminishing fire in me. So I did all this for a promise – for the toy show in November. There wasn’t much of an option otherwise, but to push forward.
There are thousands of kinds of models – some like racing cars, airplanes and ocean liners whereas for others, castles, towns and villages, trains and boats. Even more people are into characters from sci-fi, anime and live-action movies. I can’t exactly tell why, whether it is a projection of my desires or nostalgic indulgence in the past, or simply I was led by fads and trends. All I can say is to simply admit that I was particularly drawn to the war machines from the World War II. And that involves a book, Illustrated Story of World War II by Reader’s Digest, a 2-inch thick, hardcover weighty edition that my book-craze sister gave me as a gift when I was a kid. In those forgotten days, I pulled together a lot of effort grabbing that book in my bosom, reading it from page to page, and time and again. Each incident, each story, each black-and-white photo, and each of the tactical maps are still vivid in my mind: from the world-shocking blitzkrieg of Poland to the never-ending Battle of Great Britain against Germany, from the attack on Pearl Harbor to the Pacific Wars and the fall of Hong Kong to the Japanese, from the legendary, speed-sweep antagonism between Rommel and Montgomery in North Africa to the total ruins created by the Battle of Stalingrad, and from the Normandy landings on D-Day and the battles on the Pacific Islands to the dropping of the two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively. … Unquantifiable violence that mocked humanity and innumerable instances of bravery… Even to a young kid, all this was no pure fiction from the remote lands – I was totally shaken. Now as an adult, I realize life or death is worth very little in wars and battles. Time, civilization and religious beliefs are proven futile. The lucky thing is that there are still ways to realize the value of humans – through courage, honesty and united minds. World War II indeed seems a bit too far away to contemporary people, and the fact that we live in a time of comfort and stability numbs us from realizing what a high price was involved to bring freedom and peace, which we often take for granted.
In the process of building the military miniatures for “Toy as Medium,” I landed on a spatial-temporal zone that is diametrically opposite of my daily life, without my thinking too much how it happened. I “walked through” the history of World War II once again… Recorded in this article are the details leading to my works in the show.
There are indeed many ways to record and look back. Some people press the shutter; some write; some paint and draw; and some use sound recording. As for me, I proceed with awe and gratitude, and choose a way I like and which I am capable of, to insist that the “past” did not disappear. The “past” is always just around the corner, awaiting a certain space and a certain time to re-presence.