14th May 2015 was the 75th anniversary of The Bombardement of Rotterdam, or the so called Rotterdam Blitz. In downtown Rotterdam,there is a monument named De Verwoeste Stad. In English it means The Destroyed City, made by the artist, Ossip Zadkine in 1953, to memorialize the destruction of the center of Rotterdam by the German air force during World War II.
Every year on the 14th of May from 1:29 PM to 1:39 PM the bell tower, located next to the World Trade Center Rotterdam, would continuously ring for ten minutes. On that day in 1940, the aerial bombardment killed nearly 900 people and made 85,000 homeless. Nowadays, the sound of falling bombs is replaced by the sound of bells ringing. The traumatic history sutured into a melody.
This ringing also reminds me of something that happened long ago in my hometown. As early as 1943 The Allies of World War II, mainly the US Air Force, had launched several air raids against military and industrial targets in Taiwan, because at that moment, we were still ruled by Japan.
They systematically destroyed the defensive function of Taiwan step by step. Finally, in 1945, came the final and largest, attack. It took place on the 31st of May. However, due to political reasons, this part of history is totally ignored in our education.
I tried to recreate this memory in a public performance. I put the recording of the bell ringing into the head of a puppet, with a hole in its head. This puppet and the sound were passed around to the audiences at the performance, when I started to talk about the hidden bombardments happened in Taiwan in the 1940s.
In the beginning of the performance, I told the audience a personal story from when I was conducting my compulsory military service. There was a colleague who wore a pair of thick-lens glasses; he was a little cross-eyed. One day we had the same shift on guard at the main gate to the base. He was gazing at the moon hanging above us in the dark night sky. He timidly asked me a question:
“Xue Zhang,” (In Taiwan, Xue Zhang is a respectful way of addressing a senior or more experienced person.)
“I know that I didn’t learn a lot from books or school” he said,
“But is the Moon our Earth?”
At first I couldn’t understand his question, how could the Moon and the Earth become each other at the same time? So I asked if he could rephrase his question:
“Are we living inside the Earth?” And he asked,
“How could a space shuttle go through the Moon and fly into outer space?”
For him, the Moon is a hole in the night. The dark sky envelops the light, and the yellow moonlight is a portal to the outer world. In daytime he is trapped in, as the sun burnt his eyes, preventing him from observing. With the coming of night, the gentle light allows him to look steadily at the moon, which is transformed into a passable, luminous exit in his mind.