Black Coats

About Black Coats

This is a group of portraits from the war, but with no person. They come from different countries and belong to different battlefields. I collected these clothes from military enthusiasts, and they had an indescribable taste in the hand: lime, soy sauce mixed with mushrooms, or whatever.

The front of one of the coats was visibly stained with blood— dried blood. Whose blood is this? Who was owner of the clothes? Who was the comrade or enemy of the owner? Either way, at a certain time on a certain day of a certain year, the once-vibrant red liquid took its host’s temperature and migrated to the khaki fabric. The cells huddle together, cooling and waiting to die, leaving a mystery that is not important at the moment.

On the inside of the left front of another Japanese uniform was printed the words “Ninety-Eight; Shōwa Fifteen-year; No.3”, with the owner’s name clearly written in the space below: Horii Kazuo. It was owned by a Japanese soldier named Horii Kazuo in 1940. Where on earth was he at the time? China? Southeast Asia? The Pacific Ocean? Or an island south of Japan? Is he still alive? He should be at least 100 years old if he is still alive! And if he died, how did he leave the world (with glory or infamy, love or sorrow of which we will never know)? I imagine that at someday, perhaps, he would also look at the mist in the mountains in the morning, the burning clouds in the sea at dusk, or the Milky Way in the stars in the night.

I often wondered about their identities and these clothes: what determined their owners, who then they left, and how did they end up lying quietly in the collector's closet? These clothes separate me from the truth. These "skins" seem to be all that separates me from people I've never met. So thin, yet so far apart. They fade away in obscurity, and no one cares about the stories that were once wrapped by these symbols. They have lost enemies or friends. They lost time. They recede from the past, then sink into the deep sea of history, which never answers.

At the end of Blade Runner, the dying man-made man Roy says:

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.

Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.

I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate.

All those moments will be lost in time,

like tears in rain.

Time to die”.

Time, like Borges’ garden of bifurcated paths which lead to unknown future. Anyway, from the moment of birth, death is approaching. The longest history in the universe is the span of a human life, that’s it.

27th April 2016

Black Coats

© Zhou Yulong 2016

Translated by Vera Xia

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