Skip to content

Distorting Words

Wang Tuo

Release year: 2019

Run time: 24'38"

Film type: three-channel 4K video (color, sound)


In this three-screen film, the artist narrates an actual body that deeply trapped in the mire of historical reincarnation, or a "Pan-shamanization" in the artist’s own word. Without connotation abound to specific belief, his neologism suggests that there are historical reincarnation of our situations, which makes actual bodies would become mediums that sync us to different times and spaces. In the film, several times and spaces overlap with each other. For example, in 1919, the New Democracy Movement began, and Peking University student Guo Qinguang died during the protest of May Fourth. In 2019, Zhang Koukou was executed. A connection is thus produced between the protagonist who wandered around the city on the night before returning home for revenge, and the victim who died a hundred years ago. In Tuo’s own words, “the whole society is experiencing a ‘Pan-shamanization': all living experiences are being mediated, all actions are being ritualized, and although there is no shaman, the collective trance is happening at every moment.”


Director biography

Wang Tuo (b. 1984, Changchun, China) interweaves Chinese historical facts, cultural archives, fiction and mythology into speculative narratives. Equating his practice to novel writing, he stages an intervention in historical literary texts and cultural archives to formulate stories that blur the boundaries of time and space, facts and imagination. Through film, performance, painting, and drawing, the artist’s work is a powerful examination of modern Chinese and East Asian history. The multidimensional chronologies he constructs, interspersed with conspicuous and hidden clues, expose the underlying historical and cultural forces at work within society. Embracing a uniquely Chinese hauntology, Wang proposes “pan-shamanization” as an entry point to unravel the suppressed and untreated memories of 20th century China and East Asia. Through historical inquiry, Wang’s works, often unsettling and dramatic, disentangle collective unconsciousness and historical traumas. Wang has recent solo shows at K21, Düsseldorf; UCCA, Beijing; Present Company, New York; Salt Project, Beijing; Taikang Space, Beijing, and recent group shows at M+ Museum, Hong Kong, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul; Julia Stoschek Collection, Düsseldorf; Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Baden- Baden; Queens Museum, New York; Kino der Kunst, Munich; Zarya Center for Contemporary Art, Vladivostok; Incheon Art Platform, Incheon; Power Station of Art, Shanghai; OCAT, Shenzhen & Shanghai; Times Museum, Guangzhou; National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taichung. Wang Tuo was an Artist in Residence at the Queens Museum, New York from 2015 to 2017. He won the China Top Shorts Award and the Outstanding Art Exploration Award in Beijing International Short Film Festival 2018. Wang Tuo is the winner of the Three Shadows Photography Award 2018 and the Youth Contemporary Art Wuzhen Award 2019. He was awarded a research residency at KADIST San Francisco as part of the OCAT x KADIST Media Artist Prize 2020. In 2023, Wang Tuo won the Sigg Prize. He was shortlisted the K21 Global Art Award 2024.