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Smoke and Fire

Wang Tuo

Release year: 2018

Run time: 31'18"

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


In Smoke and Fire, Wang Tuo portrays the image of a migrant worker who exists simultaneously in both worlds of a two-part intertwined reality. In one world, this migrant worker is in a warehouse of movie props with an extremely vague sense of time and space. By reading tales of the miraculous and the legendary, he is projecting himself into multiple texts, “practicing” it again and again in reality or in his imagination. In the other world, the artist is conducting a sample observation of this migrant worker in a small town in Northeast China—recording his daily life, his emotions, and his journey back home. The documentation has slowly turned into a dramatic “rehearsal” of a recent violent incident in China that has been widely discussed. In this narrative on revenge, healing the deep-seated wound seems to have become a ritual that needs to wait. Through these embodied corporeal “counterattacks”, the artist implies a rupture between social and internal identities, as well as the latent contradiction between the individual trauma and the monstrous yet powerless reality.


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.