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The Second Interrogation

Wang Tuo

Release year: 2022

Run time: 65'14"

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

Synopsis

In 2017, Wang Tuo created the video Interrogation based on an interview he conducted with a commissioner for Discipline Inspection working in a local jurisdiction of China. In the video, the interviewee first describes the psychological techniques he needed when he was taking an interview for his position years ago; his recount then slowly evolves into a description of the psychological methods he has frequently been using in interrogation. The Second Interrogation is based on Wang Tuo’s observations and reflections on cultural censorship in the art world that he has experienced in China in recent years. In this two-channel video work, he envisions two extreme, yet highly grounded situations where the artist becomes the censor and the censor becomes the artist. In the video, the key to the encounter and eventual transformation of their identities is the reassessment and divergence of the seven astounding performances (known as the “Seven Sins”) at the 1989 China/Avant-Garde Exhibition in Beijing, which had faced censorship. Together with the student democracy movement that was about to sweep the country the same year, these radically rebellious works became a turning point in the destiny of contemporary China. Since then, contemporary culture and art have faced harsher censorship and repression, the political reality has started to contract drastically, and the democratic process has been interrupted. The two protagonists with different visions of the Chinese system come to know each other at an exhibition opening talk. After a series of confrontations and personal encounters, their perceptions of their own identities have changed. The artist becomes a covert surveillant examining the ideological problems of the art world for the government; the censor, on the other hand, seems to have grasped the true essence of art in a totalitarian state. During a new live performance that the artist has been preparing for a long time as a tribute to the “Seven Sins,” the censor enters and eventually reinvents the work, becoming its actual author. By the end of the video, the two protagonists, who have exchanged identities, engage in a heated debate about the way forward for the country and the enlightening significance of art in social change.

 

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.