Smoke and Fire, 2018, single channel 4K video (color, sound), 31'17"

In the thirty-one minute HD video, a migrant worker oscillates between a two-part, intertwined, simultaneous reality. In one world, the film’s subject finds himself in a movie prop warehouse with a disorienting sense of time and space. By reading tales of the miraculous and the legendary, he infiltrates these texts, rehearsing them outloud and in his imagination again and again. In the other world, the artist documents and observes the same migrant worker in his small town in Northeast China—recording his daily life, his emotions, and his journey back home. The work slowly births a third narrative; a dramatic rehearsal of an actual violent crime that recently boggled the Chinese news media. A story of long awaited revenge, hinging on deep-seated wounds that ultimately unfolds through a ritual of corporeal counterattacks.

Wang Tuo ruptures social and internal identities, as well as the latent contradiction between individual traumas and an often monstrous, yet powerless reality. Through this entanglement of narratives, his practice documents, choreographs, and reimagines the relationship between humanity, myth, and the cultural archive. Through a performative manipulation of his subjects’ lived experiences, the artist employs various media and processes that combine interviews, reality shows, and the theatre of the absurd in order to construct a maze of melodramas.