WANG Tuo: Smoke and Fire

When 2 Feb 2019 - 10 Mar 2019
Where Present Company
254 Johnson Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11206
United States

Opening Reception: Saturday, February 2 | 7-10pm

Present Co. begins their Spring 2019 season with a solo exhibition by Beijing-based artist Wang Tuo. The single projection installation marks the first public showing of his newest film, Smoke and Fire (2018).

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. His videos, films, and installations embody self-referential, constructed environments that are equally dramatic and absurd, often drawing parallel to literature, film, and theatre. Wang’s practice also considers how historical contexts inform new ideologies that continue to adapt, willingly or unwittingly, to our changing sociopolitical landscape.

Born in Changchun, China in 1984, Wang Tuo has been the focus of recent solo exhibitions in Beijing and Hong Kong at Gallery EXIT, White Space, Salt Project, and Taikang Space. His work has been shown internationally in venues such as the Julia Stoschek Collection (Düsseldorf), Zarya Center for Contemporary Art (Vladivostok), National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts (Taichung), Vox Populi (Philadelphia), as well as Hudson Valley MOCA, Residency Unlimited, and NARS Foundation, all in New York. Wang was an Artist in Residence at the Queens Museum from 2015‐2017 and was the winner of the Three Shadows Photography Award in 2018.

Image: still from Smoke and Fire, 2018, single channel HD video (color, sound), 31:18. Image courtesy of the organizer.

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