Wang Tuo wins the M+ Sigg Prize 2023 with The Northeast Tetralogy (2018–2021)


Wang Tuo with his work_HiRes_Fotor.jpgWang Tuo with his work The Northeast Tetralogy, 2018-21, at "Sigg Prize 2023," M+, Hong Kong. Photo by Dan Leung. Courtesy M+, Hong Kong.

M+ announced Wang Tuo (b. 1984, lives and works in Beijing) was the winner of the Sigg Prize 2023. The jury was impressed with Wang’s sophisticated cinematic practice and the quality of the films’ production that create elaborate imagery with multi-layered references to cultural and historical contexts. His winning work, The Northeast Tetralogy (2018–2021) is an immersive, multi-channel installation of four videos. The Sigg Prize recognises important artistic practices in the Greater China region and aims to highlight and promote diverse works on an international scale, awarding the winner with a cash prize of HKD 500,000. 

Wang-Tuo-Installation-View4_1440_0.jpgExhibition view of The Northeast Tetralogy at the Sigg Prize 2023 (2018–2021). Courtesy M+, Hong Kong. Photo: Dan Leung.

The Northeast Tetralogy is a multi-chapter film project narrating similar fates for several protagonists across different time periods. The four films blend historical and fictional events to meditate on the interplay between history and storytelling. Based on the 2019 case of Zhang Koukou, the opening chapter Smoke and Fire (2018) follows a migrant worker who returns to his hometown to avenge his mother’s death. The second chapter Distorting Words (2019) reenacts the experience of Guo Qinguang, a patriotic student in the May Fourth Movement of 1919. The third chapter, Tungus (2021) is a complex narrative featuring the deathbed confessions of an elderly intellectual living alone after the siege of Changchun in 1948 during the Chinese Civil War, interwoven with the portrayal of Guo and other progressive students. Told through the recollections from Zhang Koukou’s housemate, the final chapter Wailing Requiem (2021) shows the life of the migrant worker from the first chapter prior to his revenge.

The Sigg Prize jury comments, ‘Wang Tuo’s The Northeast Tetralogy is a pertinent and timely inquiry into the record and interpretation of history in the Greater China region and beyond. His interweaving of multi-dimensional narratives creates an elegant and resonating cinematic experience that fuses historical events and speculative narratives, offering deep contemplation on the relationship between archive and fiction. By addressing parallels in human history across time, Wang’s series layers rich cultural references, from classic literature to folklore and ethnic languages, to prompt viewers to reflect on our contemporary situation and the future.’

Suhanya Raffel, Museum Director, M+ and chairwoman of the Sigg Prize, remarks, ‘The jury was unanimously moved by the sophisticated imagery and intricate storytelling of Wang Tuo’s The Northeast Tetralogy. As an important award recognising and furthering the development of contemporary art in Greater China, the Sigg Prize is delighted to celebrate Wang’s practice. Many layers of narratives in his epic work help foster cultural dialogue and demonstrate his unique vision of the contemporary world. I extend my heartfelt congratulations to Wang, and my deep thanks to all the shortlisted artists.’

Open to artists born or working in the Greater China region, the Sigg Prize recognises important artistic practices in the region to highlight and promote diverse works on an international scale. The Sigg Prize 2023 exhibition is the second edition of the prize, featuring the six shortlisted artists, including Jes Fan (b. 1990, lives and works in New York and Hong Kong); Miao Ying (b. 1985, lives and works in New York); Wang Tuo (b. 1984, lives and works in Beijing); Xie Nanxing (b. 1970, lives and works in Beijing and Chengdu); Trevor Yeung (b. 1988, lives and works in Hong Kong); and Yu Ji (b. 1985, lives and works in Shanghai and Phnom Penh).

Sigg-Prize-2023-finalists_1440_0.jpgSigg Prize 2023 finalists (left to right): Trevor Yeung, Jes Fan, Miao Ying, Yu Ji, Xie Nanxing, and Wang Tuo. Photo: Dan Leung. Courtesy of M+, Hong Kong.

Wang Tuo (b. 1984, Jilin) is based in Beijing. Working with various mediums including moving image, painting, and performance, Wang interweaves historical archives, mythology, and fiction into speculative narratives that blur the boundaries between time and space, reality and imagination. His practice is a powerful examination of modern Chinese and East Asian history, often exposing the underlying forces within society and disentangling the collective unconsciousness and historical traumas.

Wang has had recent solo exhibitions at UCCA Center for Contemporary Art and Taikang Space in Beijing, and Present Company in New York. His works have been selected for recent group exhibitions in the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul; Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Germany; Queens Museum, New York; Power Station of Art, Shanghai; and Times Museum, Guangzhou. In 2018, he was the winner of the Three Shadows Photography Award and the recipient of the Outstanding Art Exploration Award at the Beijing International Short Film Festival. He received the Youth Contemporary Art Wuzhen Award in 2019 and was awarded a research residency at KADIST San Francisco as part of the OCAT x KADIST Media Artist Prize 2020. Wang was the winner of the Sigg Prize in 2023.

Courtesy M+, Hong Kong.