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Artificially Natural

Carl Cheng

In 1967, amid rising anti-Asian racism fueled by the Vietnam War, 25-year-old Carl Cheng established the John Doe Company, and began using the generic name to exhibit tool-kit-like sculptures that he called “nature machines.” The works imagined a future in which the Earth was entirely shaped by humans. Some were boxes that produced small piles of eroded soil; others were ecosystems in miniature. Long before the term “anthropocene” was coined, Cheng’s interest in how humans imprint themselves on the Earth extended into his public artworks, such as the tractor-pulled drum-roller, Santa Monica Art…
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