[Labs] Guo Cheng: The Disappeared 'Nature'

Executive Editor | Pocono Zhao Yu

Translator | Zhou Lin

The first definition of “nature” that comes up in the dictionary is “ the natural world, broadly refers to all beings with infinite diversity which is synonymous with the universe, material, existence and objective reality, etc., including human society. Narrowly speaking, it is the material world that is distinguished from the human society, which is generally divided into non-living systems and living systems. The natural world transformed by human activities is usually called ‘the Second Nature’ or ‘Humanized Nature.’”

_Whatever the weather, we only reach welfare together_

Whatever the weather, we only reach welfare together 2017
Rubble, Neon light, Wind vane, Custom circuit

In the collaborative project A Felicitous Neo-past by Guo Cheng and Dr. Heather Leslie, the chemical and environmental scientist from Vrije University Amsterdam, he tries to explore the stereotype of binary relationship between the nature and human being. Almost all of Guo Cheng’s works are closely related to technology and technological objects. This kind of correlation is not only associated with the “front-end” technology, that is the already packaged application, but also further focuses on the “back-end,” namely the linkage of the method and structure of technology through the technological disassembling and analyzing with the mode and pattern of human cerebration and behavior.


The Past | The Neo-past 2017


In this project, through the process of “excavation - filtration - clearance - refilling,” Guo Cheng has created “a land without human traces” of one square meter on the reclamation land in ADM Amsterdam, which could be considered as an intervention of the stratum of Anthropocene. This act of eliminating human traces on the man-made land not only exemplifies the impact of human activities on environment, but also reflects the sense of inability of human when it comes to environmental issues. As a matter of fact, the existence of this one square meter is a time capsule without human information, a paradox, and a “reconstruction” of human history.。

向下挖,直到河床 part1

Digging Down Untill the River Bed 2017

Guo Cheng has further responded to the concept of the “Second Nature” in his another series of projectThe (temporary) Gadget. In this project, the omnipresent ionizing radiation dust in the environment is exactly the counterattack against the prevalent definition of utopian “nature.” For instance, the radiation dust produced by human activities such as nuclear and petrochemical industry has floated and subsided to all regions of the world, and its time of existence may exceed the time of the presence of human species on this planet. At the same time, in the project Amber, Guo Cheng has presented the possibility of “amber” being the proof and evidence of humanity in the future by perceiving the solidified and formalist manner of the artificial stone (concrete).


A Felicitous Neo-past 2017
Installation view

When facing the theme of “Anthropocene”, Guo Cheng chooses to avoid the grand narrative and proceed from individual experience and behavior. Just like all of us, our behavior would all become the most reliable “evidence of Anthropocene”.

Audio Interview


Could you talk about the cross-disciplinary collaboration between new media artists and scientific scholars?


How does the interdisciplinary work influence your artistic creation?


Could you talk about the spatial and contextual transitions between working in China and working overseas?

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Guo Cheng

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