Field Station 3: Anthropocene Vernacular

August 20th, 2019

In the St. Louis region, memories and meanings of millennia of settlement collide. Anthropocene Vernacular investigates how everyday culture has been cultivated in the midst of social, environmental, economic crises.

Industry, Indigeneity, and Empire

The St. Louis region is an irreducible landscape that carries the memories, meanings, and anxieties of millennia of settlement overlain on a metropolitan area grappling with the persistent, interconnected legacies of industry, race, and empire. Here, the Mississippi River is a hydraulic cleave through a territory that is rife with contradiction: once the meeting point of the tribes of the Osage and the Illinois, the Cahokia and the Missouri; once a boundary between empires; once a line between the free and the enslaved; still a real and conceptual divide to collective imagination and action. Along this river, which troubles the totalizing binaries of corporations and individuals, environmental devastation and renewal, rural and urban geography, distant past and uncertain present, these latent histories and liminal boundaries rise to the surface and resist any form of clean analysis, any easy narrative closure.

Anthropocene Vernacular foregrounds the ways that the rewriting of human geo-logics is not simply something out there—in the spectacularly disturbing landscapes that have come to signify our contemporary anthropocenic epoch—but, rather, is deeply interwoven right here, in the decisions, assumptions, and textures of everyday life. Artists, researchers, and community organizers will share through a series of projects the multigenerational story of how this region’s people have cultivated an embodied, everyday culture in the midst of the intense convergence of social, environmental, and economic crises. This grounded practice asks epistemological questions about how the normative academic approach to the Anthropocene has bracketed-out of its field of vision the very center of this age’s ongoing dynamics—the expression and knowledge of those communities who have experienced, and indeed survive within, these landscapes of the Anthropocene. This Field Station will focus on how the vernaculars of peoples, places, and landscapes have undergone layering and blurring in order to shape the region over time.