Domesticating the Anthropocene

August 20th, 2019

The art initiative Laboratory for a Radical Suburbia explores human connections to both land and to the environmental impacts of capitalist cycles of extraction, production, and consumption on that land.

Laboratory for a Radical Suburbia

In the past five years, America’s suburbanized landscape has emerged as a site of urgent contestation—arguably the defining geography of the national political moment. However, while the fields of art and design have largely failed to engage this critical space, Laboratory for Suburbia is a yearlong project inviting artists, designers, and others to respond to legacies of suburbanization—and to do so in St. Louis. Presenting a potent paradigm for suburbanization in the twenty-first century—just as Los Angeles did in the twentieth—St. Louis is an illustration of a region where sprawl continues apace not because of explosive population growth but despite the lack of it, in the face of economic precariousness, population stagnation, and racial anxiety. The project is an initiative organized by the Luminary art space located in St. Louis.


“Domesticating the Anthropocene”—the first public component of Laboratory for Suburbia—consists of two bus tours investigating suburbia as a characteristic spatial form of the Anthropocene in the global North. Suburbia is not only resource-intensive to build and maintain, but both its physical form and the ways of life that operate in it can often negate human connections to the land and obscure the environmental impacts of capitalist extraction, production, and consumption. Considering the extensive legacy of nuclear contamination that affects suburban watersheds in St. Louis, bearing in mind also the accelerating cycle of century storms and floods in the Midwest, the route the tour takes will stitch together both the region’s vast suburban landscape and its great rivers.