Entangled Stewardship: Examining Contaminated Landscapes at the American Periphery
Beyond many American City cores exist a series of land uses characterized by waste, former infrastructures, homogeneous development, and ecologically entangled spaces of the American economy and productivity. This is reflected in all forms of industry, including agricultural land uses are all rooted in the same industrial methodology that leads to homogenized land-uses. In the race for convenience and profit, these spaces are created to limit risk, increase predictability and economic expectancy. The scale of this risk aversion and flows of capital are referred to by architectural theorist Keller Easterling as “infrastructure space”. Infrastructure space is described as the buildings and processes created for the extraction of capital and strictly defined by priority of networked financed systems, governance, and territory. These efficiencies are rooted and perpetuated by the 19th century ideas of Enlightenment progressivism, which emphasize linearity and efficiency in pursuit of a singular goal. These ideological frameworks, coupled with modern capitalism lend themselves to the current epoch of the Anthropocene, marked most distinctly by the landscapes suggested above and the long distance destruction of landscapes and ecologies. However, anthropologist Anna Tsing, author of The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins, refuses to look away from these issues, or to reduce the earth’s urgency to an abstract system of causative destruction rooted in undifferentiated capitalism. Instead, she argues that precarity—in opposition to the supposed promises of Modern Progress— characterizes the lives and deaths of all earthly creatures. She offers that this precarity offers room for intervention in the unplanned, as part of a larger framework for the “arts of living on a damaged planet,” and as a necessary “skill for living in ruins.” Tsing’s thinking coupled with Donna Haraway’s notions of “speculative fabulation” for inventing in sensitive ways by re-unfolding in order to re-play with what has been sidelined in history, a whole series of possibilities that are still active today in the margins of society, to transform things and one of those things is “radical kinship” offer directions for how to intervene. To intervene in the ruins of agricultural and infrastructural landscapes suggests going beyond the strategies and methodologies of recent architectural thinking. By emphasizing kinship, assemblage relationships within contaminated diversity,“infrastructural principle”, the homogeneous and ruinistic landscapes might be alternatively re-thought.