Member
Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Discover all the ways you can make a difference.
Support Icon
The Leadership, Advancement, Membership and Special Events teams are here to help.

Welcome to Incendiary Traces

Support Provided By

Learn about how artists have been inspired by the California landscape from the 19th century until today on "Artbound" S9 E6: No Trespassing - A Survey of Art & the Environment in California. Watch the trailer now.

Hillary Mushkin.

Landscapes--the spaces we live in--are framed pictorially. Landscape images produce compelling myths and wield political power. In international relations they can highlight or fabricate virtues and erase the appearance of violence. In this way, are landscape images a kind of psy-ops--a weapon? Can picturing landscapes also be a political intervention?

Hillary Mushkin.

Traditional landscape paintings usually depict few, or no, people. In 1991, CNN broadcast blurry green night scope footage of the U.S. bombing of Baghdad that married the aesthetics of traditional landscape painting with the theater of contemporary remote war. The glowing lights of anti-aircraft fire in the night sky dominate the frame. Below, the city is dark, its inhabitants imperceptible. Landscape aesthetics are a kind of psychological weapon here, applied to blur and soften violence.

Hillary Mushkin.

In the months leading up to the 2003 U.S. "Shock and Awe" bombing of Baghdad, I scrutinized CNN's 1991 landscapes in anticipation of seeing a new version with the impending attack. Looking at the dark city, I noticed for the first time palm trees and low-lying stucco buildings that looked unsettlingly like my neighborhood in Los Angeles. It seemed that this landscape is that landscape. This home is that home. This could be here.

Hillary Mushkin.

So, could our otherwise celebrated palm tree-dotted landscape be reverse engineered to bring home connections between Los Angeles and countries with whom we have political conflict? This project seeks to use the act of (re)picturing as a tool for connecting to remote sites of conflict; to bring the there here.

Hillary Mushkin.

The images shown here, the first phase in the Incendiary Traces project, are my initial response to this question. Starting from the 1991 footage of Baghdad, I used two pictorial strategies to make connections. First, with my own camera I tried to reproduce the scene shown in the CNN footage. I drove around my Los Angeles neighborhood seeking shots of low-lying stucco buildings, palm trees, and bushy built horizons in the same composition as the video stills. Though close, my photos of Baghdad in L.A. are less than perfect. So I traced CNN's images of Baghdad and my L.A. images. Tracing, my hand covers the territory of both places, bringing them home through this intimate process. These tracings are shown here.

Hillary Mushkin.

Since this project began in 2011 for the LA Forum for Architecture and Urban Design online gallery, Incendiary Traces has evolved to include multiple manifestations, influences and partners. It includes a developing series of events and archive of images investigating the reverse engineering possibilities of the palm tree-dotted landscape. Last December, a draw-in held in El Segundo by the LA Air Force Base and Northrop Grumman was the pilot event for an upcoming series of draw-ins. In early March of 2012, Incendiary Traces held a panel event at the Velaslavasay Panorama entitled Landscape is a Weapon.

Hillary Mushkin.

Over the next several months, I will be tracking the development of the project here. Features will include guest contributors, new imagery, and references to historical and contemporary variations on how the palm-dotted landscape is represented for political and cultural purposes. I am currently seeking contributions to the archive and discussion. If you are professionally and/or personally engaged in investigating these questions I would like to hear from you. More information can be found and you can follow the project on Facebook.

A version of this article was first published on the LA Forum for Architecture and Urban Design website in early 2011.

Follow Incendiary Traces on Facebook.

Dig this story? Sign up for our newsletter to get unique arts & culture stories and videos from across Southern California in your inbox. Also, follow Artbound on Facebook and Twitter.

Support Provided By
Read More
A man in a suit with his hands behind his back looks on to a digital art piece on a large LED screen mounted on a black gallery wall. The digital art piece features a large red dot resembling a setting sun with floating white "icebergs" on a black water surface.

2022 L.A. Art Show Looks to the Future with NFTs and the Environment

Questions around the rise of NFT-backed art and the looming threat of climate change are big themes that permeate the 2022 L.A. Art Show which runs from Jan. 19 to Jan. 23.
Four members of Weapons of Mass Creation pose for a photo, lit in golden hues by a setting sun. The member on the far left is Enrique. He is wearing a navy blue cap with a skull on it. He is dark-skinned and has a beard. To Enrique's right is Josh who is wearing a woven brown and cream bucket hat over his dreads. He is also dark-skinned and has a beard. To Josh's right is Julia who has long black hair and is wearing a crushed velvet orange zip up hoodie. She is looking directly at the camera. To Julia's right is Moses who is wearing a black jacket and rose-colored sunglasses. His hand is up to his brow, shading his eyes from the sun.

How Anaheim-Born Hip Hop Group Weapons of Mass Creation Started the Revolution at Home

Born and raised in Anaheim, WOMC is a form of resistance among the mass-produced world of music. Their collective talent oozes originality and intent; their lyrics amplify the Anaheim communities they grew up in and tell stories of police brutality, generational trauma and misogyny.
A colorful topographic geography map of the Amargosa Chaos.

Two Death Valley Geologists Mapped Chaos. What Their Work Taught Us About Life.

Late geologists Bennie Troxel and Lauren Wright's signature accomplishment was their mapping of the Amargosa Chaos in 1984. But perhaps what will resonate the most is the mentorship they've given to young geologists and how their imprint will carry on generations after.