Incendiary Traces is a conceptually driven, collectively generated art and research project that explores the political facets of representing landscape. Since 2012, Incendiary Traces has hosted a series of drawing events at different militarized locations, starting in Southern California and expanding beyond. Through these on-site "draw-in" events, research and public scholarship, the project investigates the ways in which military representations of conflict zones in simulations, surveillance and satellite imaging fall short of physical experience on the ground. The project has included on-site drawing at the US Mexico border in San Diego between the border fences; the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps base desert training simulation cities; the C4i4 police surveillance hub in Mexico City (now C5); the EU Border Protection Agency headquarters in Warsaw; and the Greek Coast Guard in Athens; among many others. Since its beginning, Incendiary Traces has chronicled the project, related images, and research through various publications, including Los Angeles’ KCET TV program Artbound, Places Journal, and Mexico City's Registromx.
Landscapes - the spaces we live in - are framed pictorially. These images produce compelling narratives and wield political power. Artists, explorers, speculators, even military strategists have used landscape imagery to voice and define our relationship to national identity, security and war. Incendiary Traces aims to demonstrate -- counter to the mediated experience of war -- that battlespace is both dispersed and local, immaterial and physical, and that the public inhabits and witnesses international conflict in our own backyards.
Through a blend of experimental art, research and media, Incendiary Traces provides a fresh view of national security, identity, and territorial delineation as physical, grounded American public experience. The project uses our real and symbolic affiliations with landscape to help the public to connect first-hand to foreign conflict.
The project was conceived by Hillary Mushkin in 2011. For more information or to get involved, email us at incendiarytraces at gmail.com.
May 1, 2012 . Hillary Mushkin
This inaugural essay was originally published in 2012. It outlines how Hillary Mushkin first conceived of the project after watching CNN footage of the 1991 US bombing of Baghdad, which led to a series of watercolors blurring the distinction between the Middle Eastern city and Mushkin's hometown, Los Angeles. Incendiary Traces was initially created to continue this exploration of the political act of representing the Southern California landscape through a series of drawing events in militarized locations across the region.