Incendiary Traces is a conceptually driven, community generated art project conceived by artist Hillary Mushkin. Incendiary Traces is holding a series of site-specific draw-ins taking place across Southern California, as well as collecting related historical and contemporary materials. Artbound is following the draw-ins and publishing related materials as the project develops.
We met on a dirt path on the bank of a rocky foothill overlooking a small rural town. At least the path appeared to be dirt; it was light brown, but there was no way to kick it to see if dust would rise. Modeled on Southern Afghanistan, the small cluster of buildings in front of us included an open-air market, a mosque, small charcoal colored buildings with few windows and low walls of the same material. At the periphery, a creek ran near fields of corn and red poppies. We saw only a few Afghani people there; we chatted briefly with them in English. We were a group of artists, curators, art historians, and students, and for the time being, virtual U.S. military ground troops. This Afghani village existed on a local area network (LAN) of computers in an office park in Silicon Beach. Though seemingly unrelated, our artistic goals were in some ways aligned with the troops who train in this virtual place. We had come to draw, intent on exploring this computer-generated space and sketching what we saw. But we also aimed to gain situational awareness of the environment through careful observation and critical assessment of the landscape. Our purpose was to gain a better understanding of what it might be like to inhabit a real war zone in Afghanistan, thus making this seemingly remote conflict a bit more comprehensible to us.