A roaming critical reading group with Active Cultures & X-TRA

Flyer and design by Becca Lofchie and Lauryn Alejo. Courtesy of Active Cultures and Project X Foundation.

TOTAL LANDSCAPING is an interdisciplinary reading group in 2023 conceived by LA-based arts organizations Active Cultures and Project X Foundation for Art & Criticism, publisher of X-TRA Contemporary Art Journal. The group met for bi-monthly discussions held in sites that manifest the contentious spatial politics that define Los Angeles. Sites included the Franklin Canyon orange groves, the Verdugo Mountains with No Canyon Hills, a home, and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). More information about the sites and the featured readings can be found below.

Each session of TOTAL LANDSCAPING began with a series of curated texts that examine the site itself and invites the group to branch into intimate, investigative research. Cultural workers, scholars, and artists across disciplines were brought together to think through the ways each site functions as a garden and the explicit and tacit dynamics that reinforce colonial ideologies of spatial order. Central questions included novel space-making within systems that legitimize and manage occupation; limited notions of property and ownership; and the conditions of precarity they perpetuate. Through a methodology of roaming and site-specific research, the reading group aimed to nurture new grounds for an operative study of dissension, an exercise in landscaping without end.

TOTAL LANDSCAPING also lived as a special project at the 2023 Los Angeles Art Book Fair hosted by Printed Matter. As a dedicated space over the four-day weekend, the project was staged as an installation co-conceived with TerreMoto, wherein audiences participated in special programs and activities amongst orange trees and concrete slabs. This iteration was especially focused on No Canyon Hills, a community coalition working to stop the development of the Verdugo Mountains. From a live-stream of the mountains to a library of legal documents, biomatter, and artistic ephemera from their work, the space took on various identities as an archive, installation, gathering space, and place of rest. Throughout the weekend, TOTAL LANDSCAPING presented a schedule of special programs including:

  • A poetry reading by Ariana Reines
  • The Classroom: a conversation with Nora N. Khan and Emma Kemp and Haley Hopkins of No Canyon Hills
  • Publishing as an Organizing Tool: Tactics for being Ungovernable, a workshop with Kimi Haneur
  • Revisiting Charles Jenck’s Daydream Hour of Los Angeles, a talk by Aurora Tang

TOTAL LANDSCAPING was organized by Active Cultures and Project X Foundation, and was led and co-facilitated by AC Curator Anna Cho-Son and Project X Executive Director Nora N. Khan.

About the Series

This project is part of The Garden, a research-based and artist-led guide to explore, experience, and experiment with the ecological imagination and speculative transfiguration of the “garden.” More on The Garden series here!


Active Cultures’ programs in 2023 were made possible through the generous support of its Board of Directors; the Gatherers Annual Fund; California Arts Council; the Jerry & Terri Kohl Family Foundation; the Los Angeles Visual Arts (LAVA) Coalition; the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture as part of Creative Recovery LA, an initiative funded by the American Rescue Plan; and by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Department of Arts and Cultures.

Image Credits: Flyer and design by Becca Lofchie and Lauryn Alejo. Courtesy of Active Cultures and Project X Foundation.

Event Details

DATE: Spring, Summer, and Fall 2023



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