This book contains traces, reconstructed memories, multi-directional storytelling, searching, and unraveling sourced from archival maps, film photographs, drawings, engravings, and photos from my phone. These sites were inscribed and reinscribed into land by a succession of US white settler colonial infrastructures: the California Trail (established 1811–1840), the First Transcontinental Railroad (constructed 1862–1869) – which exploited Chinese bodies and labor to dispossess Indigenous peoples and lands and to suppress Black resistance and liberation – and finally, Interstate 80 (constructed 1956–1986). Their sequence was traced again in 1988 by recently arrived Chinese students, my parents in the Beautiful Country, and in 2022, by me, searching. In nearly every case of Chinese diaspora along these inscriptions, Chinatown is set on fire and burned to the ground. In nearly every case of Chinatown burned to the ground, I search for and unravel traces of us in the insurance maps they drew in case of fire.
Bz Zhang 张迪 is an artist and architect based on unceded Tongva land (so-called Los Angeles). Through drawings, paintings, photographs, texts, objects, spaces, and maps, their work uses documentation and speculation to unravel cultural constructions (ideas of people, places, and things) and their physical constructions (whether birthed or built). In doing so, they wonder aloud about representations of violence and the violence of representations by asking questions both using and about disciplinary tools of art and architecture. Bz is a licensed architect in California and holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Brown University. In their free time, they look for birds and trash in the Los Angeles River.