*This title is on pre-sale.
6.75" x 9.5" | 236 pages
Photography by Tom Wayne Bertolotti
Los Angeles is known for many things: its traffic jams, its taco trucks, the palm trees, the sunshine. Electric Moons: A Social History of Street Lighting in Los Angeles explores one of its most overlooked design legacies––its streetlights.
Today, we may not give streetlights much thought; after all, they’re virtually everywhere. But Los Angeles was once known for its breadth of innovative designs: products of an active civic imagination and a well-timed real estate scramble. Much more than devices to illuminate the roads, streetlights helped instill senses of pride and place within a rapidly expanding metropolis, bringing the heavens to human scale. Timeless and modern, venerated and mundane, streetlights connected parochial interests to universal beliefs. They were public art before we had a name for it.
In Electric Moons, India Mandelkern examines the art and politics of street lighting in Los Angeles from the 1880s to the present day. Flitting between social history, cultural anthropology, urban studies, and the history of design, she illustrates how street lighting helped frame larger debates about civics and surveillance, infrastructure and traffic, the definition of public space and who should have access to it. Through her own conversations with the politicians, planners, preservationists, artists, and dreamers who have given them meaning, Mandelkern argues for the streetlight’s vitality to urban life: a totem for the modern era.
India Mandelkern was born in Los Angeles, California, and is a graduate of Middlebury College. She received a Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Berkeley. Since then, she has worked as a curator, consultant, and critic, and has written on art, culture, design, and the social connections they sustain for a variety of publications, including Vice, Curbed, Los Angeles Magazine, Roads & Kingdoms, Wine & Spirits, Eater, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. From 2016-2018 she served as a fellow at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where she studied the intersections among placemaking and public art. There, she created Chris Burden's Urban Light: A Field Guide (2018), an alternative historical take on one of LA's most iconic landmarks. She currently works at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority (LACMTA) and lives in Los Angeles.