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Erin Eleniak

Erin Eleniak is an interdisciplinary artist who explores our relationships to environments by considering the objects and materials left behind. The squishy boundaries between natural and. cultural spaces provide ample room to ask questions related to land use, materiality, and myth-making.

Born and raised in the suburbs outside Los Angeles, her aesthetic sensibilities are influenced by her experiences traipsing the developing landscape, exploring what she saw as magical spaces between model homes and hidden wilderness. In 2018 and 2020, Eleniak completed her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees at California State University, Northridge. She is currently a Master of Fine Arts candidate at University of Southern California’s Roski School of Art and Design.

Erin Eleniak

Excavation Landscape, 2020
Installation with photographs and video
Three color photographs: one 80 x 26 inches and two 55 x 44 inches
Video, 14:09, on laptop on wooden table, 47 x 29 x 29 inches


Excavation Landscape

Detail shots

Excavation Landscape takes the phenomenon of “free dirt” ads on Craigslist as its subject matter, and three appropriated images and a laptop as its form. The laptop loops a screen recording documenting the artist’s process: obsessive sifting, data collection, and the appropriation of images and text from these “free dirt” ads. Three images, taken from the ads, have been enlarged and printed far beyond their low resolution capacity.

Accompanying the video, an audio recording of Eleniak reading the collected ad text points to posters’ recurrent language describing the “purity” or “cleanliness” of the dirt; descriptors that parallel the Western ideal of the “pristine landscape.” The three photographs emphasize the particular fiction that undergirds
pixelation, or the incomplete visual information in the photograph, not often visible in digital contexts, but exposed by large-scale print reproduction. The ephemeral nature of the virtual advertisements and the projects they often allude to––slapdash suburban construction, demolition/excavation, landscaping––belie a multitude of histories contained within the mounds of excess dirt. Excavation Landscape considers not only our relationship with these so-called excesses in a time of environmental crisis, but how we might
unintentionally fill “gaps” in digital information with our own received knowledge. In future iterations of this project, Eleniak will explore ways to fill the “information gaps”––decolonizing the histories––of the dirt itself. – Austen Villacis


Austen Villacis is an arts worker based in Chicago, IL. Since graduating with a BA in Art History from Texas State University, he has held internships at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago Photo Archives and the National Archives and Records Administration at Chicago. Most recently, he completed a digitization project at the Newberry Library. His interests range from war memorials, to critical archival practices and contemporary art criticism.

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