Patrick Millard
Since 2006
Works in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania United States of America

Patrick Millard is an artist, curator and educator from the small western Michigan town of Lamont and now lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His work in photography, new media, and sound has resulted in a diversified portfolio that addresses ideas about media, digital culture, technology and the interactions that human beings have with today's social environment.

His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and continues to gain recognition. Recent exhibitions include Homo Virtualis [Porto Santo Biennial] in Porto Santo, Portugal; Tek'tanik at Art Guild New Jersey and Gallery Affero in Newark, New Jersey; Digital Landscapes at the TMG Gallery in Guarda, Portugal; Digital Fringe at the Melbourne Fringe Festival in Melbourne, Australia; Fauna Show at The Workshop Gallery in Bialystok, Poland; NanoArt21, Passion for Knowledge in San Sebastian, Spain; Origins at the Fox Art Gallery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Snap To Grid at the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art in Los Angeles, California; The Human Canvas at The Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado; Virtual Worlds at the UAVM; Virtual Humanities at the Icone Gallery in Coimbra, Portugal; SMart Festival at Open Concepts Gallery in Grand Rapids, MI; and Retro Futurism at SpaceCamp Gallery in Indianapolis, IN.

In 2008, Patrick began to show his work inside the virtual simulation world Second Life; exhibitions that advance beyond two-dimension work and expand his ideas of simulation, virtual reality, and the synthetic future where the physical object gives way to its virtual counterpart and its presence is valued entirely for its idea rather than its place in space.

This transition toward a more prominent virtual presence as an artist eventually led to the inevitable. In 2009, shortly after becoming a regular exhibitor in the virtual environment, Patrick embarked upon his first photographic series that used the environment and society of Second Life as its subject matter and conceptual theme. Virtual Lens is an artistic and anthropological investigation into the life of the avatar, landscape of the sim environment, and experience of the virtual world. Patrick continues to photograph and exhibit his portfolios as well as spend time with fellow avatars in Second Life.

2010 brought a new role for Patrick as the curator of several exhibitions. He has curated exhibitions for The VASA Project's Online Gallery and Turing Gallery in Second Life that reflect upon digital culture in the world today. Topics such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, robotics, renewable energies, gene therapy, cyber culture, and other posthuman and transhuman philosophies are the focus of these exhibitions.

During the month of June, 2010 Patrick was artist in residence at the Biosphere 2. During his time in residence he began work on photographic, sound, and digital media portfolios. These efforts have yielded a fully developed photographic portfolio of the Biosphere 2 structure and an album to be released on Innova Recordings in 2011. The unique condition of Biosphere 2 attracted Patrick to the residency. As a natural environment that was hermetically sealed and self-sustaining while simultaneously being powered by more than two acres of machinery, the B2 environment played on Patrick's continuing theme of organic and synthetic mergers.

Patrick received a Bachelor of Arts degree in photography from Grand Valley State University and a Master in Fine Arts degree for photography from the Savannah College of Art and Design.

He currently works as Assistant Professor of Photography at Point Park University in Pittsburgh and as an instructor for The Vasa Project’s online workshops.
Discussions (18) Opportunities (7) Events (5) Jobs (0)

Dealing With the Mysterious Sensation of Bodily Reconfiguration

Dealing With the Mysterious Sensation of Bodily Reconfiguration

Altering the body to withstand environmental conditions, aging, or bodily shortcomings is an understandable step to make. While these changes to the body are indeed a positive step towards an evolutionary improvement, they come with a certain uncanny sensation.

When we think of putting computer chips, GPS locators, or prosthetic organs and body parts into our bodies, we react squeamishly. This is similar to the unsettling feeling when watching open heart or brain surgery; we’re simply not adjusted to closely viewing what the inside of our bodies look like. We also get this feeling from the introduction of foreign materials into the body. Finding it a bit unnerving to be headed into an appointment for the purpose of embedding a device would be a valid response to have, as it is a change from the constant that we have been historically programmed to find comfortable.

The uncanny valley, developed by Masahiro Mori (fig. 7), depicts the moment at which these unnerving feelings and awkward sensations occur. We can make note that the less familiarity we have with the object, the more uncanny it will be to us. Interestingly enough, the graph here shows that we are more familiar with the industrial and humanoid robot than the corpse or zombie figure already, despite having been aware of death and the idea of life after death for centuries. The uncanny valley seems to reach its peak not when we are introduced to the purely mechanic form of moving automata such as the robot or computer-based artificial intelligence, but rather when the technological alteration comes directly in contact with the human body itself. Thus we see the prosthetic hand in the same vicinity as a corpse or a zombie.

As familiarity goes up on such implants and modes of living in the post-human world, this notion of the uncanny and the squeamish reaction that comes from such subject matter then will dissipate into everyday acceptance. It will no longer seem out of place to see individuals walking down the street with telecommunications accessible directly from the limbs. Enhanced muscular ability for athletes to compete at levels steroids could never reach, or Blue Tooth connections being transmitted wirelessly from our very clothing in order to start a car or even communicate with others without using speech.

These possibilities are already in the research and development stages. Researchers in California have developed an artificial muscle that has the ability to heal itself as well as produce electricity. This new muscular technology was recently written about in Discovery News:

The research, parts of which are already being used in Japan to generate electricity from ocean waves, could be used to make walking robots, develop better prosthetics, or even charge your iPod.

“We’ve made an artificial muscle that, when you apply electricity to it, it expands” more than 200 percent, said Qibing Pei, a scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles and study author. “The motion and energy is a lot like human muscles.”

Artificial muscles have been around for years but have essentially hamstrung themselves. Some artificial muscles get so big they tear, developing uneven film thickness and random particles that cause muscle failure.

The researchers used flexible, ever-more ubiquitous carbon nanotubes as electrodes instead of other films, often metal-based, that fail after repeated use.

If an area of the carbon nanotube fails, the region around it seals itself by becoming non-conductive and prevents the fault from spreading to other areas.

“During long-term tests with the new device the actual material experiences a number of events but still worked,” said Pei.

By “events” Pei actually means they stabbed the artificial muscle with pins. Any other artificial muscle would have failed, but their model kept operating.

The self-healing muscle is also energy efficient.

“It conserves about 70 percent of the energy you put into it,” said Pei.

As the material contracts after an expansion the rearranging of the carbon nanotubes generates a small electric current that can be captured and used to power another expansion or stored in a battery.

Scientists in Japan charge batteries from ocean waves using the same idea. Other scientists have speculated that the artificial muscle could be used to capture wind energy.

“The way he’s put these carbon nanotubes together is really quite innovative,” said Kwang Kim, a material scientist at the University of Reno who was not involved in the research. “Some people want to use this to charge their batteries.”

The research appeared in the January issue of Advanced Materials.

Artists are also working with technology in ways that help predict how these changes will occur. The possibilities for globalized communication, closely knit society, and the breaking down of personal barriers may be the result of wearable media.

Steve Mann is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Toronto and has been wearing a computer since the 1970s (fig. 8). Mann’s use of wearables has enabled him to expand his communications, customize his vision for personal use, and develop more interpersonal relationships with media sharing communities. Because Mann has been living with external media attached to his body for so long, and through the continual upgrades he has seen made possible since the 80s, he has been described by many as the world’s first cyborg. In 1998 Mann said of his wearables:

Wearable computing facilitates a new form of human-computer interaction comprising of a small body-worn computer (e.g. user-programmable device) that is always on and always ready and accessible. In this regard, the new computational framework differs from that of handheld devices, laptop computers, and personal digital assistants (PDAs). The ‘always ready’ capability leads to a new form of synergy between human and computer, characterized by long-term adaptation through constancy of user-interface.

One of the new equipment concepts that Mann uses in his interface is the vitrionic contact lens. This technology takes in the field of vision and light through an eyepiece and interprets it via a processor before it is re-projected from the glasses onto the lens of the eye. Light is processed to Mann’s specifications and then resynthesized it as virtual light to be seen by his eye. One key element to the vitrionic lenses is that they provide a depth of field like that of a camera. This allows for the eye to forego focusing in on one specific object in the field of vision. It also allows for someone who wears prescription glasses to be able to wear the vitrionic glasses instead and see just as well.

With the depth of field set so that all information is in focus, the viewer can now add information into their field of vision at the same depth as subject matter in the scene. Options of what information is projected into your vision at this point are limitless. Mann, like ASIMO, also uses a wearable face recognizer, which inserts a virtual name tag, and a video orbit tracker, which allows him to add layers on top of objects in the field of vision or to delete them completely. Mann finds the orbit tracker particularly useful:

…with billboards and other visual detritus that invades our personal space. I refer to this as “real world spam” and it can be deleted from your vision field if you need to make room for other material. If you are driving to your friends house you might see messages on these billboards that become directions on how to get there - customized messages, that only you see.

Or we can have customized messages that a small community sees - shared messages. Like leaving a message for my wife on the front of a shop, saying “I was here, check out this special.” So that message can replace spam.

Mann calls these tactics packet filters, filters that are defined in the user interface and that can be modified by the wearer to fit his or her specific needs and desires.

These images may also be shared with other people via the Internet. For instance, a person at the store picking out a birthday card for his father in-law and unsure of which to choose would be able to share his field of vision via computer with his wife at home. She would then be able to draw a circle around her choice, and this would appear in the man’s vitrionic lenses. The ability to share one’s vision with anyone extends the possibilities for interaction. When asked if this is a form of collective consciousness Mann replied:

Well, from time to time I’ve recognized people I’ve never met before, because somebody on my Web site looking out through my eye sends me a message saying, “Please say hello to this person standing in front of you, who is an old high school buddy of mine.” So this touches on the whole notion of a collective consciousness.

Figure 7: A diagram showing the region coined by Masahiro Mori as the uncanny valley.

Figure 8: Steve Mann has been experimenting for decades with wearables and making them more comfortable for everyday use.

*excerpt from Formatting Gaia: A Comprehensive Outline of the Photographic Work


The Origins of Embodiment Visible in Recent History

The Origins of Embodiment Visible in Recent History

With every tool man is perfecting his own organs, whether motor or sensor, or is removing the limits to their functioning…Man has, as it were, become a kind of prosthetic God. When he puts on all his auxiliary organs, he is truly magnificent; but these organs have not grown on to him, and they still give him trouble at times…Future ages will bring with them new and probably unimaginable great advances in this field of civilization and will increase man’s likeness to God still more. But in the interests of our investigations, we will not forget that present-day man does not feel happy in his Godlike character.
—Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontent

For quite some time now, humans have been surrounded by a new trend that has proven to be the emergence of a new form of species. This embrace of technology and the need for embodiment is not a temporary fetish, but rather has become a strange sort of necessity for survival. By examining the culture surrounding humans, it is shocking to acknowledge the amount of technological embodiment in use today: prosthetic limbs, cochlear implants, pacemakers, contact lenses, Lasik eye surgery, gastric lap bands, Blue Tooth technologies, and mobile locative media are just a few of the integrated materials we’ve welcomed.

Many of these technologies have been embraced without the slightest resistance because of their natural branching off from previous technologies, while some engendered more negative initial responses. Cochlear implants, for instance, are still an arguable topic for many of the deaf community who believe that deafness should not be viewed as a disability, thus not treated as one. For many parents with deaf children who want to give their child the right to choose whether to have or not to have the implant later in life, it then becomes problematic for the child to learn spoken language, since young children have an aptitude for learning lingual skills in early development. Waiting for a deaf child to be of proper age to make his or her own decision eliminates years of opportune language learning.

Other technological advancements in the medical field were also seen as a threat to human beings. When vaccinations for children were first introduced, they were widely met with aversion. Now, aside from a small percentage of parents who refuse vaccination due to religious or other personal reasons, it is not only the norm for vaccinations to be given, but also a requirement for a child to be enrolled in a public school system.

While these changes to the biology of the organic body will at first seem intrusive and give a sense of the uncanny, they will soon be admitted as part of a system of normalcy and accepted behaviors. This not only occurs because of the initial steps in accepting technology, but moreso because the benefits that will be granted to the human body via these upgrades will be so monumental that they may seem irresistible. We would certainly not avoid advances in our senses such as an expanded field of vision (including the possibility to perceive ultraviolet and infrared light), a higher aptitude for hearing sounds that now lie outside of our frequency apprehension, an electronic sense of taste that could allow for us to know when a food is spoiled or harmful to our bodies, or an expanded sense of touch that heightens our notion of materials observed and our experiences of intimacy.

Again, when examining culture today, acceptance of the tech-body is emerging. For instance, on a return trip from Denver, CO in March of 2008, I sat next to a man who had in his ear a cellular Blue Tooth adaptor, allowing him to have cellular conversations without the bother of holding onto a phone (fig. 6). The man was not only conversing with the person on the other end with his Blue Tooth implant, but was also surfing the web from his handheld receiver. Not only are we becoming comfortable with machines that are applied inside our body (the man’s ear in this case), our field of comprehension is expanding farther and farther to hold simultaneous interactions with separate communication devices (the phone call and internet, in this instance).

Human beings never seem to limit themselves in expanding their experience of the world they live in, especially when it comes in the form of perceived betterment. In the future, humans will continue down this path of synthesis between the organic and inorganic in order to advance their place in the world. As evolution has shown, a more powerful, mindful, and healthful form of life will overshadow the lesser-qualified of the species. Through the application of prostheses, mind and memory upgrades, and bodily health programs, the homo-sapien will become something else, something that I like to call the techno-sapien.

Figure 6: Plane passenger immersed with Blue Tooth technologies.

*excerpt from Formatting Gaia: A Comprehensive Outline of the Photographic Work


Configuring Hegemony Into the Post-Human Culture of Tomorrow

Yeah, weren't we talking about control? Go to a high school in rural America. Who are the Army recruiters hustling first? The football team. -Vijay Pattisapu

Indeed we were talking about control, from a certain angle. Primarily I was just highlighting that the Army is openly using video games to train. They are distributing the games [ie: America's Army] to be used as training mechanisms.

I think your point about violence being present in other forms of play [ie: football, hockey, wrestling] is completely valid. Human nature perhaps compels us to fight, compete, argue, challenge, etc. but those actions are delivered with an intention of brotherhood that ends in a respect for one another in the competition [as so many competitors give voice to] opposed to death and carnage. So I believe there must be an acknowledgment made that these two similar, yet very different, acts of human nature can not be compared so closely due to their different reasons for initiation and their culmination. Wars end in death, games end in a hand shake.

-Patrick Millard


Configuring Hegemony Into the Post-Human Culture of Tomorrow

I don't think that leaving out the nature of violence in humans was my point. The fact that they are using technology / video games to target young people does lead one to believe that they are using the games played as a tool for developing violent nature and honing soldier dexterity.

The last thing I was trying to allude to was that video games are a detriment to younger generations. We should all know the ins and outs of this cyclical argument and for that reason feel comfortable steering our conversation away from it. Unless, that is, someone feels strongly about the matter and a need to voice their thoughts on it.

My intention, rather, was to bring to the table a notion of control [through monetary influence or technological triumph] that needs to be made intolerable as we progress into the 21st century. Though there have been many wonderful accomplishments, making killers [weather human or robotic] is not one of DARPA's finer ones.

-Patrick Millard


Configuring Hegemony Into the Post-Human Culture of Tomorrow


There is a lot in your response to my post that I agree with and see as an important aspect of these technologies. I feel your perturbation is simply one of a semantic nature. The main concern being my use of the word cyborg. I use the term to a less segregating degree than you do so that it does not exclude the human from its definition:

cyborg: a fictional or hypothetical person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements built into the body.

I take the definition to include modifications that we already use (the transitions to our biological make-up which you too have alluded to) such as contact lenses, pace makers, or neural implants (already being used in the case of certain patience with Parkinson's disease).

That stated, it is my hope that, weather we want to dictate the changes going on to the human body as those of a cyborg, transhuman, or posthuman sort, the same acknowledgment is being made of the enormous impact being had on our evolutionary course.

Your notion that putting to rest hegemony is possible sounds brilliant. As for a practical solution to the reality of these old-world notions I, and I trust most of us here, would be fervently listening. It's not that people are saying only a select few should have access to the best things in the world, rather that it's just a human condition - the way things really are. There are the haves and the have-nots. It is my hope that through a broad use of technological change that these gaps could decrease in time as well.

-Patrick Millard