Eric Millikin's Portfolio

Conceptual activist new media 
& site-specific guerrilla installations

Seance Affliction: Self-Portrait while Possessed by the Ghosts of Sylvia Plath and Mike Kelley

One in a series of interactive video projections of “self-portraits while possessed by ghosts,” used as a metaphor for how our long-dead predecessors still have control over us (through laws, societal norms, cultural influence, etc.). The occult themes are inspired by my ancestors who were executed during the Salem Witch Trials. This portrait was created for the combined birthdays of poet Sylvia Plath (Oct. 27, 1932 – Feb. 11, 1963) and artist Mike Kelley (Oct. 27, 1954 – c. Jan. 31, 2012). Both Plath and Kelley were killed by depression and suicide.  The portrait depicts roughly half myself, half Sylvia Plath, in a stuffed animal style inspired by Mike Kelley.

Others in this series have included "Self-Portrait While Possessed by the Ghosts of Alexander Hamilton and Eva Hesse,” "Self-Portrait while Possessed by the Ghosts of Biggie Smalls and Mary Cassatt," and "Self-Portrait While Possessed by the Ghosts of El Santo and Louise Nevelson."

Medium: Artificial intelligence, interactive video projection
Dimensions: Variable. 
Year: 2017


Seance Affliction: Self-Portrait while Possessed by the Ghosts of Charlotte Brontë and Greer Lankton

One in a series of “self-portraits while possessed by ghosts.” This portrait was created for the combined anniversary of the birth of English novelist and poet Charlotte Brontë (April 21, 1816 – March 31, 1855) and Flint, Mich. native and transgender doll-making installation artist Greer Lankton (April 21, 1958 – Nov. 18, 1996).

In augmented reality, the portrait speaks from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre:

“Do you think I am an automaton? — a machine without feelings? … Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! — I have as much soul as you … it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave …”  ― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Medium: Artificial intelligence, archival inkjet on cotton paper, text to speech, digital animation, augmented reality
Dimensions: Variable.  
Year: 2018


Seance Affliction: Self-Portrait while Possessed by the Ghosts of Tammy Faye Bakker and Piet Mondrian

One in a series of “self-portraits while possessed by ghosts.” This portrait was created for the anniversary of the births of American televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker (March 7, 1942 – July 20, 2007) and Dutch artist Piet Mondrian (March 7, 1872 – Feb. 1, 1944).

This is one of my first experiments in embedding a QR code inside a portrait, so that when someone goes to photograph the portrait with a smartphone, they may be redirected to a web site.

Medium: Artificial intelligence, archival inkjet on cotton paper, QR code reader
Dimensions: Variable.  
Year: 2018


Street Portraits

Interactive video projection of Black Americans who have died at the hands of our police, each drawn on a Google map through the streets of their city, almost a memorial parade route, that cuts through key places in their life, death, and aftermath. The installation uses motion detection to react to the audience, so images change based on how they are viewed, or move to create distance from the viewer, or follow viewers when they walk away. The portraits in this video are of Philando Castile, Samuel DuBose, and Eric Garner.

Medium: Google maps, digital drawing, interactive video projection
Dimensions: Variable. 
Year: 2017


Liquid Lead

Liquid light shows created from lead-contaminated water from the city of Flint, Michigan, converted to three-channel video projection, projected through rotating 3D-printed optical illusion sculpture of faces and water vessels.

The visual loops every 6.6 years, which is my calculation of the minimum average loss of expected life for a child conceived during the first 17 months of the Flint Water crisis, based on data from the Michigan Department of Community Health, Vital Records and Health Statistics Division. 

The 6.6 year loop is created by overlapping three looping videos that are 475 seconds long (475 is the highway that runs through Flint), 313 seconds (313 is the area code of Detroit, who previously provided Flint with clean water), and 82 seconds (82 is the atomic number of lead) along with the sculpture that rotates every 17 seconds (17 is the number of months from when the water was first contaminated until officials stopped denying what they'd done). The combined visual repeats every 6.6 years.

Medium: Three channel video projection of liquid light shows created from lead-contaminated Flint water, 3D printed sculpture, turntable
Duration: Loops every 6.6 years
Dimensions: Variable. 
Year: 2018


Gerrymonster: Michigan's 76th House District

Part of a series of site-specific installations of images of mutant techno-biological organisms, created based on the shapes of gerrymandered voting districts, covertly placed within those districts, near their polling places. Here, one is installed at the white line marking 100 feet — the legal barrier for displaying election materials near a polling place — just over the line.

Gerrymandering is the process of politicians redrawing the borders of voting districts into unusual shapes, in order to weaken the voting power of opposing classes of voters.

This series is my contemporary take on the original “gerrymander,” an 1812 editorial cartoon depicting an unusually-shaped state senate district that was redrawn to favor the interests of Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry, with the district resembling the shape of a mythological salamander.

Medium: Artificial intelligence, voting district map, inkjet on photo paper, found polling place distance marker
Dimensions: 11” x 8.5”
Year: 2018


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Repeal and Replace: To Complete the Masterpiece

One in a currently ongoing series of computer-assisted prose poems created as possible alternatives to the current Second Amendment. Each is created by cutting apart and reassembling three contemporaneous writings: The pioneering Gothic novel The Romance of the Forest (1791) by Ann Radcliffe, Justine, or The Misfortunes of Virtue (1791) by the Marquis de Sade, and the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (also 1791). 

Each poem is created by a program I’ve developed that starts with the text of the Second Amendment, then loops through the other two texts searching for the same words as a point to switch to a new text, and then it keeps looping through, searching and switching text sources until it can finally loop all the way back to the start of the Second Amendment again.

I am collecting the series into an artist’s book to be reverse-shoplifted onto the shelves of bookstores, as I have done with previous somewhat similar projects. 

Medium: Computer-assisted poetry, printing ink on paper
Dimensions: Variable.
Year: 2018


Danger Beasts

One in a series of interactive video projection mapped sculptures, using imagery of endangered animals (here, a polar bear and Sumatran tiger) created based on endangered Venus flytraps that I've cross-bred and cloned in my tissue culture lab.

Medium: Interactive video projection mapping on wooden box
Dimensions: Variable.
Year: 2018


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Witches’ Twisted Kisses

One of my mutant Venus flytraps from inside my artistic carnivorous plant cross-breeding and tissue culture cloning laboratory. This is a genetically unique, seed-grown, designer Venus flytrap. I consider these plants to be works of art in themselves as well as potential building block for other artworks.

This one sort of puckers up in such a way that the traps twist and fold backwards on themselves. After a certain point the trap has folded in on itself so far that it can no longer close, turning the plant into a sort of non-carnivorous, pacifist Venus flytrap.

Medium: Tissue culture grown Venus flytrap
Dimensions: A colony approximately 6” x 6” x 9” and growing
Year: 2018