Images courtesy the artist
Somewhere amid Phoenix's desert topography, visual artist Kenaim Alshatti is producing mesmerizing, molten lava-esque GIFs dubbed "motion fantasies." Calling himself as a "visual solutionist," the artist attempts to explore emotions through media synthesis and does so through the array of looping artworks he posts daily on Tumblr.
"I create works for myself and channel that research into a lot of different funded and unfunded areas," he writes on his website. "I devise live visuals, music videos, artwork, and more for all genres of artists and institutions."
Whether Kenaim's lo-fi approach elicits emotions is for viewers to decide, but on a basic level his works conjure a sense of hallucinatory, synaesthetic splendor with the potential to overwhelm the senses. With sound, as Kenaim adds for his longer works, this sensory distortion is multiplied. His live music visuals also afford him the opportunity to add a sense of touch to the equation, wherein sonic vibrations add to the synaesthetic vibe.
Though Kenaim explores long-form, multicolored visual hypnosis in his music video for Adventureface's “Hellview” and other works, the constant flow of animated GIFs might just be his true wonders. Colors bleed, fold, then double back on themselves within the enclosure of the looping file format. There seems to be stock footage and perhaps layers of video at the heart of the works, but viewers would be hard-pressed to identify the source material. If anything, it looks like it was once found VHS footage and lo-fi animation.
Kenaim doesn't title his GIFs, so it's a bit hard to talk about individual pieces unless one refers to dates. On January 10th, he posted two GIFs (seen below) that feature hyper-colored visual textures moving in vibrant and hypnotic ways. The pixels' motion looks almost like the ebb and flow of fluid, which makes for seriously psychedelic viewing. Some pieces are more geometric, incorporating jagged movements, while others feature far more defined shapes and subjects including faces, bodies, hands, and animated landscapes.
As Kenaim told The Creators Project, he's been making digital art for over a dozen years, but only started working with motion in 2011. The GIF work began two years ago when he began losing interesting in things that didn't move. To make his current GIFs, which he describes as a “temperamental footage stew of motion and design,” Kenaim uses 3D rendering softwares such as Cinema 4D and Unite, Creative Cloud applications, and visual tools like ISF (Interactive Shader Format), Quartz, VMX, Touch Designer and Resolume. These tools are used to manipulate Kenaim's practically-shot clips, as well as the YouTube videos, VHS tapes, and other visual sources he unearths.
“I use that footage like a palette of textures and go to work creating a closed loop of a video sketch, then refine it into a motion painting—lots of masking,” he said. “Each frame is half digital oil painting, half animation cell. The color part is easy, I just have Interaction of Color by Josef Albers seared into my brain tissue.”
Apart from Albers, Kenaim also finds visual and conceptual inspiration in a diverse assortment of artists, genres and landscapes that include Alejandro Jodorowski, rap music, Frank Herbert's God Emperor of Dune, the Duncan Trussell Family Hour podcast, the desert, and experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage. Kenaim is also a big fan of the fantastically surreal and often humorous ink illustrations found in psychedelic pioneer and spiritual guru Ram Dass's book, Be Here Now. The artist is also motivated by what he sees as manufactured divisions between people, and acts of rebellion.
What is almost as amazing as the GIFs themselves is the velocity at which he churns them out. By the estimation of his “productive software,” Kenaim puts 80 hours of work per week into his body of digital art, which includes GIFs, videos, and other projects. In 2014 alone he created about 33,200 overall GIF frames, which means he was creating GIFs at a rate of six per day—but Kenaim doesn't think he's doing enough creative work.
Recent Tumblr posts reveal that Kenaim is currently transposing his hypnotic, looping GIF style into longer audiovisual pieces for his musical side project, Kuwait. In video posted on Instagram, Kenaim shows similar motion visuals moving entrancingly on his old school Panasonic VHS monitor, which is fitting for his lo-fi video art aesthetic. Now, if he could put dozens of monitors in a gallery or other space, and loop a bunch of GIFs, videos, and sound, then he could take his work out of the digital world's two dimensions and into the physical realm.