The phrase ‘computer rituals’ sounds like an oxymoron: How can a cold set of numbers and digital processes function in a similar vein to a tribal or religious ceremony? Yet artist Ian Valentine, who describes his work precisely as such, manages to bridge the seemingly intangible gap between the two, using animations and graphics that function as hyper-digital portals into a disparate universe.
Valentine’s world is mildly reminiscent of our reality but without any limitations in what form can be or how movement can occur, although the degree to which each is distorted varies from work to work. In one animation, an artificially white and seemingly male human body, genitals encased in a box, dances harmoniously to an instrumental version of TLC’s ’94 hit, "Waterfalls," while inside of an unrecognizable black cell. Odd on a formal level, the piece still obeys laws of gravity and is evocative enough of our own world.
In a different animation, yet another artificially colored body dances in an unfamiliar setting, but suddenly floats into the air while rhythmically moving. It begins to distort itself like a hologram, all while maintaining a stern look of stoic concentration. In a way, Valentine’s works seem to inhabit the same singular universe but follow different laws of physics or physical limitations in each iteration he creates, like the ever-varying, but limitless possibilities depicted in the world of The Matrix.
No matter how outlandish the artist’s universe seems to be, it is ultimately thoroughly grounded in reality: “Most of the figure animation comes from motion capture I perform in my apartment, generally involving some passionate, sweaty dancing done with my curtains thoroughly closed,” Valentine suavely tells The Creators Project. “I really like dancing, and it’s nice that I can make my characters go through the anxiety of showing everyone else my silly moves rather than performing them myself.”
Through a fusion of Unreal Engine, 3DS Max, After Effects, and amongst other software, the artist transports his own body into his own universe through a self-proclaimed process of computer-ritualization: “Computer ritual is the best way I can think to describe the process and output of what I’m making. I become sort of entranced by the computer; the interface acts like a medium for accessing this other world as it’s being built,” the artist adds.
“A lot of the workflow becomes ritualized, and in a way, the creative process in this space has a lot to do with exploration. You create and stir in some basic ingredients, and through a series of inexplicable processes and simulators, those ingredients summon new life. But no matter how stable the components of the workflow become and no matter how many times I perform the same rituals, seemingly new and unexpected imagery comes out the other side.”