Cover photo Conversations: Matto and Malleability

Metta by Matto will be live for minting starting on April 30, 2024 at 1pm EDT. This is the first in a series of conversations with artists releasing their work on You can visit and explore Metta now.

Metta #0

Phil Smith: As I’ve gotten to know you, I’ve been struck by the breadth of your creative pursuits. I know you studied film and animation in your MFA program at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). Can you walk us through how your interests and practice have evolved over time? 

Matto: Technology has always been a cornerstone in my creativity, and my first real creative outlet was photography, back in junior high. Later, I went to Cornell to study Physics, and I had my own computer for the first time! Besides writing papers, I made a lot of digital art, and by the end of my Freshman year I knew I wanted to pursue pixels more than particles. RIT was known for its imaging science programs, so I transferred, as an engineering student, essentially minoring in digital art. It was during my undergrad that I discovered experimental animation, where I could make abstract artworks that challenged me to think outside of the constraints of a single image. And I continued on to do an MFA in film afterward. My studies involved bridging technologies and techniques to create new experiences, both still and moving. This experimentation in approach combined with my science and engineering aptitude led me to algorithmic image manipulation and creation, and my films and professional work after college continued to lean heavily on my unique assemblage of skill and creativity.

PS: Is there a common element or reference point that has stayed important to you throughout your career, that you often find yourself coming back to? 

M: I think curiosity and computers have been the two things that have kept me dancing in life. I believe most of my work has a deeply human connection within it - even my work with AI - and this soul is probably evident in many of my artworks. Beyond those, maybe my stubbornness! Being an artist can be very challenging, and if I wasn’t stubborn as hell, I probably would have given up long ago. 

PS: Buddhism has played an important part in your past work, especially in your Zenerative series of projects. Is there something unique about generative art in particular that you feel is well-suited to exploring Buddhist beliefs?

M: Abstract work can lend itself to the exploration of spirituality, because it is personal, different for everyone, and in many ways, nebulous. I actually think generative art and Buddhism work exceptionally well together, for many reasons. First is the reliance on chance. We generative artists work side by side with entropy, and in Buddhism, being open to - and embracing - change and spontaneity are important. Long form generative art adds another level of Buddhism: release of control and letting go of the power to curate outputs. Finally, malleable generative art goes one step further in adding impermanence of the artwork into the mix.

Clockwise from top-left: Ensō, FOCUS, Time Between the Lines is Thread Through the Mind, Scratch

PS: Your Zenerative series, including Ensō, FOCUS, Scratch, and Time Between the Lines is Thread Through the Mind, focuses on internal growth and meditation. Visually, they tend to do more with less, and invite the viewer to do the same. Metta feels like a shift in your work away from growth through internal contemplation and towards embracing the complexity of a networked world. Is this part of a broader shift in your world-view, or is it more just an additional lens to interpret what you’re experiencing?

M: Actually, both! Metta marks a significant change from my earlier work in the Zenerative series, which were algorithms that made highly controlled images. Every Ensō is a single brushstroke, every FOCUS highlights a single artificial space. Scratch is made with a background of parallel lines and a foreground of arcs in a pattern, and Time Between the Lines is Thread Through the Mind are “merely” random parallel lines but with specific coloration. Each is a single idea, and none are malleable - they are fixed once minted. Metta on the other hand is a malleable artwork whose content is not a single expression of an idea, but a window to view an animated, changing world. Since I began my journey as an NFT artist, I definitely have felt my community grow (and sometimes be strained). Metta is a reflection of those changes I experienced, but it is also allowing me to grow in new directions artistically.

PS: You’re a multidisciplinary artist. Just within the digital realm, you’ve released work in a dizzying variety of formats: long-form generative, plotter, photography, PFPs, interactive software, and AI art to name a few. You’ve released work on multiple blockchains and platforms, in addition to building your own minting platform and writing custom smart contracts for novel onchain mechanics. You also have an extensive background in film, animation, photography, and creative writing. How do you go about choosing the right medium to explore a creative idea?

M: Wow, yeah I sound like a crazy person, huh.. Honestly, I follow my curiosity, and because I love challenges, it usually leads me to trying something new or inventing something. In life, we experience such a breadth of experiences and emotions, and I find that some ideas are best expressed in one medium vs another. Being able to create across genres and media helps me follow my inspirations and communicate my ideas better than having to, for example, use a camera for everything. Sometimes the comfort of a medium for expressing an idea wins out. More often, though, it’s a challenge to best express an idea, and I’ll choose a medium that allows me to more fully develop and explore the idea.

Clockwise from top-left: Freestyle H-ai-ku, BLONKS, Chainlife, Mythics of the Multichain

PS: With all of those possibilities, how did you decide that Metta would be a good fit with 

M: Actually, when I first heard your idea of a unique platform where the traits were given value and collectors had control, I was hooked! Metta was made with a platform like intrinsic in mind - it really is not designed to work as a ‘random-mint’ Long Form Generative Artwork (LFGA). It works because it's personal and because the platform leans into malleability. No others do or go nearly as far. Metta and intrinsic were developed side by side.

PS: I love the word malleable! We developed in the context of a broader trend in art that embraces the more ephemeral nature of natively generative art. People have talked about this using a variety of labels like dynamic or software art. You introduced the term “Malleable Generative Art” in a recent article to describe what you and others have been doing lately. How do you define malleability, and what are some projects you admire that exemplify this emerging trend? 

M: Thank you! A quick summary is that malleable gen art projects embrace changes to the artwork over time and add a new aspect of ‘ownership’ to the art. Instead of merely owning a piece in the traditional sense, a collector can craft their own output, so there’s an ownership over that artwork because it was ‘their’ creation. In my essay, I discuss a few projects that I admire for experimenting with malleability, including QQL and Terraforms. QQL is special in its awe-inspiring output space and collector control over parameters. It’s truly software art where collectors can strive to create their ideal piece, and their choice is immortalized. Terraforms, a technical marvel, has modes that allow continual adjustment of the artwork over time by the owner, always maintaining a specific output style. Both projects exemplify key aspects to the trend I see in malleable gen art, and each have a very strong following among collectors. I would love to own either / both of these projects as I see them as groundbreaking in different ways. Maybe someday! :)

QQL #127, Terraforms Level 14 at {47, 12}

PS: How does Metta build upon and extend this idea of malleable generative art? 

M: I wanted Metta to be the best example possible of malleable gen art while still holding a specific aesthetic and following my artistic vision. I’ve explored malleability in generative art for years, both in completely EVM generated algorithms and onchain JavaScript projects. In my prior work, outputs reflected changes in ownership and gave owners significant control over the outputs. The traits were sometimes static, and output malleability was extended through alternate rendering algorithms. Metta is totally different. Instead of a discrete output ‘having’ traits, the arrangement is flipped: traits ‘have’ an output - or thousands. These intrinsic traits, that are assembled together by the collector, are paired with a random hash selected by the collector, to enable creation of countless possible outputs. It’s a totally different approach that places incredible control into the hands of the trait-owners. Also, because Metta only uses one rendering algorithm, it has a very …coherent output space, even if that space is astoundingly vast.

PS: What do you plan to further explore creatively over the next year? 

M: I’m so excited to continue exploring malleable gen art with a project titled 100x10x1 Composition A. I’m also going to continue work on the creation of physical outputs from generative projects with robots: pen plotter and a custom CNC machine I’ve been tinkering with. I have a few 1/1 generative works that I’ve been playing with, a more traditional LFGA project, some fun distractions (for the culture), and some non-generative work in experimental photography that’s way overdue for the limelight!

PS: I can’t wait to see all of those! With so many projects in progress, I know you are busy these days, so I appreciate your time! We’re excited to see how the community explores and shapes the output from Metta over the coming weeks, months, and years!

M: Me too! I think intrinsic is a truly special platform, and I’m both excited and honored to be releasing Metta with you. It’s a project about connection and change over time, and thanks to, Metta can live and grow over time by allowing new owners to remake a piece that speaks to them.

To read more about Metta by Matto, visit the project writeup on his personal site.

You can learn more about by reading our introductory article, or by visiting our website.

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