Artist Collishaw creates ‘Heterosis’ a horticultural metaverse

Heterosis Mat Collishaw

Mat Collishaw is known for his unsettling, startlingly elegant photographs of burning butterflies and flowers.

In his latest artistic project however, Collishaw has changed his focus favouring growth over death. Heterosis is a horticultural metaverse which he has created with designer, Danil Krivoruchko. The two have built a phenomenal website, created a digital environment, in which participants or ‘collectors’ breed their own bespoke, dynamic, animated (NFT)flowers.

The blooms are formed from virtual seeds which subscribers or collectors purchase and exchange. When they are happy with their combination, the collectors leave their seedlings to grow in the virtual Greenhouse, in this case, the National Gallery, which in Collishaw’s post-apocalyptic world, lies in ruins. Now nature is taking over.

In Collishaw’s virtual world, his subscribers are given all the tools and information to produce the most beautiful bloom possible.

I spoke to Collishaw to find out more…

Have I got this right? People sign up to make a flower and it then it exists amongst the ruins of your National Gallery?

Individual collectors will have the flowers in their digital wallets on their phones/computers etc. They will also ALL be visible in their current state (they evolve) in the ruins of the National Gallery. People can navigate their way around this environment using their mouse or keypad, as you would do in a computer game.

The lighting in the National Gallery will correspond to the lighting in London at the time. Day /night etc. It’s what is called an immersive, social, persistent world; meaning it is virtually alive. Collectors can adopt an avatar, navigate around the space, meet other collectors, and chat etc. They can also focus on a single flower, click on it and establish all the properties of that specific flower on Open Sea market place.

Are these real varieties of flower that are being conjoined?

Yes, all the flowers correspond to real world flowers.

Beauty – there’s a theme. Do you like to play God and are you allowing other people to play God by creating new hybrid flowers?

Not playing God exactly but a form of virtual genetic engineering not dissimilar to what flower breeders have done for centuries. I’m interested (among other things) in the relationship between conceptions of beauty and how that relates to rarity and thus value. This is a pertinent quote from seventeenth century botanist Joost van Ravelingen.

“Here in this country people value most the flamed, winged, speckled, jagged, shredded, and the most variegated count for most, and the ones that are the most valued, are not the most beautiful or the nicest, but the ones which are the rarest to find; or which belong to one master, who can keep them in high price or worth.”

1618, Joost van Ravelingen, botanist and poet, about the tulip fashion in Holland.

What interested you in this project?

I’ve built this project as I’m interested in working in new media. The NFT/Blockchain space provides an utterly unique opportunity to create an artwork that couldn’t exist in any other environment.

What is your exact input after people sign up to take part?

Not a lot! The system is fully automated, new flowers are generated by the algorithms we have built. However, there will be constant input from our team and myself on our Discord channel where collectors can ask questions and post feedback etc. I also plan to do a few talks/Q&A’s as an avatar of myself inside the virtual National Gallery.

Is the National Gallery supporting this project?

I’ve had several meetings with National Gallery staff and they were keen on working together but as a certain amount of funds will be generated, mainly to pay back the costs we’ve incurred building the project, they can’t be an official partner. After the project has run its course, we may collaborate as they have Nat Gallery X, an innovation hub that encourages projects that engage with the collection utilising technology.

How do you make your money?

The flowers will be on sale. Collectors can then opt to crossbreed their flower with other flowers in the collection. Collectors will pay the owners of these other flowers to breed with their flower, the owner of the flower will set the breeding price. We will take a tiny percentage for each transaction.

Are you going to make new physical works from the project that people can buy?

Yes- we’re planning to create prints, lenticular 3D prints and holographic video screens of collectors flowers once they have reached a stage where the collectors are happy with them. These may be collectors’ rewards and optional extras collectors can pay the production fee on.

Generally the NFT space is inundated with NFT’s that are merely jpg images that could be printed, framed and put on the gallery wall. 

We’ve tried to build something that really utilises the facility to engage and have the artwork evolve.


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