The GBs represent a technical achievement. The GBs are the first portraits that visually morph over time, and the first that are encoded with dynamic personality that influences their behavior, and the first portraits that accumulate a little bit of glitter every day. But advanced technology is only a small part of The GB’s story. These portraits are designed to open the door to something bigger.
The GBs represent a metaphorical journey of growing all of your selves against the odds.
Like us, GB portraits have many sides, and they wish to fully express them all. Like us, they visually change over time. Like us, they face an age-old paradox: How to discover and grow all of your identities when the system you live in forces you to conform to one ideal at a time? Think of the hit song by Meredith Brooks: I’m a bitch, lover, child, mother, sinner, and a saint, and do not feel ashamed. Like us, The GBs want to be all of these psyches at once and to not feel ashamed. They use the controversial b-word because many people are still afraid of this word. And yet, it is a skill set for bravery: to forge and maintain a strong sense of all of your identities, you have to learn to not care about being liked, and to speak up for yourself and others without fear. Like us, GBs have serious ups and downs; they are ultimately on a journey to find peace within. And, finally, like us, the journey of any individual GB transcends her; she is made of those who came before her, influenced by those she shares her Glitter with, and her journey ultimately forms a small part of those who come later.
The GB Team.The Glitchy Bitches NFTs (The GBs) launched in Miami during Art Basel 2021. The GBs are generatively assembled fine art portraits hand-painted by artist/designer GBae, a well known design educator who left her job as a professor at Harvard’s engineering school to create this project. Once the art was finished, GBae and her husband, Nathan (a tech entrepreneur) worked together on generative assembly. They initially tried to write their own smart contract, but the complexity of portraits that evolve quickly became too ambitious. Then they randomly met the solidity power couple, Harri and Arran, while hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Harri and Arran, together known as ‘Divergence’, like a technical challenge and projects with deep meaning, so they joined the team to write the GB contracts. They previously made Brotchain and The Kiss. Learn more about them in this interview with Kevin Rose here. GBae’s long-time friend, Altay, built the front-end for the project.
The GBs represent a learning journey of finding Inner peace as a function of balancing GQ (joy) and BQ (bravery).
GBae created GQ (Glitter Quotient skills index, a metaphor for the skill of replenishing and sharing joy) and BQ (bitchiness quotient skills index, a metaphor for bravery and healthy boundary setting skills). The GB’s blockchain contracts specify that each GB portrait automatically wakes up with one new Glitter Credit every day. Once she accumulates 30 Glitter Credits, she can evolve to her next version. That is, joy helps her evolve. GB portrait holders can also send Glitter to other GB portrait holders, effectively helping them ‘evolve’ faster, a metaphor for how sharing joy helps others. BQ is a different skill set. It is intended to help reduce fear of being labeled a bitch when setting and maintaining healthy boundaries that are needed to grow full selves, and to contribute to a long history of women reshaping the meaning of this word. BQ is not only visible in GB metadata; it is also functional. It shapes GB behavior when holders ask a GB to evolve to a new version of herself. This project at its core is about mental wellness. It was inspired by GBae’s personal experiences of healing from violence, yet designed to speak to anyone who wants to grow all of themselves. GB portraits are packed with educational opportunities in the form of symbolic references to cathartic art, design, and philosophy from the past for our community to discover. The GBs are not easy to describe because these things are hard to talk about. Their mission is building a world that makes it easier for people to turn emotion into art, and to see each other with the same complexity that they wish to be seen. When the last GB mints, more functionality (that has already been built into the project) becomes discoverable.
Great Art = Catharsis + Empathy
Artists make things that help us contemplate meaning in the world. Throughout history, great artists have acknowledged that human beings possess both spiritual and animal needs. Plato thought of art as beauty, and a divine path that helped us navigate our contradictory desires. Enlightenment thinkers saw it as a means for us to escape meaningless routines and rise to a higher purpose. Anaïs Nin saw it as a way to process and release excess emotion. In all these views, art plays a role of catharsis. However, the greatest potential of art might be its ability to combine catharsis with empathy. Tolstoy saw art as a gateway to empathy between humans and others. It helps us relate to the experience of others, and in the process helps us understand and empathize with ourselves.
All that is very lofty, but the point is there is a long history of art as an important tool for dealing with the things that keep us up at night, both alone and together. G Bae thinks NFTs might offer a more direct route for communities to experience art’s dual blessings of catharsis and empathy than has been possible in a long time. The GB Project is therefore an experiment along these lines, and the GBs are imbued with the following three values:
Value #1: Promoting strong, positive mental health vibes, and reducing isolation during tough times.
The GBs are into fashion, and we plan to run fashion design competitions for them, but they are not like fashion designers at Gucci or Prada who create external looks for us to signal coolness and desirability to each other. The GBs don’t give a fuck about what other people think. What they care about is more like inner fashion – creating stunning inner worlds that signal beauty, kindness, strength, peace, desirability, and power to ourselves.
Value #2: Helping independent artists (in all creative fields) who represent their audiences to reach them more directly (e.g., independent female fashion or game designers who design for female audiences or Latino artists who create primarily for Latino audiences). This doesn’t happen by default and the GB community wants to make it easier for audiences to find and support creators who represent their values.
Value #3: Supporting high-end collaborations with top artists that bring attention to the issues that matter to the GB community. G Bae sees difficult experiences as ‘glitches’ that make us unique and can be sources of creative strength. The GBs love glitches and want to help us tap their strength to discover, reimagine, and communicate who we are inside our minds. If there are parts we see inside that we find painful or ugly (glitches), the GB community wants to help us learn to reimagine those parts through art, stand up for what we need (bitchy), and find our way back to inner beauty, peace, and power.
Social and Environmental Impact Commitments
1. Build an Excellent Community:
A) Build a vibrant community that loves to celebrate the best art in all its forms.
B) Set up long-term mechanisms to support ambitious creative collaborations with top artists.
2. Be an Excellent Neighbor:
A) Make the project carbon neutral.
B) Give back. 25% of sales go to mental health and art therapy charities that match GB values, beginning with an emphasis on survivors of violence and trauma.
Everything about the GBs is big and bold. They want their community to partner with the best artists and designers in the world to make projects that are psychologically and philosophically meaningful. To this end, we partnered with the Balter Foundation. Balter was originally born as a project in the Design Lab at Harvard University in 2020. G Bae (who was formerly the Lab’s Director) left Harvard in 2021, and established Balter as an independent foundation. Drawing on personal experiences as a survivor of violence, she created the foundation to help people who have faced trauma heal, reconnect, and express a brighter future through community-led, creative projects. Balter means ‘to dance without particular skill or grace, but with extreme joy’, and the foundation’s mission is using collaborative projects with leading artists as a vehicle to help people find ways to creatively work through their problems together.
Balter will run an annual awards process that honors global artists whose work helps people see and think differently. These artists can be from any domain and any part of the world. They need not be involved in NFTs. Every GB holder will have an opportunity to nominate an artist for the Balter Fellowship and the community will help vet these submissions. Many artists will be honored by the community, and a few will be selected to build things with us that speak to the vision of the project. The long-term goal is a decentralized and explicitly collaborative version of how something like the MacArthur Fellowship works.