Inspired by tarot card illustrations and employing video-game stock animations set against a classical atrium, Godmin reminds us that the vaporwave revolution hasn’t yet met its maker. A self-described enthusiast in art, technology, and science, the solo female developer has opinions on bull-market speculation and the rise of influencer politics; she isn’t apprehensive in voicing them. “I don't see why I should be kissing the ass of someone who most likely has less knowledge in art, technology, and Web3 than me,” she says, in an interview with Zora co-founder Dee Goens. “They're just better at content farming.”
Godmin won’t be the first, and certainly not the last, artist to reach this conclusion. In a January Medium piece from digital artist and curator Alex Czetwertynski, he writes “[NFTs’] momentum won’t recede, and ignoring them would lead to playing catch up in the future. If you can stop holding your nose and dive in, learn as much as you can, and develop projects that benefit your ideals and perspectives, you will be leaning into the actual value of the technology versus the hype around it.”
Indeed, Godmin’s work celebrates her multidisciplinary praxis from the litany of institutions in which she was once enrolled—everywhere from the developer-related smart contracts to the artistic basis of 3D glitch art and thoughtful rendering; some pieces in Heaven Computer project anthropomorphic figures, while others abstract into pixelated oblivion. While she can be admittedly critical of the space, she’s also grateful for the range that Web3 and NFTs have to allow her to express herself unmitigatedly.
Dee Goens (ZORA): What’s your experience being a solo female dev in Web3 and NFTs?
Godmin: It can be bittersweet. When my project first came out, everyone was impressed by the fact that it had been done entirely by a solo developer; a lot of times you get a whole team: one for the front end, one for the backend, one for the smart contract, one for the art, and one for the design. But over time, I realized that despite people truly appreciating the fact that it had been done by a solo developer, they also put a lot of pressure on me to hire a team—maybe I'm not putting out content fast enough, or I need to do more marketing. That's the bittersweet thing.
DG: Was there ever a desire to expand the team or was your vision to always remain a solo project?
G: I want to collaborate with other artists and developers that are doing cool stuff in this space, but it's never been my intention to actually get a team because I do think of myself as a multidisciplinary developer and artist; I can learn whatever I need to learn to keep this project going on my own.
DG: When was the moment after creating your first ghost where you were like, ‘Oh, these are actually a vibe’?
G: The art came about multiple years ago when I ran into this tutorial from this artist, Mark Klink. He talks about glitching 3D files, but in his approach, he used an object file. I remember experimenting with that at the time and then never touched upon it again. Then more recently, I decided to redo it: my challenge was to figure out how to use this technique that he used for object files to use on FBX files. There was a lot of figuring out vertices and polygons. There were lots of iterations, so I don't know exactly when I said, ‘Yeah that's it.'
DG: Obviously you wanted to iterate on the previous innovations and glitch with the object files, but what made you want to bring this to the Web3 space? Or was it always intended to be something that would live onchain?
G: I've been doing glitch art for a while, but it wasn't until I heard about Autoglyphs around 2019 and early 2020 that I became really intrigued in using blockchain as an art on its own. The whole purpose of glitch art is to corrupt files. Every kind of media is interesting—whether that be VHS tapes or a 3D printer. I'd heard of CryptoKitties before and I thought, ‘Okay, that's cool,’ but when I saw Autoglyphs I was like, ‘You can actually create art from this solidity code.’ That's when my obsession with creating generative art onchain began.
DG: In a lot of ways it feels like we're still in an in-between state where things are offchain for some and onchain for others; some data is kept on chain, some of it's kept in IPF. How have the last three months been for you in the lead up to God Observer as the community has grown and developed?
G: When the first collection launched, I was going to continue straight to work on God Observer, but then there were a lot of suggestions from the community of doing an airdrop. So I postponed the development of God Observer to do that: As you connect your wallet, you would get one of those catchy pop-ups like in the late ‘90s or early 2000s. Upon reflection, I feel I shouldn't have done that. It was something that resonated with some people, but then I realized it didn't do much for the project overall. I interrupted my artistic vision to please the community because I thought that would be the right thing to do. But a lot of these people actually just suggest these things because that’s what they see every other project doing. That's my regret: I want to listen to the community, but I wish I would've stayed true to my vision from the beginning.
DG: Crypto is interesting because it blurs the line between fan and investor. Travis Scott or Drake—they're both in controversial moments right now so it's hilarious I’m using them as examples—are not about to listen to me for album advice; they'd rather drop an album that their fans can't quite get. But an investor is going to be like, ‘Yo, you got to put out the hits, because that's what's going to pump my bags.’
G: That's what I felt that I was being cornered into: People wanted me to pump their bags. And in the end, it actually didn't turn out that way. The airdrop didn't do anything for the floor price, which is okay—it wasn't my intention. But the people who were expecting me to put out an airdrop that would increase the floor price were very disappointed. Overall, I would consider that a success, because the people who I wanted to please to get this airdrop and feel this experience, this joy, they had fun with it.
DG: When a project launches, it feels like there’s a lot of pressure on the team to sustain this moment of excitement—and you’re not even a whole team! How do you manage the pressure to maintain hype? Is hype even sustainable?
G: Maybe it is because other projects are sustaining it. But I do find that a lot of the tactics that teams use to sustain it are not something I want to be doing. I can't tell you how many times I’ve been tagged under a tweet of someone or influencer who claims to want to support female developers or female artists, only to have them completely ignore me. It's not like they don't know there are projects out there with a solo female dev—I just feel like maybe they don't want to acknowledge it because it might not be good enough for them. I could just be projecting. Maybe the art or website is not that impressive. It could also be that the reason they don't want to acknowledge it is because they're not on my payroll.
DG: The space has a tendency to be very fickle in that way. As NFTs go through this real boom and mainstream adoption, it doesn't feel as cash-grabby as it did in the early Nifty Gateway-edition drops etc. It definitely feels like there's much more of a mercenary, pay-to-play overtone that has entered the space, and I don't know if that's great.
G: I don't think it is, to be honest. I don't want to have to pay influencers. First of all, I don't want to contribute to this dynamic. And second, I don't see why I should be kissing the ass of someone who most likely has less knowledgeable in art, technology, and Web3 than me. They're just better at content farming.
DG: They're the bag holders. Now we’re just pleasing the new nobility. We swapped out Christie’s and put in your favorite NFT influencer.
G: When you think about how fake Instagram is, and how you can buy all those followers, it’s not all that different if you look at crypto Twitter: You get these people with a verified account for God-knows-what and now they believe their opinion matters more than someone who actually studied this for years.
DG: If you could go back, before Heaven Computer, what's one thing you would tell yourself?
G: I would've been faster about the whole process. I didn't realize how much of a flex it is to say, ‘I'm the first project that did this or that.’ I took my time because I'm a perfectionist. It took eighteen months in the making—this is verifiable if you look into the ‘Who is’ of Heaven Computer—you’ll see it's been registered since May 2020.
DG: How did you develop the project’s animations?
G: They’re actually stock animations that I got royalty-free because I don't have mo-cap. The initial idea was to create tarot cards. And if you ever looked at tarot cards, they have these different situations and archetypes. So I wanted to create these situations where there's a scene or situation happening. A lot of people actually recognize these animations from games that they play.
DG: That must add to the experience—a peak behind the curtain. What about the names?
G: Every tarot card has a name, like ‘The Hermit’ or ‘Seven of Pentacles’. I didn’t want the names to just be ‘Token No. Blah Blah,’ I wanted the name to represent what the card is about. Some of them were pretty dark.
DG: They’re so emotional, so much personality to them.
G: Now it supports VR, so it can be even more interactive.
DG: Zooming out and looking at the whole space, what's one thing that you would change about the space that we're in and how the NFT ecosystem functions today?
G: I would hope we could allow ourselves to be ‘influenced’ by people not because they were early or they have a lot of Eth, but because they actually understand the technology and actually understand art—someone who has some sensitivity for art. A lot of influencers wouldn’t know how cool my project is because they don't know anything about development, smart contracts, or glitch art. How can they talk about 3D glitch or generative art if they don’t know how it’s created or even generated?
DG: One last thing, almost like a radio show outro. We want to hear: ‘Who's Godmin’, from Godmin?
G: I’m someone who’s always been enthusiastic about art, technology, and science. I’ve been unafraid to experiment and learn those things. I think some people are apprehensive about technology because it’s too complicated, but I’ve always had the feeling that the more obscure and complicated a technology is, the more I’d be drawn to it. I've dropped out of university multiple times—all of my college courses were related to either art, technology, or science. But I felt for the longest time that that made me a failure. Ultimately I realized that if I hadn't tried so many different university courses and been unafraid to start over, I don't think I would've been able to become this multidisciplinary professional that I am right now and to be single-handedly creating a project like this.
Going into crypto was the first time when I didn’t feel like a failure, because I saw this project that I created with all the skills I've acquired. I'm starting to change my outlook on life and also how I see myself in this world. I feel like I have so much to give, and for such a long time, I felt like I had nothing to give. I love Web3 and this NFT space. I know I can be very critical of it, but it’s also allowed me to express these interests that otherwise I probably wouldn't have been able to put out in the world.