Bright Moments - A CryptoLondoner's Tale

As the clock ticks down to the start of my next Bright Moments experience, wherever or whenever that might be, I can’t help but think it will be filled with wonder. With so much creative firepower that seems pretty much a given!

Such is the level of doe-eyed fondness and respect they’ve built with me over the course of just four very special interactions. Rather incredible considering this is a collective I only heard about just over a month ago at the Proof Of People NFT festival. Then, as now — a little wet behind the ears — I continue to be enthralled to learn of such a mad fusion of innovation, technical prowess and ambition so closely intermingled with heart, passion, generosity, friendship and excitement of a crew leaping into the unknown with unabashed glee, and wild enthusiasm.

Inside BRT minting HQ —18 Albemarle Street — where the magic happens
Inside BRT minting HQ —18 Albemarle Street — where the magic happens

Present Day — 6pm 
Friday 29th July 2022
Arrive at the Bright Moments Minting Location
18 Albemarle St, London W1S 4HR

The place is buzzing, it is a scorcher of a summer day, the sun won’t be down for a few hours yet. I immerse myself in the throng, it’s a birthday come festival come summer fête party atmosphere, but high end. Immediately I meet two glamorous young influencer types, one is petite and assured, she holds court amongst a mini group within a much larger one assembled outside this conspicuously colourful crowd hanging out in the heart of Mayfair. The streets are alive. Not quite sure this neck of the woods has quite seen such a smorgasbord of characters descend upon it before.

I’m on the clock.

18 Albermale Street — Closing Party x Arblocks—photo by @decolife1
18 Albermale Street — Closing Party x Arblocks—photo by @decolife1

The other gentleman is quieter, they are obviously a pair as he safeguards her bag and jacket. A slim, slightly gaunt, chap who gives off deep gamer programmer vibes; his smile is goofy as he offers non verbal support to the anecdotes his companion regales. That mind is elsewhere. They are fresh from holidays in Mykonos, Greece. She - a former student of immunology before launching two projects in the latest crypto bull run that sold out - now spends her time managing developers. He builds bots that execute trades. It’s my cue to slip inside just as the words “I’m not sure how to feel about spending more in a week than an average person’s annual salary” are uttered.

Food! They’ve really gone quintessential British here. Scones with cream, jam donuts, Victoria sponge, all the trimmings. I may be in a bit of a rush but come on, i’ve waited this long! What’s a few more minutes? I scoff and take a peek around, a lot has changed since the last time I was here, ArtBlocks is in the building. A fellow cake appreciator sidles up next to me, she is as engrossed in the delicacies strewn before us as I am. We revel in a rhapsody of confectionery. She is German, tall and blonde with distinctive features, her speaking manner is gregarious interspersed between long pauses to gorge on these delicacies. Quite quickly we both open up to each other about our love of London where we have lived for many years as well as her success achieving a phD in biology which she only just earned! Part of me wishes I’d finished mine, part of me is incredulous she finished hers, wow. She spent the morning consoling her father who’d had high hopes of selling his business in recent months and retiring. Unfortunately the lead investor has pulled out. Her parents are flabbergasted that, rather than pursuing a related field of work, she’s opted to launch an NFT project — got to love a rebel. It’s cool she has heard of GenomesDAO, one of my recent mints. If I wasn’t so conscious about personal data I’d actually use it, she attempts to assuage my doubts unsuccessfully.

Better get to it.

I join the queue after passing by the open bar for a quick drink, Janet the super friendly server recommends the white wine — her fave (mine too Janet). The queue is at a standstill as the WIFI is down and they are unable to process new mints. Everyone is pretty calm about it. As we wait, for the internet gods to play ball, I get chatting to an ETH maximalist who is currently shorting the market as he feels the merge hype is overblown. Classically handsome, with broad shoulders, he is obviously protective of his other half who is with him. They have ying yang energy, she the near innocent unwitting bystander feasting on all the artistic joy for the senses around us, he the slightly jaded calculator who has been around the block. NFT events in Berlin, Paris, New York, and others — not sure I can sense his excitement as much as hers. Turns out he rode the bull run with a bunch of ETH from the relatively early times, didn’t sell (not many of us did), and is now riding the bear market. Aren’t we all.

I get the sense he is annoyed he hasn’t received an invitation to mint. Based on the governance protocols dictated by the community a third of those minting IRL needed to be nominated via snapshot and approved; a third were sold on the open market to fund operations; and a third were balloted to existing CryptoCitizen holders. Fortunately there is the opportunity for IRL attendees to mint translucent panes by fingacode, which is an open edition available exclusively to those on site and closing today!

Two Weeks Ago — 9pm
Thursday 14th July
Arrive at Bright Moments Gallery Location
13 Soho Square, London W1D 3QF

After Seth Goldstein’s [founder of Bright Moments] panel talk at Proof Of People I was fully inspired to uncover what he meant by IRL minting experiences. So far in my NFT journey we’d been at the behest of the screen to engage with the cryptographic computation working behind the scenes to encode data onto the blockchain. Experientially bringing this into the physical spaces we occupy seemed bold and experimental, exactly my vibe. So a few days later down I head, with a friend, to investigate what in the world this team is bringing to real life.

13 Soho Square - Bright Moments Exhibition Space
13 Soho Square - Bright Moments Exhibition Space

Soho Square as a location is super central and easy to get to. The infamous Oxford and Bond Street, Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Bar, or even one of London’s most prominent landmarks: the Centre Point tower building are all within touching distance. Lined along the outskirts of this it’s green space, open to all, are offices and cafe’s including the likes of 20th Century Fox, and WeWork — host of many a raucous party back in their hey days. Now workers and travellers congregate in the public park to sip the drink du jour, have lunch or a snack, and enjoy this small oasis of calm amongst the tumult.

This evening is primarily an exhibition and printing event for previous collectors of Folio by Matt Deslauriers on the ground floor, across two rooms. His work is spectacular, combining patches of colour with idiosyncratic symbology to create clean neat generatively drawn works.

Inspired by concrete poetry and early computer artwork, that emits an output process for a given input. Each output may be realized digitally, in print, or through another medium. The drawing system, coded in JavaScript, recursively packs bins of data to fill the page, constrained entirely by the use of typographic glyphs and a limited mono-, duo-, or tri-colour palette — Archipelago

Matt writes more about it in detail on his substack, information that also (outrageously neatly) adorns the walls alongside his pieces. We have a bunch of fun diving into the weeds messing around with this old school computer he has set up. It is an homage to the classic MS DOS style commands you’d have to enter back in the day on old windows desktops, with a few clues loaded up for you to tinker with. It has some kind of interface with the minting/printing experience most people are there for, but is also pretty accessible for those of us wandering souls there to soak up the ambiance.

Old School Computer — Shoddy Camera Work, Apologies
Old School Computer — Shoddy Camera Work, Apologies

On the floor below this genius setting we meet the most wholesome crew imaginable in Hanan and Samer Dabra: team Spongenuity. Man their work is incredible. They’ve come up with a series of 100 mints wherein the process entails sitting for a picture that is then discombobulated into data that is processed and algorithmically drawn in combination with a random seed that is generated from a message input, meaning the entire portraiture has a unique encrypted signature. This same data is then used to create an NFT as well as a physical print plotter portrait (which comes to life before you using this crazy embroidery machine) creating a cohesive multi-medium experience that intertwines the digital and physical worlds. Completely wild.

They are fun to hang with.

Present Day — 630pm Friday 29th July 2022
Check In at the Bright Moments Minting Location
18 Albemarle St, London W1S 4HR

WIFI is back.

I am checked in by Phil and Avi.

Not sure Phil recognises me, fair enough they are now on day 30 meeting at least the 800 people who had minted a CryptoLondoner so far, let alone the wider extended network of people the Bright Moments had hosted here and at their Soho Square location. Plus the people he would have met speaking on a panel at Proof Of People NFT festival as well as any other events where he’d been spreading the Bright Moments gospel. Oh and the same in Berlin, NYC, Venice Beach. God help him. Avi is the charmer, smart and youthful to contrast the poised experienced ambiance Phil exudes. Between them my first IRL minting journey begins.

A Cryptocitizen is native to the city where it is being minted. We are in London, thereby mine is a CryptoLondoner. Before today the instructions were to fill an online form with all my details. These now instantly pop right up on the screen as Phil and Avi go through the check-in process. Still all very mysterious what this will all entail, that’s part of the fun. It’s certainly not their first rodeo (turns out it’s their 814th in London so far), with WIFI back it takes all of one minute to complete check in and we are good to go. It’s busy today so I’m told there will be a wait of one or two hours before I’m able to do the deed (mint my CryptoLondoner). Fine by me, my pal is just about to arrive and I think the founder of Artblocks [Jeff Davis] just got on the decks. Now it’s a party.

Back to Janet and I walk by these Italian ladies who don’t speak much English but have walked in curious at what all this kerfuffle is about in such proximity to the bourgeoisie of Belgravia. In no time at all the main man Charlie bounds merrily onto the scene, a Bright Moments representative of the highest order, to share the story of the collection. Lively, forthright, and congenial Charlie is a fellow musician whose next show is in Wisconsin in September. He’s already hooked me up with some merch as well as more good vibes than you can shake a feather at. I leave him to the Italians. I meet this lovely man who is there with his kids. He has brought the whole family and is minting each of them a cryptolondoner as an investment for their future. The encounter is brief, but joyful in a candid ephemeral sense.

My buddy has arrived — with a friend! How excellent that this place is so welcoming of literally anyone keen to get involved. We head outside to catch up and connect with my new connect Mo who I’d only met a couple days prior at an FxHash event at Institut. Mo is half Ethiopian and has spent meaningful time in my homeland, Kenya, on the Mombasa coast. He’s gotten rid of the racing hat he’d adorned last time to reveal a bounteous array of dark locks. Everyone here is dressed super casual, for the most part, so we both fit right in. Having excelled at an ETH hackathon Mo is finding ways to evolve from full time data analyst work at Universal records into developing applications in the NFT ecosystem. Seems he’s already had a little traction but is a bit reticent to sell himself. Happy to do so on your behalf, friend.

The first unwitting Mo patron that we come across, as my pals go inside for drinks, has a fantastic plume of blonde hair and looks strong if a little tired. Upon pitching Mo, and hyping him up, we learn that Jamie actually works for Bright Moments. He’s just left YouTube where he worked as partnerships manager for 16 years onboarding the likes of Sony and Samsung. He made waves in web1, then hopped onto web2 with YouTube. Now he feels late to the party with Web3 and Bright Moments, but is convinced that decentralisation, the blockchain, and community ownership it enables will prove as revolutionary from a technological perspective as any previous new incarnation of the web. A rather inspiring level of conviction, hang on — did he just pitch us? With that he is off for a break.

I return to my pals, one hour down, one to go to the mint.

They are hanging with Teresa who works at the local Nandos and is loving life. Apparently some of the Bright Moments team had food there, and loved it, so invited her along. We are struck by how intergenerational this all seems, very continental. A few people have brought their mothers and fathers along to learn from the experience and revel in the atmosphere. It gives the whole thing quite a familial quality. I waft back to Janet, she knows what I am after, legend. Getting tipsy now — I marvel at the art on the walls. Such intricate attention to detail, a level of fastidiousness that speaks to the highest levels of quality being inscribed into these generative pieces.

The young family has been called up to mint, one of the boys blew through a notebook in the time we’ve been hanging around. Filling it to the brim with sketches and doodles. His father gets him another, eagerly offered by Phil. I get chatting to Joseph — who is actually Avi’s father as it turns out — he’s beaming with pride. Turns out he is also a long time friend of Seth’s. Rather understated, with an old school cap and a sage perspicacity that radiates from his visage. Turns out he is a bit of a don too. We wind the clock back and over two decades ago he notices that .com domains were kicking off, just as the hype for 1–800 numbers had, he gets both for (spending $5k or so originally if i remember correctly). He then goes on to build tremendous logistical infrastructure to service that business underpinned a quality domain. Incredible. Today is his son’s day however, and his friend’s, he is happy to beam in the background. We see the young family on the balcony above, they just minted their CryptoLondoners — must mean I am up soon.

Three Weeks Ago — 4pm
Friday 9th July
Introduction to the Bright Moments Minting Location
18 Albemarle St, London W1S 4HR

I’m suited and booted heading to dinner with friends but this seed has been planted in my head by Seth and Phil at the Proof Of People NFT festival to go check out their two spaces in Soho Square and Albemarle Street. I amble along to Soho but am informed by a slimline bespectacled energon named Anthony that it is actually the second location in Mayfair I need to go to if minting is the action I desire. There is an LGBTQ+ festival in the square that day: vibrant and playfully chaotic. I hop onto a Boris bike to expedite the journey, surely it cannot take long to undergo the minting process (whatever that is) so I will quickly pop in, get it sorted, then head off to dinner.

I arrive and am surprised to find I feel overdressed. Creatives roam free here. I meet Dole who is crisply attired and, even after what will have been a long hot day manning the exhibition space, is ready for action. It is beautifully lit, pristinely clean, room that expands into another behind it as well as having a gorgeous spiral staircase leading up into the unknown. The central table feature is ornamented with a selection of materials that are immediately noticeably of the highest calibre. The printing alone, copywriting, and design must have taken donkey years to get to this level. It shows. Dole launches into what is no doubt a presentation that has been honed to perfection, but senses my slight level of urgency, and speeds it up skipping over the basics.

Note to self to come back with someone new to the ecosystem: firstly, as an on-boarding exercise (this is the kind of initial memory you dream of infusing someone new with to get them excited about the possibilities), secondly so I don’t assume I know what I am talking about and skip over valuable base level foundational knowledge of the innate building blocks underpinning this whole engagement.

Then I meet the artist responsible for the marvellous works displayed here: Qian Qian.

Qian Qian by Spongenuity
Qian Qian by Spongenuity

A strange coincidence we land on fairly quickly is that we both went to Edinburgh university! The fates are mysterious. Qian Qian is the creative director that goes about selecting 80 specific artefacts that define a city locality. London is the fourth city so far that has birthed 1,000 Cryptocitizens, and some of the attributes that are randomised to create them generativity include foxes, the abbey road pedestrian crossing, top hats, black cabs, monocle’s etc. For Berlin it was the autobahn, lederhosen, a german shepherd, Berghain, Kraftwork etc. For NYC it was the empire state building, central park, subway, etc. And for Venice beach, LA, it was skateboards, surfboards, sunglasses, palm trees etc. There is even a digital collection called CryptoGalacticans with space related attributes.

His attention to detail is awesome, writ large in these pixelated permutations coming to life before us. There’s a real artisanal sense of craftsmanship to the process, with an almost gamified bent. He tells me the process entails an advance party going to the specific locality that the community votes to mint in next, an researching for weeks the unique aspects of culture that compose that society. Alongside sourcing venues, and suppliers, this is an integral part of that early vestment period to seed the art with an indigenous quality.

I am out of time to learn more sadly, two dope conversations and it’s gone beyond being late for my dinner. Need to come back and luxuriate in this when I next have a chunk of time to dedicate to artistic exploration. See you soon boys!

CryptoLondoner #814
CryptoLondoner #814

Present Day — 830pm 
Friday 29th July 2022
Arrive at the Bright Moments Minting Location
18 Albemarle St, London W1S 4HR

I speak to Heather from Artblocks about ceramics, weddings, galleries, exhibitions and events. She is looking forward to their opening showcase in Marfa (Texas) soon and found her way to crypto and NFT’s rather circuitously. She is very sweet, or coy, in sharing too many bloopers from her time managing and running events. Sounds like she has had fun in London but is ready to go home — no place like it.

I dive into a fun conversation with Hannan and Dandelion about books we’ve been reading recently, can’t remember what the debate was about, but it was juicy. We compare headstands, Hannan is a yogi and graceful. I am not and am the epitome of ungainly. My friend Tino? Christ. We get the job done. I learn that the lovely man, whose family is being whisked off into the evening, is none other than SnowFro — one of the true OG’s in the NFT space of Chromie Squiggles fame (the first project on ArtBlocks). It is awesome to me that we can all just chill in this space as pseudonymous strangers/friends/enthusiasts and connect.

I see Dole, decked in a colourful Hawaiian shirt, long straight hair waving in the breeze. He was my spirit guide the first time I came to this place. They do choose some fun people to represent this brand. I get a brief chance to catch up with Irina who was also at the fxhash event at instut and is a music journalist but am cut short. My time has come. Time to mint! My crew is assembled and we are introduced to Ameesia who is immediately engaging. We learn later that she has immersive theatre experience, which we are direct beneficiaries of, and is even coupled up with a seasoned/famous actor. He must have picked up some skills from our hostess by osmosis.

Up the stairs we go. Now I would love to describe the IRL minting process (which involved something akin to an ancient spiritual ritual melded with a comedy show) but I’m not sure I can. It was special. Luckily this chap kept a record of it for posterity.

Bright Moments, so grateful, I salute you.

Papa —

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