BLOWING UP: TONY GOLDMAN ON RAINBOW BOYS, FRIENDSWITHYOU

THE FIRST TIME WE MET WAS WHEN WE WERE INTRODUCED AT MOCA AT THE GOLDMAN WAREHOUSE AROUND 5 YEARS AGO. SINCE THAT FIRST MEETING OUR WORLDS ARE CONTINUING TO COLLIDE—LAST YEAR I HAD AN INFLATABLE SCULPTURE AT THE WYNWOOD WALLS AND THIS YEAR WE WILL REVEAL A FULL MURAL BY THE DYNAMIC TEAM. FROM THEN, TO NOW, AND INTO THE FUTURE, I WILL ALWAYS BE EAGER TO SEE HOW FRIENDSWITHYOU WILL BRING MAGIC, LUCK AND FRIENDSHIP TO OUR WORLD.
FRIENDSWITHYOU WAS ESTABLISHED IN 2002 BY THE MIAMI-BASED ARTISTS SAMUEL BORKSON AND ARTURO SANDOVAL III. THROUGH THEIR WIDE RANGE OF EXPERIENTIAL CREATIONS, FROM COMPLETE INSTALLATIONS TO INTERACTIVE EVENTS, PLAYGROUNDS TO PERFORMANCES, FRIENDSWITHYOU HAS REACHED AUDIENCES AROUND THE WORLD. IN ADDITION TO CREATING EXPERIENTIAL ART, THE TEAM ALSO HOSTS A COMMERCIAL WORK-FOR-HIRE AGENCY AND HAS DEVELOPED THE IMAGE AND IDENTITY FOR A PLETHORA OF ESTABLISHED BRANDS.
THEIR FINE ART WORK HAS BEEN EXHIBITED AND/OR INCLUDED IN THE PERMANENT COLLECTIONS OF THE MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART (MOCA), THE INDIANAPOLIS MUSEUM OF ART (IMA), HAUS DER KULTUREN DER WELT MUSEUM IN BERLIN, GALERIE EMMANUEL PERROTIN, AND THE HOLE, AMONGST MANY OTHERS.
TEXT Tony Goldman
PHOTOGRAPHY Stian Roenning

 

 

TONY GOLDMAN: HOW AND WHERE DID YOU MEET EACH OTHER?

FriendsWithYou: We met in Orlando. Sam was going to school there and Tury had mutual friends that brought us together. We had no idea at the time we would embark on this amazing adventure that has given us the opportunity to touch so many people.

 

TG: WHEN YOU FORMED FWY IN 2002, DID YOU START OUT WITH THE CREATIVE AGENCY, IP DEVELOPMENT, AND BRANDING? OR WITH THE EXPERIENTIAL ART? OR WERE THEY FORMED SIMULTANEOUSLY?

FWY: FriendsWithYou is an art project. We both have skills in branding, design, and directing, which has been the way we are able to make the larger than life art experiences happen. All the money we make goes directly into making art for people to make them happy and feel magic. The IP development coincides with the overall art project to affect the masses with a simple spirituality, good magic, and something really funny and love-filled to spread to the whole world.

 

TG: YOUR WORK “REINTERPRETS RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS, SYMBOLS AND SPIRITUAL PRACTICES…TO OPEN UP A CONNECTION TO THE DIVINE.” HOW WOULD YOU CHARACTERIZE THAT STATEMENT INTO YOUR WORK?  WHICH TRADITIONS AND SYMBOLS DO YOU FEEL CONVEY YOUR MESSAGE MOST?

FWY: We really want to battle isolation and connect people to each other again with all our might. It’s something found in all religions that aren’t available in modern society: to feel joy and happiness in an environment. When 10,000 people pray together in a church in the middle of the country, there is a power evoked there. It’s quite magical and should be available to everyone no matter what they believe. We feel everything around you has a spirit, and we are all one giant organism somehow. So if you are friends with the clouds and water and earth as well as the creatures and people around you, then you are all connected and everything is FriendsWithYou.

 

TG: IS YOUR INTEREST IN RELIGION BASED ON MORE TRADITIONAL PRACTICES OR SPIRITUAL AND ETHEREAL?

FWY: We love the idea of something so powerful that it can sway people to act in a certain way and to connect people and make huge leaps for the human race. We don’t like that religion has divided people and caused such blockage between us all growing as a people. We love religion for what it instills in most people: the practice of love and tolerance. We just want to evolve beyond these things that divide us. And celebrate our differences all together.

 

TG: HOW WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE AS ARTISTS WORKING WITH AOL?

FWY: AOL is really amazing, they understand the integrity of the art and know how it needs to be presented. Corporations are the kings of modern day society and commissions like these allow us to touch a huge amount of people with our artwork. They genuinely love our mission and got behind it to make something really incredible in Miami for Art Basel along with Paper Magazine, and then to support us in opening Section 2 of the High Line in NYC. It was a serious dream come true and we are very thankful to them.

 

 

TG: RECENTLY YOU JUST CONCLUDED YOUR FIRST NYC SOLO EXHIBITION AT THE HOLE WHICH OPENED CURRENTLY WITH “RAINBOW CITY” AT THE NYC HIGH LINE. WHAT A HUGE INTRODUCTION TO THE NYC ART SCENE! HOW DID THE NYC ART SCENE RECEIVE MIAMI’S COLORFUL DUO?

FWY: This was amazing! We felt so blessed that Kathy Grayson got behind our work the way she did and gave us a platform to show our work in such a big lovely space. The opening night in the rain we had so many people, the entire place was packed with good vibes and a heavy dose of magic. It even poured for a full 10 minutes inside the gallery on that night. It was like a magical blessing. The lights went out and we were like “oh fuck,” but then it stopped, the water drained to the cellar almost seamlessly, and the lights went back on. It was incredible. We were so honored by the guests, like Fab 5 Freddy, Aurel, Kenny Scharf, Kembra… all these people we look up to coming and giving us good mojo, plus all our best friends, family, amazing writers and generally just a group of really awesome people. We felt truly loved.

 

TG: WHAT ARE THE REACTIONS OF THE PUBLIC WHEN WEARING YOUR INFLATABLE COSTUMES? DO YOU SENSE THAT PEOPLE ARE OPEN TO YOUR MESSAGE AND THAT IT IS CONVEYED THROUGH THE PERFORMANCE?  DO YOU WEAR THE COSTUMES?

FWY: Haha, yes we used to always wear the costumes and do insane performances every time we would be asked to do a lecture or something… it would be more like an interactive love-inducing brainwash love spell, smoke bombs or other good stuff like that. It’s truly a magic thing, how people react to the costumes, it is an instant magic moment, it is so cute. It is like bringing a living imaginary creature right before your eyes and he dances and plays with you. Even grown-ups love to suspend disbelief to enjoy hugging our little friends.

 

TG: IS IT HARD TO TRAVERSE THE CORPORATE SIDE OF THE WORLD WHEN WORKING WITHIN FWY STUDIOS? DO YOU FEEL THAT YOUR MESSAGE OF MAGIC, LUCK AND FRIENDSHIP TRANSLATES HERE OR IS THAT ONLY FOR THE EXPERIENTIAL ART?

FWY: No, we are happy to share this magic with people through these avenues. It is just built with different intentions and for a specific purpose. Our mission of the art is really a modern virus of culture. So if it peaks its head through advertising, or it becomes an animation, or a product, or something unique like an installation or playground or painting, we are affecting you, blasting the world with our magic rainbow. Telling a story and spreading goodness and empowering the world to do the same is our goal.

 

 

TG: AS CULTURAL AMBASSADORS FOR MAGIC, LUCK AND FRIENDSHIP WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP?

FWY: We are making a lot of long term investments in our art, constantly pushing our installations and sculptural pursuits, how we can have our work effect people more and more. We are making proposals to build playgrounds in 3rd world countries and major cities around the world, we are working on an animation for the global kids to bring them a beautiful piece of magic right into their homes and their lives, shaping little minds in the most pure and free way. In our immediate future we have a show in Paris at Colette called “In The Beginning,” which deals with the spirit inside everyone and exhibits everything from an animation that deals with the chaos of life and death, as well as two bronze sculptures that display the fragility of the internal feelings we all share and exposes it in a real, honest way. But mostly just enjoying life, having good times with friends and family, hugging a lot, and really trying to be the best we can be and make a whole lotta quality friends along the way.

 

TG: DO YOU HAVE A DREAM PROJECT? DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AS ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS? HOW HAS YOUR WORK DEVELOPED?

FWY: Yes, so many dreams. It’s really beautiful. I think we feel quite inspired to really open the world up creatively. I mean we would love to take over the entire Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, maybe do a parade of magic friends walking down the Great Wall of China, building resorts, playgrounds, working on films and animations that change the world. We also have more tangible dreams we feel we are able to accomplish consistently.

And yes, our characters are definitely extensions of ourselves. They represent us in the world and there are so many. I mean there are thousands of emotions. And these archetypes we see through history, we love to take these and reinterpret them into modern devices we can make into these cute and lovable role models or reflections of ourselves in some instances.

 

TG: DO YOU HAVE A COLLECTION OF TALISMAN?

FWY: Yes! So many gifts, magic little gods and objects of power and cuteness swarm my apartment in the happiest of ways. People have brought me little magic talismans form all over the world and I really love them and love interacting with them.

 

 

 

 

TG: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MONUMENT? WHY?

FWY: All the pyramids, all the Ziggurats, they are incredible in their pure power and size. I think they were built with a connection to true power and divine information.

 

TG: DID YOU READ COMIC BOOKS AS KIDS OR WATCH CARTOONS?

FWY: YES and still do! Some of the most prolific and incredible artists in the world have used the medium of comics and animation for some time to share such important messages. Every animation by Miyazaki and every comic by Osama Tezuka are all incredible and powerful stories that should be infecting the world. I think as kids born in our generation we were kind of raised with all this new media. It was undeniably influential in our lives and we are here to continue the important entertainment with a great responsibility and some sweet simple messages to share. Storytelling is at the center of our art and it’s what all humans relate to.

 

TG: WHO INSPIRED YOU, WHAT WAS YOUR GREATEST INSPIRATION, WHO ARE YOUR HEROES?

FWY: I think Miyazaki, Disney, Jodorowsky, Tezuka, Basquiat, Murakami, Hello Kitty, Warhol all did such amazing things on this Earth. But there is inspiration everywhere, in the kids around us believing in the same mojo, to the ocean and all the beautiful wonders we see all the time. There are just so many inspirational things all around us in life. Our best friends are our heroes and they are truly incredible people.

 

TG: DO YOU SEE WYNWOOD DEVELOPING AS THE CENTER OF THE ARTS COMMUNITY FOR GREATER MIAMI?

FWY: Yea, but I think there is a lot of quantity and not too much quality in the perpetual Miami art scene, sadly. There seams to be no real following or support of the art scene as a whole. I think there are a lot of amazing artists with unique perspectives, great collections, and a few cool galleries, but the curation seems off. Or something? I think Miami is lackadaisical in a lot of ways… it’s a resort town after all.  Art walks as of recent seem like the Coconut Grove art spectacle more than anything of great value. I think there are some important gems all over Miami; in Wynwood, in the Design District, and in North Miami, and I hope the important content continues to be supported and shine through.

 

 

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