Interview with THING exhibiting artist Samuel Albert Borkson from FriendsWithYou
With Arturo Sandoval III, Samuel is half of the art-design duo FriendsWithYou. According to the FriendsWithYou’s website ‘Sam was once a unicorn from outer space. His specialities are lucky blessings, telepathic communication, and energy adaptation. He was summoned to Earth by his buddy Tury [Arturo] to create a new religion for everyone called FRIENDSWITHYOU’. Arturo, on the other hand has the following background: ‘A magical Earth ghost entered the body of Tury at the same moment he was born! His special powers are spiritual engineering and happy magic sciences of earth and human relations’. The pair is based in Miami, Florida, and exhibit all over the world. Aside from animation and two- and three-dimensional works, central to their practice are interactive experiences and installations such as children’s playgrounds Rainbow Valley, 2006, and fit-outs of boutique clothing stores such as their Garden of Friendship in the Diesel Denim Gallery, New York, 2006. The pair’s work is central to THING as it expresses the wished-for end result of design – the perfect, un-alienated good life. Indeed, if one of design’s imperatives is about constructing forms to make our lives better both practically and imaginatively, FriendsWithYou’s playful and energetic work resides at the precise interface of these physical and imaginative zones. To get a sense of the breadth and flavour of their work please check out their website: www.FriendsWithYou.com
Robert Cook, Art Gallery of Western Australia: Hey Samuel. Thanks for taking the time to speak with us in Perth.We’re chatting now because we’re currently showing two of your inflatable works as part of the exhibition THING beware the material world. They’re incredible, real drawcards for our audience! I guess my first question is a background one. How and when did you and Samuel form FriendsWithYou?
Samuel Borkson, FriendsWithYou: Tury and I are on a similar path or mission to give a present to the world of spirituality, to connect people, and to open our perceptions. Before we met we were both fine tuning our skills in the world of arts, direction, design, and storytelling so when we met it has been an organic series of events that has brought us here.
Robert: Related to this, did you come up with the name right away or where there other names that landed on the cutting room floor?
Samuel: There was a whole list of names! But this one really fit our personalities and the mission overall! We really love word play and connecting ideas to create new vernacular. It’s one of our favorite games.
Robert: Do you see the identity and group as being a critique in any way of Hello Kitty culture, and the like, or is it embracing that imaginative vision and semi-magical-cute approach to the world?
Samuel: We don’t really classify FriendsWithYou into any strict definition and it is in no way a critique of anything in the world. More over it is a living idea that is constantly being figured out as well as opening minds to empower us to create and believe whatever we like. It’s a very simple idea that could be the base formula for everyting.
Robert: You seem to balance pretty evenly work for commercial and work for art contexts. Does the context, one or the other, change what you do at all?
Samuel: No it is a part of the same game that feeds each other. Business is an integral part of art today and we have looked at that form the beginning. We look at art as a service to people to be an aspirational tool.
Robert: Does the idea of working ‘behind’ a group identity give you freedoms that you would not otherwise have?
Samuel: We are the same as the group. Using this moniker works more like an identity that we can add many people’s efforts to it. We are just the creators but we want it to be much bigger than us, like the idea of religion and fun.
Robert: Do you ever break character and do outside work under different identities?
Samuel: Ha! We always breaking things up and then watch the pieces reform into new ones. We are nimble and excited to keep expanding our possibilities and proliferate our work to see how awesome it can be.
Robert: Your practice is amazingly wide-ranging. What is at the core of your practice?
Samuel: Never stop! Believe! And Love! In other words Magic, Luck, and Friendship!
Robert: We included your work in THING because it seems to be a really smart, and funny and approachable take on the promises of design. This is, design is all about making a version of the good life (however this is individually conceived). You push this further than most by basically fashioning a whole world. Is this something you are consciously trying to do, to create all elements of a new world? Or do you see it as a kind of world that runs in parallel to ours?
Samuel: Yes it is right here in our world! And it is something that can be whatever or wherever you wish. In an atom, a shoe, a cloud, or in the gobbler of a turkey. We love to play and create and can't wait to see where this ride will take us.
Robert: Is there a place for darkness in your world?
Samuel: Yes! It's integral part of the world. What is happy without sullen? What is exuberance without disappointment? What is success without failure?
Florida, USA, 2002-
Samuel Borkson 1979-
Arturo Sandoval III 1976-
580.0 x 350.0 (irregular)
Courtesy the artists
© FriendsWithYou 2009
Phantom mid flight
Courtesy the artists
© FriendsWithYou 2009