FriendsWithYou need no introduction, however… With an initial release of a line of fetishistic plush toys designed to spread a universal message of luck, magic and friendship, Miami based artists Samuel Albert Borkson and Arturo Sandoval III have gone from strength to strength. Impressively this cosmic duo can now lay claim to a host of international commissions from prominent brands and cultural institutions alike as well as participations in some of the worlds most respected art happenings. Their familiar and playful aesthetic combined as it is with a heady ontological perspective has given rise to various material objects that serve as an idols or charms. Believed to have supernatural powers these ‘characters’ and the many forms of merchandise that support them such as t-shirts, books, stickers, and toys continue to expand.
Well known for impressive public projects such as Skywalkers, a balloon parade that took place during Art Basel Miami Beach 2006, and Rainbow Valley, a children’s adventure playground permanently situated in Aventura Mall, FriendsWithYou have managed, in a relatively short time, to establish a significant presence in both the art world and commercial markets- proving perhaps that well positioned low brow beginnings can in fact have mainstream results. The most recent of such projects “Dream Maker,” a large inflatable mobile (pictured above), is currently installed at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
Their broad appeal and adept marketing, has afforded rampant success, sky rocketing the reputation of these self styled prophets of ingenuous mystic adventure to near cult status. For this Salon Des Beaux-Bains on site special, ARTLURKER’s very own Thomas Hollingworth suited, booted, and hit the road only to promptly undress and get wet with Samuel Borkson at his home in Miami’s Design District. With Alexandra Kuechenberg on hand to lend stylistic, photographic, and if need be respiratory assistance, an interview commenced, in a bath, in an apartment, in a city where anything is increasingly possible.
So, baths then.
I don’t want to make any assumptions but is this something you typically do by yourself?
(lol) Yeah, for sure! I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone in the bath with me before.
Apart from wearing a towel all day to get in the mood I didn’t prepare much for this interview. Do you have any pre bath routines that you want to share with our readers?
No, it’s mostly that I’m really like working on stuff. Or that I have tons of shit on my mind as usual since we’re dealing with so many projects, and that I need to shut my brain off. Its just time, like my eyes are fucking closing but I’m not tired yet so I need to activate brain turn down by getting in the bath tub and reading comic books.
You typically read in the bath?
Yeah, almost every time. A bath for me is really just my exhausted attempt to turn my brain off or go into a fantasy world. I like to go to sleep on these crazy stories that are hidden in my head right between my subconscious and my conscious state you know? So right before I go to sleep I read fantastical things that are usually philosophy based like really amazing comic books and graphic novels and stuff like that.
Have you ever dropped any in the bath?
Definitely. And also like when I fall asleep sometimes that happens, but I try not to do it as much as possible.
So baths are intrinsic to your work as they act as a catalyst for dreaming which in turn informs the ideas that inspire you?
For sure! And intrinsic to my lifestyle too!
The temperature of the water today is somewhere between lukewarm and tepid, is this normal?
No, typically I like it really hot.
That’s not too good for the sperm count you know.
I know! I actually think about that and try to keep ‘them’ out.
In a net?
No, I usually just push my legs together a bit if I’m laying still and ‘they’ sit up on top. It’s funny that you mention that because it’s really something I think about a lot. I really love baths you know but I really want to have kids too!
Have you ever owned a Jacuzzi?
If you had one would you use it?
If you got one would it be the dribble kind that makes a pool and you have to splash or one of those jet ones that go vertically up like pssssssffffffffft?
Jets. Definitely jets. I like to be as clean as possible.
But baths for you are more about relaxing. Not much of your general bodily hygiene maintenance goes on here. I mean I’m not going to find any sunken relics of toe nail clippings or anything?
(lol) No, it’s mainly all about the water and the dreams and being in the zone.
Do you have any particular bath anecdotes? Like a favorite bath that you had once or good ‘bath’ times?
I’ve had sometimes where I’m so exhausted that I’ve almost killed myself in the bath. Like I get into the bath when I’m so tired but cant get to sleep so I’ll walk in to the bath and slip or something and sometimes it’s pretty dangerous. So I’ve had a few close calls like almost splitting my head and falling asleep in the bath. It happens to me a lot; almost regularly.
Do you drink heavily or have low blood pressure?
No. No, its just that I don’t sleep so much you know so I use this to force myself to kind of go to sleep when I am already over exhausted.
Cherries are good. They contain melatonin.
Cherries, really, I didn’t know that!
Yep, either a cup of fresh cherries or half a cup of dried cherries and you’ll sleep. (Pointing to shower curtain emblazoned with a colorful map of the world) Does this have any sentimental value for you at all?
No but I like to look at the countries and learn about places I want to go to. You know, like weird places around the world; I think geography is definitely underrated.
How do you feel right now?
Amazing! Yeah, I’m pretty happy. Life is like, the best ever.
If you could design your own bathroom what would it be like?
There was this amazing bath. China – you know China right? Christina Paradello? She’s opening this new hotel in Tribeca – the new Robert Dinero hotel – and before the pre-opening I got to check out all the baths. They were all super big and super deep. Every bath in the hotel, it was amazing. I’d probably want something like that.
And what about being in a collective, a duo to be precise, with Arturo?
He’s a genius for sure. We fit perfectly like LEGO. We work so well together. Where I am weak he’s strong, where I am strong he’s weak. I couldn’t hope for a better working relationship and its amazing that we can have that you know. It’s so inspiring.
Have you and Tury have never taken a bath together?
I don’t think so, maybe in a hot tub in a hotel but I’ve seen him give his daughter a bath before. He was actually trying to get her to poop in the pool today at his birthday party. He’s like “I live vicariously through her!”
Is that the spirit of FWY?
Yes we are all about making dreams come true!
Life for Mr. Borkson is indeed an enviable one, but it is also clearly somewhat of a double edged sword. The activity of his days falling somewhere between frantic work and comatose relaxation; the search for dreams and the ever-present reality of powder room tragedy.
Apart from the invention of the plastic comic book (and perhaps the evolution of gills) there seems little that could improve this eternal cherub’s enjoyment of life.
In all its pure forms the world for him serves as an adult playground where ideas, art and even niche careers are forged from the simple understanding that we are put on this Earth to work hard, play fair, dream, love and be loved. For more information on FriendsWithYou please visit: www.friendswithyou.com
Join us next week when Miami based artist Bhakti Baxter joins ARTLURKER in Le Salon Des Beaux-Bains for more towel rail tattle tales.