Sam and Tury surf through a myriad of mediums to get their message of unison and empathy across. Based in LA, the 20 year old collaborative has held true to their mission to spread happiness, empathy, and unison to the world through already existing ideals, mainly spiritual, but through the cutest and most disarming icons. Interactive spaces, sensible objects, and the cutest faces on earth taken the world by storm. Their work has consistently been about reimagining spirituality and bringing to the table universally understood ideas of love, light, and hope that transcend sex, race, and age. Sages in their practice, FriendsWithYou recommend young creatives to go forth with any idea, to make it all and to remain ever fearless at the face of the infinite possibilities of creation we have today. Read on to learn more about FriendsWithYou, where they come from and what they stand for.
The Dance, 2020, Installation View at Dallas Contemporary, Courtesy of FriendsWithYou and the Studio
Tell us a little bit about yourselves. Where are you from and how did this collaborative come together?
Tury: I was raised in an environment where really everyone is crafty in some way or another. It makes sense that I turned out to be an artist because people raise their kids in the way they live and interact with the world. It was only until later in life that I realised that the whole world isn’t like that.
Sam: I think I’ve always been doing it, like it was always with me. I didn’t come from an artistic family and I didn’t go to art school. It was more of a self taught hobby that turned into an obsession that became my entire life. As far as the collaborative works, it’s been the process of Tury and my creative process. It began as two people who wanted to make art that was soft, helpful, and caring, in a way that could come out into the world and communicate something. We started with these very plush, very giant objects, which have morphed into so much more, and the beautiful thing is that we feel that we’re just getting started.
Super Moon, 2016, Commissioned by Lotte, Seoul, Courtesy of FriendsWithYou and the Studio
Did you always envision your work to have the same style it currently embodies?
Sam: That kind of changes bit by bit. That evolution and envisioning the evolution of projects is all short of natural to us as creators of contemporary art. Coming from a naïve place, where I learned about the concept of Modern and Contemporary art as a commodity, where people collect identical versions of the same work sounded really mundane for me. I feel that as we were creating more and more generations of our work, it looked like the present beauty of itself, not to its benefit. We create those experiences, we’ve become a part of experiential galleries, where we could never understand just how much we could really be a part of and create culture, it is really amazing to me. We’ve gone from our 2004 project at MOCA, Cloud City, to make True in the Rainbow Kingdom, that’s currently on Netflix.
Tury: The program Sam is referencing is really an encompassing of the core of our practice. We’re always pushing ourselves to go beyond the expected constraints. We want to communicate our ideas in more democratic ways. The concept of art where ideas are on earth, and that it moves through culture in the hands of other people, is something that we’re really trying to push back. For us the goal is really to be on the driver’s seats creating and formulating this culture. So for the show we’re working on, we’re really trying to embed core values like animism, and empathy. We thought, we have such a great idea in the core of our practice, why should we restrain it to be just in the art world? Why shouldn’t we try to embed that in things that are more modern? And what’s more modern than a TV show, but more than that, what’s more important than making a TV show for preschoolers, the newest generation, in an age when they’re soaking up so much in this world? Those archetypes that we grow up with, we absorbed through the TV that we saw when we were kids, and we’re very glad we can become a direct part of that.
Into The Clouds, 2019, Installation View Brookfield Place, Toronto, Vynil Inflatables, Courtesy of FriendsWithYou and the Studio
What is your process like? How do you think about a new work?
Sam: It really depends on what we’re creating. So we’ve made 5 seasons of this show, which got us excited to make more shows, which will turn out to be a multi-year approach. Whereas there are other parallel projects we’re working on that include sculpture-making, some require us to sit for a month and learn about a new computer software, but we’re also making new sculptures, digitally scanning, and so each thing has its own different life from conception to creation, that it’s always different and we’re always pushing ourselves to learn more and more ways to do things.
Tury: There are a few things that are different in our practice because we are in fact two people, two brains working together towards a common goal, so a lot of what we do includes learning new ways to create. It’s like learning to play an instrument. You have to learn the chords and tempo to really be able to understand what you’re doing, but as soon as you have that you can start building off the foundation blocks.Once we have an established structure that works, then you can really start jamming in your work. We’re working with a show that involves plastiline pieces, which is a soft material so it allows for that creative flexibility, as well as with computer software, it’s really easy to duplicate and remove chunks, add chunks, etc, so we do thrive in these mediums that are flexible in that way.
Little Cloud, 2018, Vinyl Inflatable, 30 ft. Commissioned by Macy’s for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, 2018, Courtesy of FriendsWithYou and the Studio
Where did the idea of the cloud come from? How did you think of it?
Sam: The cloud we feel is our ultimate communion with nature, as well as an incredibly anthropomorphic idea, because we can all relate to it no matter where we are in the world. We thought of creating a figure and putting the cutest face on it we could imagine, and to bring it out into the world as a universal icon, like the peace sign or what have you, universally understood. Natives used to think that gods would travel in the clouds. It really puts together a lot of what we intend to bring forward in our practice, it being a universally understood icon, which is disarming and undeniably adorable in its title Little Cloud, to propose something we can all understand and relate to, and as it also proposes a form of animism where we’re all a small spec of water in that cloud, is disarming and carries within it an image we can all identify and fell related to this one object. Besides using it as a positive icon that represents light and hope, love, joy and everything that comes in compassion for each other and our planet becomes imbued in this one thing.
Tury: How it came to be is something that has really come from our experience in art, is that the most powerful concepts and stronger truths end up being the things you’re constantly obsessing with, that come out to your mind over and over with so clearly, that you’re almost forcing your hand in returning them over and over in your practice because ultimately those are the things that you stand for and are intending to communicate. That process, however, takes a long time to realize. For our collab, it started showing up over and over in our work because it really embeds our belief system and what we intend to bring out to the world. If you were to write about this one icon, it would take an entire text, to truly encompass what we mean when we try to explain the importance of it. These logos carry archetypes that have become core to our practice. Humans need these beacons of hope and shared mutuality, and the old gods are tired icons that hold heavy baggage that we personally did not want to be a part of it. We wanted to represent these concepts that are so dear to humans, that transcend culture, generations, race, and the only way you can do that is being in that process and working on it for years.
A Beautiful Place II, 2019, Oil Stick and Oil Pastel on Raw Canvas, at Dallas Contemporary, Courtesy of FriendsWithYou and the Studio
Of all the mediums you have worked with, which is your preferred favorite?
Sam: It’s crazy because I personally love painting and sculpting, but I feel that my love for new possibilities and abilities is really shared in my practice now. For example we’ve done this animated show on Netflix and our next project is creating a sort of stop motion work that is going to be broadcasted but it’s definitely going to be a work of art, so just the amount of possibilities there are with getting something done that is no question a piece of art but it’s shown through an unusual medium is to me just as exciting as producing and working on a painting. We’re in this moment now where we can get anything done through any possible medium.
Tury: It’s a weird question because it’s like asking someone to pick a favorite color M&M, you know? I feel that to some extent we’re medium agnostic. We go back and forth a lot, and maybe the coolest thing is that it becomes almost like we work through no medium. We’re delving now through all these M&M flavors because there’s no limit to what you can do so long as it exists and it’s there.
Sam: Yes everything is a possibility now. If you’re a young creative, pour best advice to you would be go go out and put your hands to work on anything and everything. We’re in this renaissance of creation, where as an artist you can make so much mainly by forgetting everything that has been taught to you in terms of how things work and come to be.
Stage View of JBalvin’s Show Arcoiris at Coachella, 2019, Courtesy of FriendsWithYou and the Studio
Tell us a bit about the vision of your company.
Tury: It really is about filling in. The key of our process is to create a communion, and an intersection where people can feel the presence of other people, and are identified through icons to feel a transcendental presence. Something we share and are a part of, which is what we believe is the true power basis of religion, which is that you feel more whole among other people than you do by yourself. The second key core of our mission is the concept that maybe the universe is not conspiring against you. Maybe the purpose of our being is not what we’ve been taught which is that only God can save you, but that perhaps it’s simply that we’re all born in this one tiny piece of rock and everything’s meant to be just as it is, and we’re just here to make the best of what we have and what we can produce. There’s many ways to transmit that, and as FriendsWithYou we feel it’s our role to subversively insert all this help we find for ourselves and transmit it to others.
Sam: We’re surprised humans haven’t become one race yet. We’re now so connected, that we as humans are now the first version of AI. We all thought it was going to look like Terminator, no, it’s us as humans. Tury and I feel that we’re prototyping what the reality of culture is. Today we’re all connected through this technology, how can we create movements to help design the ideal culture of our world.
Both: It’s been 20 years since we’ve been working together, and the first project we did was a sculptural installation we worked on together that was imbued with the concept we were trying to communicate. As artists I would say, the concept is perhaps just as important as the aesthetic of our work. We hung out just the two of us figuring out and making these monumental soft sculptures, and we agreed that it was perfectly reflecting how we thought of toys.
Something in the Water, 2019, Virginia Beach, Vinyl Inflatables, Courtesy of FriendsWithYou and the Studio
Does your work reference any Art Historical movements?
Tury: If I had to pinpoint one sector it would be performance and installation art. I love how transcendental the work can be, how powerful some work can be to impact entire generations. For example Chris Burton’s punk-rockness really resonated with me, to know what art was really supposed to be. We process and consume as much information in one day as a person in the 1500s would process in their entire lifetime.
Sam: We’re influenced by strange things like that. We’re the first children of the internet, from Paul McCarthy, to Miyazaki, we’ve absorbed all of this and no doubt transfer it to our work. The beautiful thing is that we’re really dumb primates. There’s so much that we don’t know and so much that we consume, that we’re going to be living in this constant consumption till we’re really old, and technologies will allow us to be the oldest humans in the planet to go to about 200 years old.
Unified Field II, 2019, Plastiline Clay on Plexiglass, Courtesy of FriendsWithYou and the Studio
At the end of every interview, we like to ask the artist(s) to recommend a friend whose work you love and who you’d like us to interview next. Who would you suggest?
Alake Shilling, Jen Stark, LSD World Peace, Mario Ayala, and Ivan Seal to name a few.