Great big bouncy castles, open-air pavilions on urban waterfronts, smiling, glowing celestial bodies, and kinetic, floating architectural gardens. When it comes to the massive, illuminated, inflatable and interactive sculptural installations by LA-based art collective FriendsWithYou, public art is a second childhood. Coast to coast and around the world, their brightly hued, beautifully illuminated, inflatable shapes and characters pop up to enhance cultural gatherings and celebrate public rituals, from summer concerts to moon festivals.
“Well each of the installations has their own purpose and magic. Size is important to each but at the same time size isn't essential to us making deeper emotional impacts and connections. Our new VR light spirit piece for example takes place in a metaphysical plane and has affected people so much emotionally,” says Samuel Borkson, who, together with partner Arturo Sandoval III, founded the collective in Miami in 2002. Of the impressive 45-foot LED towers that have greeted concertgoers this summer in Los Angeles, he tells The Creators Project, “Scale does help, though! In the case of Light Wave at the Santa Monica Pier, our goal was to make the pier appear to be coming alive and coming apart like a living piece of spiritual architecture, illuminating crowds under the bright rainbow spectrum.”
The installation, Light Wave, has its final concert “performance” on the evening of September 8, but halfway around the world, a brand new piece had its debut on September 1 in Seoul. Super Moon is a 60-foot inflatable sculpture surrounded by eight symbolic “planets” floating in Seokchon Lake. It glows and radiates a sort of Zen-raver-constellation of colored lights—and, for good measure, includes one of the group’s famously irresistible mansion-size bouncy cloud castles. It was greeted with an exuberant crowd who clearly felt moved to believe in magic.
FriendsWithYou works across a variety of pop-infused media from sculpture to painting, prints, books, editions, and etc.; but their true love is experiential art, striving, as they say, “to affect world culture by cultivating special moments of spiritual awareness and powerful, joyous interaction.” Expanding on related recent installations at the High Line and Art Basel Miami, with Santa Monica and Seoul, they “wanted these pieces to be of mythical proportions like futuristic monolithic temples,” Sam continues. “And in the case of the moon, size also played a huge part in bringing this celestial being from the cosmos to our orbit here on Earth. We feel size is helpful to dwarf the viewer aiding us in the lower of peace and serenity. Also by sheer mass allowing us be in its gravitational proximity we are able to dream love, magic, and peace into our own lives.”
FriendsWithYou took inspiration from California’s coast and culture for Light Wave, which is their largest public installation, and their first in Los Angeles. It closes tonight.