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AMIGOS & BUDDIES & PALS, OH MY!: Interactive art project at Delano invites us, via Post-it Note, to answer one question: What is a real friend?

You can sing this:

“Thank you for being a friend / Traveled down a road and back again / Your heart is true, you’re a pal and a confidant.”

Or you can sing this:

“Keep smiling, keep shining / Knowing you can always count on me / For sure / That’s what friends are for.”

But can you sing this?

“A real friend won’t have sex with your ex-girlfriend / A real friend holds you up when U R too stoned to stand / A real friend tells you that you have a booger in your nose.”

No? Not even if it had a great beat and you could dance to it?

Don’t sweat it. Those last lyrics weren’t meant for crooning. More to just … think about. Except, perhaps, the “booger” one, which is best left un-visualized, though a better definition of friendship — risking discomfort to help someone ward off embarrassment in ways both big and small — we can’t imagine.

That’s the point.

“It’s a really simple question, Are You Really My Friend?” says artist Tanja Hollander

“It’s a really simple question,” says Tanja Hollander, the artistic inquisitor behind the Post-it Note-slathered art installation, Are You Really My Friend? at Delano Las Vegas through Sept. 22. “But there are so many emotions and values and it really makes you think, even if it’s just for a minute, of what a person means to you.”

A real friend …

“Sticks by your side no matter how much you push them away / Lays down his life for you / Is my mom.”

Laminated nearly floor-to-ceiling length in scrawls and scribbles across walls by the elevator banks and photographed in pastel scraps of orange/yellow/pink/green/purple/blue — as if a vat of rainbow sherbet exploded in the lobby — Are You Really My Friend? is an exercise is heart/soul/sociology/psychology. And humor.

A real friend …

“Is someone to diet with / Is honest, gentle, supportive and tells you when your panty line is showing / Buys you cheesecake following a breakup.”

“One of the really exciting things about doing it in Las Vegas is that I can’t think of another city that talks about friendship more than Las Vegas,” says the Maine-based Hollander of her mobile, crowdsourced exhibit, which includes a table piled with blank Post-it Notes and pens so visitors can add to the endless flow of friendship thought bubbles that will stream into future iterations of the project.

“It’s such a place for bachelor parties and major birthday parties and gatherings for groups of friends and it has that history. And working with MGM (which owns the Delano) is fantastic because they believe in art — and the accessibility of art. Some places believe in art but don’t make it accessible to the general public. I really like their mission. Las Vegas is a wonderful place for art reaching a large audience.”

A real friend …

“Will help you move / Is honest, trustworthy, genuine and supportive — this could be a person or a dog / Tells you they love you without saying it.”

Post-It Notes are merely a pastel slice of this thematic pie, as Hollander explains about the genesis of the project, which also includes photos of all 626 of her Facebook friends. That took her across the globe to snap portraits at locales from museums to community fairs to conferences. And it all began on a solitary New Year’s Eve.

A real friend …

“Can listen and forget / Has your back and doesn’t talk behind your back / Is someone who stabs you in the front.”

“It was New Year’s Eve of 2010, I was home alone, messaging a friend who was working on a film in Jakarta and at the same time I was handwriting a letter to a friend who was deployed to Afghanistan,” Hollander recalls.

 “I started thinking about those two friendships and how they were from really different parts of my life, but both people were really important to me. It was the handwritten letter vs. the Facebook message — not only how messed up it was that I was on Facebook on New Year’s Eve, but also how awesome it was that I was connecting with this friend who was so far away.”

A real friend …

“Is there when you need them and there when you don’t / Sees you as you are in each new moment — not how you were / Understands you even when you don’t understand yourself.”

After scrolling through all her Facebook friends, Hollander says she asked herself the question that sparked a project that is now in its eighth year of artistry, including the Post-it Notes: How do we make individual connections that create the foundations on which we build communities?

“Facebook has corporatized and reinvented the word ‘friend’ and turned it into a verb,” she says. “What does this all mean in terms of how we communicate in the 21st century? I’m not a sociologist. When I started, I thought it would be a small documentary on friends but it just snowballed. And the Post-it Notes completely surprised me because that was supposed to be the smallest part of the whole thing and it’s grown into the largest.”

A real friend …

“Is someone you can hang out with in your underwear / Is like family except you aren’t forced to love them / Is someone who would bail you out of jail with minimal questions asked — or someone who was arrested with you in the first place.”

Yes, some friendship ruminations are profound. Others? Not so much. “Obviously some reflect what’s been happening during their trip here,” says one visitor from New York, punctuating it with a hearty chortle. “Like, ‘We’ll never judge you for being a drunken (use your imagination) last night!’” she reads off the wall.

Another browser — Dorien from London, England — trembles at our collective literacy level, noting, as Hollander admits, that she didn’t edit the submissions for spelling, grammar, punctuation or syntax. “Oh my God, I fear for the spelling capacity of the world!” Dorien exclaims. “I’m not kidding. It drives me nuts. It’s fine if you’re 6 years old, but nobody knows how to use an apostrophe!”

A real friend …

“Doesn’t need a picture to make the memory / Speaks up for you even when you aren’t in the room / Wins the coin toss to get the one cat in the shelter after days of hiking in the rain, then pretends they lost so you can have the cat because you are tired and discouraged.”

So many “friendship” perceptions? Any through lines? Yes, as a matter of fact. Grouping them politically, Hollander says, is an effective way to examine them as six core ideological values that most everyone shares — to varying degrees.

“Liberals are high in fairness and caring and conservatives are high in sanctity and authority and we meet in the middle with loyalty and liberty,” she says. “You see a lot of those core values reflected in the Post-it Notes.  That’s why people love them — they’re seeing themselves but they’re also seeing differences and agreeing with the differences.”

A real friend …

“Appears at your mother’s funeral / Knows which girls are off limits / Never lets you drunk-dial your ex.”

So, did chewing on thousands of intellectual morsels about friendship amount to a giant soufflé of knowledge on the subject beyond political differences? “Relationships are complicated, friendships are complicated, social media is complicated,” Hollander says. “I don’t know if I found out any conclusions. It’s really hard to come to these definitive, black and white decisions.”

Therein lies the madness — and beauty — of both art and humanity. 

A real friend …

“Cheers for your successes and fixes your crown when it falls / Puts you in your PJs at 3 a.m. / Says bad things to your face and good things behind your back.”

Well, then, if Hollander can’t draw any overarching conclusions about human interaction, how about in her own little bubble of relationships? “Yes!” she says of her own evolution.

 “My definition of friendship was somebody you had over for dinner, could drink a little too much wine with and argue politics or whatever and still be friends in the morning.  It’s more nuanced now. Now I understand that there are friends that I see art with and others I see movies with or others I go to concerts with. It’s not just one person who is your everything.”

A real friend …

“Unfollows your ex on Instagram / Is someone you don’t have to ask if they are a friend — you just know / Is Jesus.”

“I have been trying to create a giant database of them all that will live online,
 Hollander says, “so you can search by your zip code or a keyword and they will all come up.”

For now, you can find much of them on her website: Or, to get the full-blast effect, visit the Delano elevator hallway.

A real friend …

“Immediately deletes your hard drive when you die.”

Hey — now that’s a friend.

Your heart is true. You’re a pal and a confidant.

To offer feedback on this story or suggestions for future stories on Las Vegas Newswire, contact Managing Editor Steve Bornfeld at


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