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100 Creatives: Asif Farooq Turns Cardboard and Machinery Into Art

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In honor of our "People" issue, which will hit newsstands November 17, New Times proudly presents "100 Creatives," where we feature Miami's cultural superheroes. Have suggestions for future profiles? Let us know in the comments.

#93: Asif Farooq

Nothing about Asif Farooq is simple. His work crafting complicated machinery out of paper or his time onstage performing as Main Manatee, singing the Platters’ “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” to a giant stuffed animal, are as complex as his personal story.

Farooq’s life began idyllic enough. He was born to Pakistani immigrant parents at Baptist Hospital 37 years ago and raised about a mile away. “It was sweet,” he recalls of his childhood in Kendall. “We knew our neighbors and went fishing in the canal. All the neighborhood kids would hang out and ride bikes and tell each other wild stories. You had to use your imagination more back then.”

He got into art because he didn’t excel at sports, and he made plenty of paper airplanes. “Art has a convenient social component. So my contribution to the group was aesthetic decision-making. I could decorate the clubhouse, so to speak,” he says wistfully.

But like many creative people, he fell into a pattern of addiction that left him near death in South Miami Hospital. It was there that he told Miami New Times earlier this year: "I made a foxhole prayer to the universe back then that I would one day build my MiG-21 if I could stay alive.”

He pulled through this purification by metaphorical fire to begin again as an internationally recognized artist. His next project involved crafting all sorts of guns, including AK-47s and AR-style assault rifles, out of old cereal boxes and other sorts of cardboard. Miami gallery Primary Projects took notice and helped him open "Asif's Guns" in Wynwood during Art Basel Miami Beach 2012, which placed all art eyes on him.

Farooq kept this promise to the universe to create a functioning Cold War-era Soviet fighter jet entirely out of paper, the cost and time commitment be damned. “I wanted to make things that no one could possibly ever want,” he says of the current project. “The joke's on me now, because I have to push this boulder up the hill forever as my punishment.” And what a layered and rewarding Sisyphean task it is.

List five things that inspire you.
The only five things that inspire me are (in order of importance):
1. My mom and my nephews, but mainly my older sister, Dr. Uzma Farooq, board-certified dermatopathologist.
2. Desperation and a sense of wanting to contribute.
3. Spite.
4. My girlfriend's cats, Butters and Dwight D. Meowsenhower III.
5. Erica Mohan's water buffalo, Buffoon.

What was your last big project?
My last big project was working on the Chicken Piano with Andrew Nigon and Hiroki Haraguchi.

What's your next big project?
My next big project is going to be a small project. I'm putting a small, low-Earth-orbiting satellite over North Korea that will play Metallica's first (and arguably best) album, Kill 'Em All, on a continuous loop.

What do you want Miami to know about you?
Not much. I like my privacy.

What don't you want Miami to know about you?
It's too late for that.

What's one thing you want people to know about Miami.
I want people to know that the very best pizza in Miami is in Kendall. Pizza Johny's on SW 97th Avenue and 72nd Street has the best pizza in the city!

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