Portals by art collective Shared Studios

We may not be as close to cracking the science of teleportation, but the technology of the 21st century has allowed us to get pretty close. With the invention of texting, video chat, face time, and social media as a whole, more than ever, we’re able to cross the boundaries of the world. Without the need for physical travel, people from all over the world have been able to connect with each other. This process of globalization has opened many new doors in the world of business, economy, politics, as well as the arts.

A recent art project led by the contemporary art company Shared Studios launched their project Portals in December 2014. Portals is an international installation piece, comprising of two gold painted shipping containers placed on opposite sides of the world ¬¬– one in Tehran and the other in New York City. Inside each shipping container is a camera and a large screen which streams live to the other container. Viewers are invited to come into the container and for 15 minutes speak to a stranger on the other side of the world. One of the most fascinating aspects of this project is what participants choose to talk about. The relationship between America and Iran has not always been the greatest politically or socially, however the words exchanged between participants have not been ones of hatred or criticism. Instead they have been ones of curiosity and admiration. Most participants have chosen to exchange questions about each other’s lives. Common topics include childhood, hobbies, desires, future goals, or shared interests. Despite the vast cultural differences between these two peoples, many participants from both countries have come to realize how many similarities we share as human beings. Artworks like this that comment on human connection and the global sphere are essential to the attempt to bring understanding and acceptance between varying cultures on a social and political level.

Over 650 people have participated in this project so far, each leaving with a difference experience. While some walked out of the container laughing and filled with joy, others came out weeping and overwhelmed. The range of emotions to come out of a project like this one are always unpredictable. Coming face-to-face with a stranger from a part of the world we would never have had the chance to meet outside of this project is revolutionary and powerful in itself. While countries will always have their borders, due to the innovative technology of our time, there will no longer be borders between people. This art project is only the beginning for this type of global expansion, and while there is much work to be done, the art world is as good a place as any to start.

Click here to read an article on NPR transcribing one of these encounters