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'TimesSquare_Portal' | © Ian Douglas / Times Square Arts
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In Times Square, a Shipping Container Connects New Yorkers to the World

Picture of Rachel Gould
Art & Design Editor
Updated: 7 November 2017
Through a golden shipping container with live video capabilities, artist Amar C. Bakshi wishes to connect you with a faraway stranger.

On Broadway, between 46th and 47th Street in Times Square, sits a seemingly uncomplicated golden box. But inside, the space is outfitted with the poignant capacity to connect strangers from 30 locations across 20 countries.

© Ian Douglas / Times Square Arts
© Ian Douglas / Times Square Arts

The interactive installation titled TimesSquare_Portal, created in conjunction with multidisciplinary tech art collective Shared_Studios and public art program Times Square Arts, aims to spark meaningful conversations between people whose paths may never otherwise cross.

“Shared_Studios’ Portals are gold shipping containers equipped with immersive audio-visual technology,” explains Times Square Arts. “When participants enter one, they come face-to-face, live and full-body, with someone in an identical space somewhere else on earth. Portals exist in diverse locations including technology hubs, refugee camps, art museums, community centers, and public plazas.”

© Ian Douglas / Times Square Arts
© Ian Douglas / Times Square Arts

Stationed in vastly different regions around the world (Afghanistan, Germany, Honduras, India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Mexico, Myanmar, Pakistan, Palestine, Panama, Rwanda, Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States, Vietnam, and Yemen), participants hail from wildly diverse cultures—and the project’s organizers believe that providing both the technology and the space for safe, intimate conversations will encourage cultural curiosity and understanding through a nurturing exchange in the face of today’s divisiveness.

TimesSquare_Portal is part of a larger, 24-part project originally conceived of by Bakshi. The artist hopes that these ‘portals’ will foster genuine connections between participants, who will subsequently discover cross-cultural similarities and common ground as humans.

© Ian Douglas / Times Square Arts
© Ian Douglas / Times Square Arts

“It’s a global public space,” Bakshi tells artnet News. “We’ve built a community of people who believe in this idea of showcasing their own diversity, and learning from and engaging the diversity of others.”

The project kicked off in October for a seven-week run, each week with a new theme: Public Space, Food, Migration, Performance, Identity, Change, and Gratitude, just in time for Thanksgiving. Alongside the dialogues created through the installation, a series of special events including shared meals, musical performances, and seminars will be held.

© Ian Douglas / Times Square Arts
© Ian Douglas / Times Square Arts

Anyone who encounters the Portal in Times Square is welcome to give it a try. Participants can also reserve a time slot for free on the project’s website, where the full schedule of events is also listed.

TimesSquare_Portal is currently on view at Broadway Plaza between West 46th and 47th Streets, New York, NY 10036 until November 21, 2017.