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Talk to People in Iran Through New Lower East Side Exhibit

By Lisha Arino | December 4, 2014 10:50am
Portals Takes Shape in New York
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LOWER EAST SIDE — A new art exhibition aims to foster conversation by providing a “portal” between the Lower East Side and Tehran, Iran.

The exhibit features a pair of custom-designed metal shipping containers — one inside the Lu Magnus Gallery on Hester Street and the other at M-40 Studio in Tehran — where visitors can converse one-on-one with the help of a camera, microphone and the Internet.

“The project is about letting people indulge their curiosity about the daily life of someone else different than themselves in a different location,” said artist Amar Bakshi, a former journalist who is pursuing a law degree at Yale University.

To participate, visitors can reserve a spot online and then head to the gallery for sessions starting on Friday. Once they step into the container, they can chat with another gallery-goer across the world for up to 15 minutes, whose image will be projected on an 8-by-8-foot screen along with a translation provided by an on-site translator, Bakshi said. 

Although the conversations will be unstructured, the artist, along with his collaborators in Iran, have provided a prompt: “What would make tomorrow a good day for me?”

Each day, special guests — like CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, documentarian Morgan Spurlock and Yale University School of Art dean Robert Storr — will take part in the project, Bakshi said. Following their conversations, they will participate in a Q&A about the experience.

The goal is to create a space where people can have a quiet conversation with strangers — an experience that has become rare in today's media-saturated world, especially with those who live halfway around the world, Bakshi said.

"I hope they just have a moment that they find memorable...and unique," he said, explaining that some of the "most memorable and most important experiences" of his life were conversations with strangers while he was a reporter traveling the globe.

Bakshi also hopes to expand his project into a network of shipping containers around the globe. Future sites include Moscow and Mexico City.

“A Portal Between Tehran & NYC: Open for Conversation” will be on display at Lu Magnus Gallery, 55 Hester St., from Dec. 5 to 19 daily from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Click here for more information.