An upcoming art installation at San Francisco's Crissy Field will feature a meet and greet with strangers thousands of miles away.
The "Portal" exhibit, created by Shared_Studios and made possible by partnerships with Luminalt, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, and the National Park Service, brings a "gold-painted shipping container filled with immersive audiovisual equipment" to the park. The container will allow up to eight people at a time in San Francisco to enter and meet people at one of 20 other portals around the world, including Honduras, Iraq, Afghanistan, Mexico, and elsewhere. Language interpretation assistance, of course, will be provided.
"In a time like this, when we are often equipped with the ability to connect to anyone, anywhere and find out new information ... misinformation and misunderstanding can travel just as quickly," says Sabrina Bedford, the Parks Conservancy's Art & Community Engagement Coordinator. "The portal allows us to connect with people we would not normally be able to meet and to better understand them as a person, beyond photos or headlines. Even if one were to travel to that country, you may not actually interact with individuals this way — you still experience the place through a visitor's eyes. This way, you're introduced to a person and learn about the place through their words and point of view."
If the concept sounds familiar, it's because it is; a similar project, also executed by Shared_Studios, was open to the public in 2015 in Hayes Valley.
"There's a lot of excitement in a lot of our portal connections to connect to San Francisco," creator Amar Bakshi told KALW at the time. "It's imagined as a place of incredible entrepreneurship, world changing ideas, incredible financial resources, and really smart people here. Our portal locations as people know are similarly talented, they are not as well financially resourced, but have incredible amounts to contribute."
There's no opening date set for the Crissy Field location, but officials say the attraction is "coming soon" and will be open to the public Thursday through Saturday.