SFist: 'Portals' Art Installation Lets You Talk To Strangers Across The Globe

Maybe you, too, have thought about what a shame it is that with all the tools technology has brought us, we remain connected mostly just to the familiar — our own friends and family. An art installation project now several years in the making seeks to change that, offering "portals" of communication to other places around the globe with no purpose other than to learn about each other's lives, or share a moment.

The San Francisco Portal created by the group Shared Studios originally made a brief appearance in Hayes Valley in the fall of 2015, as you can see in the Instagram post below. At the time, KALW wrote about the project, begun in 2014 by artist Amar Bakshi, placing gold shipping containers in cities across the world, connected by Skype.

The SF Portal is now returning for a stay at Crissy Field beginning today, where it will remain through September 24, as NBC Bay Area reports.

Inside, visitors will get to spend 20 minutes talking to strangers with the help of UN interpreters, beginning today with a direct line to the portal in Mexico City. Over the next two months, you'll also be able to talk to people in cities in Afghanistan, Honduras, Iraq, Jordan, Germany, and Rwanda.

The idea is to have "purposeless" interactions, as Bakshi told KALW. "In the context of art, people can come in and do it without feeling like they have to ask the right question or what they say will be tweeted." One example KALW saw in the Hayes Valley installation was two trombonists from the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra playing a duet for a couple of Syrian teenagers in a refugee camp in Jordan.

Bakshi also hopes that the interactions can be inspirational. "There's a lot of excitement in a lot of our Portal connections to connect to San Francisco,” he said. “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."

The current Crissy Field edition was a collaborative project by the National Park Service and Golden Gate National Parks Conservatory with Shared Studios, and the container just arrived and got outfitted with its solar power last week.

Visits are free, but you're asked to pre-book an appointment, and there are currently plenty available. Tomorrow (Thursday), you'll be talking to Nairobi. On Saturday, Kigali, Rwanda in the morning, and San Pedro Sula in Honduras in the afternoon.

You might find out you have a lot to talk about.