There's a new tenant in Hayes Valley's Proxy space, sandwiched between the Smitten ice cream stand and the lager-slinging Biergarten. This time, though, the addition isn't another hipster-approved juice bar or gluten-free bakery: This is a wormhole to another country hosted by Shared Studios, a global public art project.
Step inside a gold-painted shipping container in downtown Washington, midway between the White House and the Capitol, and, for 20 minutes, you can make a new friend in Afghanistan, Cuba or Iran.
"What would make today a good day for you?" is the ice-breaking question that visitors to the Portals project are invited to use to strike up a transnational conversation via a sometimes shaky Internet video link.
Amar Bakshi was imprisoned in Zimbabwe on espionage charges when he was studying as a senior at Harvard University. He was a special assistant to Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, when Barack Obama came into office, and he is a Truman Scholar and Soros Fellow.
He has also spent the last year and a half re-purposing train cars by painting them gold and, with the help of architects and engineers, equipping them with audio-visual technology so that when participants step inside, they are face to face with someone who is likely thousands of miles away.