Even before Internet ubiquity, in the mid-1990s, when I was in third grade, students who finished bookwork early (young nerds like myself) were sent to the back of the room – where the (one lonesome) computer was located – and given access to a digital rendering of the entire world, led by the intrepid Carmen Sandiego.
When Shared_Studios brought its Portals project to Times Square last month, it brought in one of its star curators to take a turn on Broadway. Lewis Lee, who with his generous and engaging nature embodies the Portals mission to connect people around the world, flew in from Milwaukee to connect visitors with friends and strangers. Or more specifically, strangers who become friends.
Today (21 November) is the last chance to stop by the TimesSquare_Portal project, a golden shipping container that connects visitors in New York’s busiest public space with people around the world, using advanced video chat software. During its seven-week-long run, the portable communications hub has linked up to cities in the US as well as Iraq, Afghanistan, Rwanda and Myanmar. Portals was created to foster one-on-one conversations across distances and different cultures, says the project’s founder and creative director Amar Bakshi. During a visit in October, The Art Newspaper spoke with a group of children from the Harsham Refugee Camp in Erbil, Iraq about some of their favourite activities—playing football—and foods—shawarma and barbeque. The project is always travelling, and there are plans to launch a Portal in a repurposed school bus in February, so keep an eye on the organiser’s website for future stops.
North Terrace’s old RAH building is now abandoned. Its doctors, nurses, patients and beeping machines have moved into new state-of-the-art digs just down the road. The place is suddenly quiet and more than a little eerie in their absence. On the forecourt – somewhat obscured by roadworks – a mysterious gold box has appeared.
I just spoke to refugees from Mosul in Irbil, Iraq. Rami and Sami are two brothers who have been living in a refugee camp in Irbil for three years. Their journey from Mosul took them first through Syria, then Turkey, and after a delay of five days at the Kurdish border, they were permitted to enter again into the area of Iraq now controlled by the Kurds. Irbil is in Kurdish territory. The delay at the border was because relations between the Arabs and the Kurds is not that good.
Harvard Divinity School student Shannon Boley pushed open the heavy door to the large shipping container and slowly stepped out on to the School’s campus green, wiping away tears from her eyes.
Asked why she was crying, she said “that was just a connection I haven’t had in a long time.”
CAMBRIDGE — In a cozy space on Harvard’s campus, a small group of students sat down Sunday morning facing another cluster of young people and chatted about TV, music, and sports.
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — A specially equipped shipping container at Harvard University is giving students the rare chance to connect with Syrian refugees a world away.