Skyping As Art: Meet the Man Connecting Strangers As a Social Experiment

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Morgan Spurlock, right, gives one of Portals' shipping containers a test run. Photo: Courtesy of Portals/Amar Bakshi

“We all share on Facebook, but that’s a very performative type of sharing. That’s very different than the sharing of you alone with someone talking in isolation in quiet for a little bit more time,” says Amar Bakshi, the founder of Shared Studios, a multidisciplinary collaborative space that is “carving out wormholes in the world” and that has staged Portals — something that is part art project, part social experiment. The idea is to pair individuals who have the time to take a second out of their day and connect with a total stranger in an entirely different city and time zone. It’s "satiating a fundamental curiosity that’s in a lot of us, which is, ‘What is it like to live another life? What is a day in life like?’” Bakshi adds. “I think there’s a reason we have a day in the life as a cliché.”

How does it work? Bakshi has purchased two shipping containers, loaded them up with computers, monitors, and the internet, and scheduled a bunch of famous or notable people to video chat and become friends for a few hours. Portals, in its first iteration, connects the two cities of Tehran and New York — and since it began on December 5, it has seen the likes of Fareed Zakaria, Titus Kaphar, and Morgan Spurlock, whose exchange was documented in the video below. The project ends on Friday, and viewers can watch live or previously taped experiences on sharedstudios.com.

Bakshi, who currently is in his last year at Yale Law School and was a reporter for the Washington Post prior to that, already has plans for the next installment of Portals. The location has yet to be determined. “I thought the best part of being a journalist was having great conversations. I want these things to be a thing!”