#rpTEN Speaker Amar Bakshi: The World Wide Wanderer

Imagine you're standing in front of a shipping container. You step inside and suddenly realise it isn't a normal container but a portal instead. It connects you to and lets you talk with whoever has entered another portal located somewhere else on the planet. Sounds like 2016 science-fiction. In fact, its an art project created by Shared_Studios and its founder Amar Bakshi.

Through PORTALS, Amar is looking to connect people, to build and foster intimate dialogue and make us think about the concept of distance. Furthermore, he's looking to bring modern communication technologies to distant places, which are (for now) still using contemporary infrastructures.

It's not simply about calling someone – software like Skype would be sufficient for that. It's about more than simply internet technologies. The project is about creating intimacy through technology. This vision was born out of Amar's interview project, created in 2007 for the Washington Post. Back then the aim was to find out “what the world thinks about America” and he began interviewing people in many different countries. He came into contact with some amazing people in their private surroundings and wanted to connect them with his friends and acquaintances. He also rediscovered the near lost hobby of writing to pen pals which, prior to the interconnection of society via the web, was a means of international exchange and storytelling.

Amar is a generalist. We worked for CNN and the United Nations and has a law degree from the University of Yale. These different influences are woven into his artistic work and create a transversal approach to media, combining law, politics, technology and anthropology.

Since December 2014, Shared_Studios have connected 7000 people by installing PORTALS in El Progreso (Honduras), Tehran, Mexico City, Herat (Afghanistan), Za'atari (Jordan), Havanna and New York City.

Amar will use his keynote at re:publica TEN to talk about the exciting possibilities of art being a part of political discourse. He will talk about the development of the PORTAL project and present the latest portal nodes. He might even set up a live link to one of the many PORTALS out there...

There's more: The PORTALS network is constantly growing and several new locations are planned for this year. We are very excited that Berlin is on that list and we are super proud to announce that Shared_Studios will be setting up a PORTAL at re:publica this year!

Is there somewhere you've always wanted to go? What questions would you ask someone living in Rwanda, Mumbai or Moscow? What would you tell them about Berlin? Step into PORTAL and say “Hello world”.


Photo credit: Amar Bakshi