Live Portal Connects Georgetown with Hariwa University in Herat, Afghanistan

By: Jojo Ruf

April 7, 2015

For twelve days this April, people in Washington, DC and Herat, Afghanistan will be able to speak to one another as if in the same room.


It started as an idea, a dream, an image in the mind of artist Amar C. Bakshi: to find a way for total strangers living worlds apart to have real conversations about their lives. What resulted are gold shipping containers called Portals with immersive audio and video technology that enable people to come face-to-face with participants in an entirely different country. And starting on April 7, anyone in the Georgetown community can speak one-on-one to students and citizens at Hariwa University in Herat, Afghanistan, conversing live as if in the same room.

The Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics (the Lab) and Bridges of Understanding are hosting the Portal April 7 to 18, 2015 at 3622 N St NW (just off Georgetown’s main campus). The Portal is open to the public, and participants can reserve 15 minute slots in the Portal to converse with a stranger in Afghanistan, beginning with the question, "What would make today a good day for you?" In the very first Portal that connected New York to Tehran, people spoke about their hopes for their children, ailing relatives, dinner plans, pollution, dating, and much more. Participants came out weeping, giddy, and everything in between.

The Lab harnesses the power of performance to humanize global politics, and is thrilled to bring this innovative participatory art exhibition to Washington, DC. The recent visit of President Ashraf Ghani to Washington, DC exposed Americans to Afghanistan’s new president. But what about the Afghan people? How do they feel about their future? The Portal will give the Georgetown community the unique chance to find out through intimate conversations. And as NPR’s Steve Inskeep wrote in his coverage of the first Portal, “Gazing through the portal to the world on the other side, she [one participant] simply found another person. A human being like herself.”

The Portal is presented as part of the World Premiere of Generation (Wh)Y: Global Voices on Stage, produced in partnership with the Department of Performing Arts. This immersive theatrical experience of innovative multi-media performances results from year-long dialogue and encounters between Georgetown students and youth from Egypt, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Qatar, and Iraq that grew out of the Fall 2014 "Culture and Diplomacy" course​ taught by Lab co-founding directors professors Derek Goldman and Cynthia Schneider. The Generation (Wh)Y devising ensemble has sparked conversations around the world about the hopes, perspectives, and experiences of the next generation. Join us for an intimate live performance that moves through multiple spaces exploring real experiences from global voices and the poetry of everyday life, running April 17 (at 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.) and April 18 (at 2:00 p.m., 7:00 p.m., and 9:00 p.m.) in the Davis Performing Arts Center.

Generation (Wh)Y is the third of four anchoring events that are part of Myriad Voices: A Cross-Cultural Performance Festival, a two-year festival designed to expand awareness and understanding about Muslim societies through the performing arts. This series of performances from leading artists around the world will be accompanied by convenings, public forums, interdisciplinary courses, and the creation of new work.

Generation (Wh)Y is presented in partnership with Bridges of Understanding and the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. The Myriad Voices Festival is made possible in part by a grant from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters; Building Bridges: Campus Community Engagement Grants Program, a component of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.

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The Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics (The Lab) at Georgetown University harnesses the power of performance to humanize global politics. We create and present innovative high quality work from around the world that is at the intersection of politics and performance. The Lab’s signature approach raises voices rarely heard in Washington, DC through compelling, authentic narratives, and engages policymakers, as well as artists, students, and wider audiences in forums that cast critical issues in a new light.   
 

The Lab, housed in the Davis Performing Arts Center, uses technology and live encounters to create a global community of artists, activists, and policy makers, fostering new understandings and innovative collaborations. We are committed to relationship building beyond the lifespan of individual projects. We create substantive dynamic partnerships with individuals and with a diverse range of cultural and policy organizations. We are passionate about helping to train the next generation of innovators to use their artistry and voices to shape new understandings and to humanize others in pursuit of a better, more just world. For more information, visit globallab.georgetown.edu.

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Live Portal Connects Georgetown with Hariwa University in Herat, Afghanistan