Monday, December 22, 2014

Yale Law Student Launches Art Exhibit Linking NYC to Tehran

A Yale Law student who founded an art collective focused on connecting people around the world recently launched a new project called “Portals,” which provides a direct audio/visual link between cities like New York City and New Haven to Tehran, Iran.

Amar Bakshi ’15 is founder of Shared Studios, a multidisciplinary collective that is working on three global public art projects between 2014-2015: Portals, Channels, and Phonos. All three projects are part of a campaign to set up public interventions around the world to enable individuals to see, hear, and converse with people far away from — and often far different from — themselves.

The first project to launch was Portals, which featured shipping containers equipped with widely available audio-video communications equipment. Individuals enter one at a time and converse with a person in another location in real time as if they were in the same room. A translator provides live concurrent text translation upon request. The first pairing between the Lu Magnus Gallery in New York City and the M-40 Studio in Tehran, Iran recently wrapped up after opening for several weeks in December. Future pairings from Moscow to Mexico City will be added in 2015. The second pairing between the University Art Gallery in New Haven and Tehran opened on February 20, 2015.

“It’s been wonderful to see this idea come to life. In particular, it’s very moving to see people come out of the Portal giddy, weeping, and everything in between,” said Bakshi, who is the lead Artist for the Portals Project. “I love that now every person’s experience is up to themselves and the person they encounter.”

Bakshi is an artist and law student who previously worked as a diplomat and journalist. He has focused his work on creating unlikely pairings of people. As a journalist, Bakshi created a multimedia series for the Washington Post called How the World Sees America. Over one year, he traveled solo to 12 countries creating text and video vignettes about how people from all walks of life viewed the United States.

Bakshi also worked as Special Assistant to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and as managing editor of’s premier international analysis. At CNN, Bakshi created and hosted a live online show called Uncommon Ground, which connected people from around the world who would never otherwise meet.

The Portals exhibit featured an exciting group of special guests, including Rob Storr, Jonah Bokaer, Fareed Zakaria, Keller Easterling, David Liman, and many more. Yale Law School Dean Robert C. Post ’77 visited Friday, December 12, 2014 and Yale Law Professors Jed Rubenfeld and Amy Chua visited the exhibit on December 5, 2014. Additional faculty members and students took part in the exhibit in New Haven.

“Dean Robert Post has been behind my creative pursuits and this project since I took his First Amendment class during my 1L year,” said Bakshi. “That class really reinvigorated my interest in the arts, and showed me how intricately law depends on and shapes culture.”

Bakshi said coming to Yale Law School has given him the intellectual confidence, institutional awareness, and creative freedom to pursue this endeavor.

“Launching this Portals network has required an ample amount of business organization, tax law, contract formation, and IP,” said Bakshi, who is most interested in First Amendment and Intellectual Property Law. “And in discussing artistic ideas with my collaborator in Tehran, it has been fascinating to consider similarities and differences around issues of ownership, privacy, and free speech. My vocabulary for initiating and engaging these conversations could not have happened without YLS.”

To further explore the connection between law and art, Bakshi and others are organizing a symposium at Yale Law School scheduled for February 28, 2015 titled “The Legal Medium: New Encounters of Art and Law.” Rather than focusing on the practice of art law, this symposium will examine law as an artistic medium, in and from which artists create. It will focus on how artists encounter, take advantage of and seek to mold law. For more information on the symposium, click here.

For more information on Shared Studios and future exhibitions, click here.