RYOT and Shared Studios forge real time, global connections on Venice Beach

By Kelby Vera

RYOT and Shared Studios dropped a mysterious “portal” on Venice Beach last Friday

For a single day, a golden shipping container made Venice Beach a direct “portal” to the rest of the world.

The one-time public art installation, dubbed the RYOT Portal, popped up in Windward Plaza in the wee hours of Friday morning, Dec. 14, connecting Venice to five other cities across the globe.

Leveraging cutting edge technology, the Portal — a collaboration between immersive media company RYOT and tech-art collective Shared Studios — invited people inside a standard cargo shipping container to participate in fully immersive video conversations with people in various parts of the world.

The goal: to create conversations that would never happen otherwise.

“I think in our day to day lives there is so much distracting us, we often neglect making these connections, even when we could… but when you’re there, it’s contact that’s based on completely different [environments] of people,” explained Shared Studios Creative Director Amar Bakshi.

Inside the Portal, participants faced an eight-foot tall screen broadcasting head-to-toe video of participants in Mexico City, Mexico; Erbil, Iraq; Herat, Afghanistan; Stockholm, Sweden; and Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The day was shaped around three meals, each with its own conversation theme, but most discussions centered on the global refugee crisis. Each topic was chosen carefully by the team of creators.

“Looking at the themes that we decided to bring in… they all lead to this idea of future positivity. Even though the themes and conversations could be contentious in nature,” said RYOT’s Senior Strategist Jonathan Montaos.

Breakfast with Stockholm brought three Los Angeles teens together with a trio of 18-year-old refugees to talk about “bridging worlds.” Lunchtime’s conversation with Colorado Springs got heated over the topic of the American dream. Dinnertime with Herat culminated with a global music jam session, bringing together international talents. In between meals, people strolling along Ocean Front Walk could participate in open sessions with Mexico City or Erbil.

Musician and breakfast participant Anoushka was surprised at how intimate the connection felt, saying “It felt like they were right there… We talked about what it was like to move from their home countries but also about dating and social media and normal teenage stuff, so it was very real.”

For those who missed the experience, RYOT will release a documentary about the event in the coming weeks and Shared Studios continues to host portals across the globe.

To learn more or reserve a spot in an upcoming Portal, visit sharedstudios.com. Check facebook.com/RYOT for updates.