“Do I look at my reflection or the person sitting across from me?” So asks Shani Ha, a French performance artist who recently set up a table for two at a New York café with one side of the table inside the café with the other side placed outside. A glass wall separates the table.
I first read this story in Fast Company Magazine (link here) and later on the artist’s site (link here) to learn more of his intentions. I invite you to read both short articles to learn more. How fascinating and spot on as a window into our modern society. Indeed, there is a growing isolation we all recognize. While we are challenged to make eye contact and acknowledge strangers, too often we find ourselves isolated from those we work with, play with, and even live with.
For Shani Ha the glass screen is a powerful metaphor of our isolation. Yet we have a choice to find a means to connect with each other in profound and creative ways. It is about intention. Do I want to connect, acknowledge and converse with you or seek out my reflection? In our modern world we now have choices and too often we choose to look away instead of looking toward another.
“Screens have invaded our everyday life becoming our main medium to communicate. In the same way, the glass that crosses through the table and separates the two seats becomes a screen that both connects and isolates, and through which people get to communicate spontaneously.”
What would I do? I sit at this table inside the café and begin enjoying a cup of tea. I focus on my reflection on the glass separating me from the busy street. At one point someone new to me sits down, joining me at my table. How do I acknowledge this person, if at all?
My reflection remains and is there to keep me company or I may crave distraction and look down finding my phone warm in my hands … its glass screen awaits to take me away from this place.
My companion for the moment sits and decides on what to do with me as well. Who goes first, if at all …
We are so connected, yet so separate from each other. Too often no glass wall is necessary to force this separation as we sit at the table together. There is a distance we need to overcome. I applaud Shani Ha for this profound piece of performance art to remind us that, as humans, we struggle against this isolation and distance between us.