Art installation connects strangers around the world

A global art installation called Portals brings total strangers face-to-face for live - and often intimate - conversations.

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - It's a public art initiative called Portals. Gold shipping containers - more than 20 around the globe - providing live, face-to-face encounters with total strangers.

This one, in New York's Times Square, transports us to Herat, Afghanistan, where we meet brothers Omid and Saied Habibi.

Reuters TV's Lisa Bernhard asks, "When you tell an American that you're from Afghanistan, what is the reaction that you get?"

"They were surprised to see that we have internet in our country," said Omid Habibi. "That we have a university - this portal is located inside the university campus - that girls are coming inside the portal and talking English. That girls are studying."

Portals' founder Amar Bakshi says he's using the Web to carve "wormholes through the world".

"That's the original vision: How do you use technology to get out of your own bubble rather than deeper into it?" he said.

The portals often providing an intimacy that's sometimes easier with strangers.

Speaking to us from an open portal in Malaga, Spain, her face obscured by the backdrop of daylight, a Russian tourist explains why she's trying to move her family out of Russia to Poland.

"Have you heard about Stalin's time?" she said.

Bernhard answers, "Yes, definitely."

"It seems it is a repetition of this period, but it's more hidden. It looks like people have no flexibility to express their minds."

The experiences sometimes so deep, you may find yourself wanting to reach through the screen.