When artist Shani Ha installed her interactive exhibit Table For Two at a corner bistro, it was intended to function as a social experiment of sorts. The half-indoor, half-outdoor table at New York City's 7th Avenue and Carmine Street straddles a restaurant window, calling attention to the sometimes-invisible barriers that divide people even when we're in close proximity.
The empty chair, coffee cup and candle invite passersby to sit down and spontaneously engage with the person on the other side of the window. Participants smile, wave, gesture and even draw pictures in the frost on the glass.
But, there's no guarantee someone will be sitting on the other side. When a solitary individual engages with the Table for Two, they can stare at their reflection or watch other people's activities through the glass barrier. Experiencing the piece by yourself can offer a chance for introspection and an opportunity to embrace being alone.
The artist drew inspiration for the concept from her long-distance method of connecting with loved ones. “I'm from Paris, and living in New York forces me to interact with people I love the most through computer screens,” she says. “I find it really fascinating to see how we can be so connected to people who are so far away and yet so disconnected from people who directly surround us.”