tablefortwo_untappedcities_annabrownImage via Shani Ha

New Yorkers passing the corner of 7th Avenue and Carmine Street may notice something a little strange outside Cafe Español. Parisian artist Shani Ha has installed a bistro table split between inside and outside of the café, an installation she calls “Table for Two,” a piece inspired by Edward Hopper’s painting Nighthawks.

tablefortwo_untappedcities_annabrown2Image via Shani Ha

The work comments on the isolation pervasive among the  people of New York City. The artist writes,

“In a city where more than half of the population is single, everyone seems eager to meet someone even if we keep on ignoring people around us, in the real life. Dating/meeting apps and websites are exploding. Most of our interactions happen behind a screen via texts, e-mails, Skype, Tinder etc. Virtual communication is slowly taking the place of our human interactions, accentuating egocentricity over empathy.”

untappedcities_shaniha_annabrownImage via Shani Ha

When alone, the person sitting at the table is forced to confront their own reflection. When faced with another human being on the outside, the person can then choose whether to make eye contact or continue to stay isolated. The work comments on how we remain disconnected, even in a city where personal space is limited.

untappedcities_shaniha_annabrown3Image via Shani Ha

Those who brave the “Table for Two” seats are offered a cup with a mint tea bag labelled in both French and Arabic, a homage to the artist’s Algerian roots. This suggestion of cultural dualism brings to light another layer of meaning: the feeling of “otherness” that the diverse communities living in New York City feel in relation to one another.

untappedcities_tablefortwoshaniha_Image via Shani Ha

Through these interactions, Shani Ha hopes to wake people up to the possibilities of connecting through everyday interactions. The artist writes,

“I’m from Paris and living in New York forces me to interact with people I love the most through computer screens. 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. This work attempts to highlight this paradoxes and set a stage to explore otherness and empathy. I realize it may sound idealistic but I believe art is the place to investigate these social utopia that can hopefully influence reality.”

The installation will be on view at the corner of Carmine Street and 7th Avenue through March 14th.

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Anna Brown loves writing about art and culture in New York City. Tell her about your best finds at her Twitter handle @brooklynbonanza