Including Other in the Self–Activation


Video still of Laura Shill in a black tee shirt at table. Her brown hair is let down and she is wearing a necklace with a large rhombus shaped pendant painted in an abstract pattern.

Concerned about the erosion of social ties by technology and political polarization, Laura Shill conceived of an experiential work that facilitates conversation and fosters empathy. Including Other in the Self brings together two people at a time to ask and, in turn, answer a set of thirty-six questions that a group of psychologists wrote and organized in the1990s with the goal of creating a sense of closeness between the two participants. The New York Times popularized the questions in a 2015 article titled, “The 36 Questions That Lead to Love.” Here, Shill employs the questions to encourage dialogue, openness, vulnerability, and, subsequently, understanding with the hope that participants will seek opportunities to connect with others outside of the museum, thus improving our collective civic health.

To participate

The work is available to two people at a time for participation on a first-come, first-served basis. Please check in with the gallery attendant stationed at the entrance to the gallery to find out if and when the work is available.

On the second Friday of each month (that is October 9, November 13, December 11, January 8, and February 12): You can sign up in advance to participate in the work with someone you don’t know at 1PM, 3PM, or 5PM. The thirty-six questions were originally used to facilitate closeness between two strangers. If you’re interested in experiencing the questions as they were initially intended to be used, please visit our website to sign up for one of the appointments on the dates listed above. (Sign-up begins two weeks in advance.)


How long does this take? This work takes about an hour to experience.

How does it work? The gallery attendant stationed at the entrance to the gallery will provide you with instructions for participation and the questions.

Can I do it alone? Yes and no. The work requires two people for activation. You should feel free to participate with whomever you’re here with today! Or, return with an acquaintance, friend, family member, or date whom you’d like to spend time getting to know better. If you’d like to participate in the work with someone you don’t know, to use the questions as they were originally intended to be used, you can sign up on our website to do so. On the second Friday of the month, at 1PM, 3PM, or 5PM, you can talk with a stranger.

What precautions are you taking to keep participants safe from COVID-19? We are limiting entrance to the gallery to two people every two hours, and participants are required to wear masks. We disinfect the seats in the gallery following each activation. We wear gloves when putting together the packets of instructions and questions, and the packets are single-use. Participants can recycle their packet once they’ve completed the work or take it home.