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Why Did “The Portal” Between NYC and Dublin Temporarily Go Dark?

Margaret Lipman
By
Published May 25, 2024
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Manhattan and Dublin are located over 3,000 miles apart, but a pair of art installations in the two cities are giving New Yorkers and Dubliners a close-up look at each other.

Collectively known as “The Portal,” you can visit the public technology sculptures, which came online on May 8th, in Manhattan’s Flatiron District and Dublin’s O’Connell Street. Each contains a large circular video screen measuring roughly eight feet in diameter, with a camera facing the viewers. There are no microphones or speakers, so all communication has to be done via facial expressions, gestures, or by holding up a sign.

Despite most individuals having video calling technology like Skype or Zoom on their smartphones, people in both cities have flocked to the installations, perhaps because of how unique it is to have public, real-time video interactions with strangers in a different city. Besides the obvious smiling and waving, or attempting to touch hands through the screen, these interactions have often taken a silly turn, with passers-by blowing kisses, showing off dance movies, flexing biceps, or doing cartwheels. Unsurprisingly, some onlookers have enjoyed giving the middle finger to strangers without any apparent ramifications, except for the likelihood of that gesture being returned from a continent away. “The livestream provides a window between distant locations, allowing people to meet outside of their social circles and cultures, transcend geographical boundaries and embrace the beauty of global interconnectedness,” Gylys said in a statement when the NYC-Dublin Portal initially opened.

It didn’t take long, however, for inappropriate behavior to worsen and apparently get out of hand, leading to The Portal being temporarily disabled for several days and displaying a message reading, “Portal is asleep - back up soon.” Among other incidents, in Manhattan, a woman lifted her shirt, while in Dublin, certain individuals displayed offensive symbols and images. Last week, The Portal came back online, this time with a temporary fence around it to stop people from going right up to the screen and guides on hand to encourage “positive interactions.” The Portal will no longer be online 24 hours a day, but rather from 6 am to 4 pm in New York City and from 11 am to 9 pm in Dublin. Video Window, the company behind The Portal’s video streaming technology, has also developed a way to discourage people from blocking the camera with their hand or a phone by blurring the images on both sculptures and displaying a message that prohibited behavior is taking place.

Lithuanian artist and entrepreneur Benediktas Gylys is the creative force behind The Portal, the latest installment in a project that began in 2021 by connecting Lublin, Poland, and Vilnius, Lithuania, by video link. Interestingly, there were no notable issues with inappropriate public behavior during that project. “The livestream provides a window between distant locations, allowing people to meet outside of their social circles and cultures, transcend geographical boundaries and embrace the beauty of global interconnectedness,” Gylys said in a statement when the NYC-Dublin Portal initially opened.

Peering through The Portal:

  • The Manhattan sculpture is located in the Flatiron South Public Plaza, while the Irish version faces Dublin’s main thoroughfare, O’Connell Street, including views of the Spire and the General Post Office.

  • The Portal is supposed to remain operational through autumn 2024, with artistic performances scheduled for this summer. The art installation was a collaboration between the Flatiron NoMad Partnership, the Simons Foundation, and the New York City Department of Transportation Art Program.

  • British artist Paul St. George’s 2008 “Telectroscope” project had a similar concept, connecting Brooklyn and London, though the video screens were on a much larger scale.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Margaret Lipman
By Margaret Lipman
With years of experience as an educator, Margaret Lipman produces thoughtful and informative content across a wide range of topics. Her articles cover essential areas such as finance, parenting, health and wellness, nutrition, educational strategies. Margaret's writing is guided by her passion for enriching the lives of her readers through practical advice and well-researched information.
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Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
With years of experience as an educator, Margaret Lipman produces thoughtful and informative content across a wide range...
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