New York-Dublin Portal demonstrates pros and cons of presence

[A portal that connects New York and Dublin has re-opened following some inappropriate behavior by people in both locations, as reported in this story from RTÉ (Raidió Teilifís Éireann, Ireland’s National Public Service Media). The excerpt from coverage by The Guardian that follows below adds context. For more pictures and videos of the portal, see The Cut. –Matthew]

[Image: New Yorkers greet people in Dublin during the reveal of the Portal in the Flatiron district in Manhattan, New York, on May 8, 2024. Credit: Brendan McDermid/Reuters. Source: The Guardian.]

‘Portal’ linking Dublin and NYC restarts with set hours

May 19, 2024

The ‘portal’ connecting Dublin and New York City has restarted this afternoon after it was paused earlier this week, but it will now only be operational during certain hours.

The two portals form part of a public art project aiming to unite citizens via technology on either side of the Atlantic Ocean.

The sculpture allows for real-time interaction between Dubliners, New Yorkers and visitors to both cities.

Dublin’s portal faces on to O’Connell Street capturing both the GPO and the Spire.

The NYC portal is located on the Flatiron South Public Plaza at Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and 23rd Street, one of the Big Apple’s most dynamic intersections.

A series of incidents involving what Dublin City Council called “inappropriate behaviour” prompted a suspension of the live stream.

The stream will now have specific hours of operation for the coming weeks, with the livestream running daily from 6am to 4pm in New York City and 11am to 9pm in Dublin.

In a statement, the council said that the attraction as amassed tens of thousands of visitors and garnered nearly two billion online impression in its few days of operation.

“The overwhelming majority of people who have visited the Portal sculptures have experienced the sense of joy and connectedness that these works of public art invite people to have,” the statement said.

It added that the sculptures are not meant to be touched or stepped upon.

“We have taken steps to limit instances of people stepping on the Portal and holding phones up to the camera lens,” the council said.

“The team has implemented a proximity-based solution. Now, if individuals step on the Portal and obstruct the camera, it will trigger a blurring of the livestream for everyone on both sides of the Atlantic.

“The team will continue making updates as needed to ensure that everyone can continue to enjoy the Portal.”

The New York site will continue to have on-site security during all hours of operation.

Additionally, fencing has been installed in front of the New York site and more signage and spacing decals have been added to assist with crowd management and guide visitors to the optimal spots for interacting with the Portal.

Last week, the artist behind the art installation appealed to visitors to remember there could be children watching on the other side.

[From The Guardian]

The artist behind the short-lived portal linking New York and Dublin: ‘People got carried away’

Benediktas Gylys admits he was surprised by the rowdy behavior that came from the exhibit connecting people in the two cities

By Edward Helmore in New York
May 17, 2024


Gylys hopes that the intent of the sculpture is recovered and his ambition to connect cities around the world. The US to Ireland was not the first in the series: Lithuania to Poland was in 2021.

But the Lithuanians and Poles showed less flair for contentious gesticulation.

“Everyone is obsessed about Dublin and New York, but I’m trying to communicate a message that it’s not only about New York and Dublin, but about countries around the world joining the portal network to create the largest artwork in the world.”

If they can get it working, subject to human nature, the Dublin portal is set to connect with other cities and destinations, including Brazil, which will be next.

Gylys says that in 2015 he was searching for life’s meaning, depressed, and admitted to himself that he knew nothing about life. He came to feel united with all living beings and it became difficult for him, he says, “to experience the world with narratives of separation and conflict”.

So the idea of an interconnected “Portal” was born.

But even in its darkened state last week, the Portal is still attracting visitors in New York. Aaron Cohen, who described himself as an actor and satirist, said it had brought publicity and visitors to the neighborhood.

Cohen, 72, said it had brought unity because people could see what everybody does in Ireland or New York on a daily basis. “It was a good idea, but unfortunately people took advantage of it and it brought out their lewd side. People got carried away.”

He said authorities should have expected that “because in a crowd of everyday people there would be some who don’t act appropriate”. If the new censor filters work, he added: “The people who acted inappropriately will have to find another outlet.”

Dounia Elfarah, who works at the coffee shop behind the sculpture said she thought the piece had largely succeeded in bringing US and Irish communities together. “They just make signs because they can’t hear each other. It’s nice for the community and some celebrities came along, too, like the guy from [the reality show] 90 Day Fiance.”

Short of damaging it, how New Yorkers and Dubliners decided to use or interpret the sculpture is perhaps out of the artist’s hands, just as any painting or installation might be. It’s a question he has considered.

“The portals exist and we humans create the portal experience,” Gylys said. “I’m not here to tell anyone how they should feel or react, but if they want the portal journey to continue we would love support,” including financial support.

But if Dubliners and New Yorkers want to flash and give each other the finger there’s only so much anyone can do.

“We are building this project as a bridge to a united planet,” Gylys says. “I believe we are ready to build that bridge, but maybe we are not. I do not know. I can’t control behavior and I do not want to, but it’s my dream to expand the portal network.”


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