Sidewalk video ‘Portal’ linking New York, Dublin by livestream temporarily paused after lewd antics

By AP News


The video screen “Portal” that lets people in New York and Dublin peer into life on opposite sides of the Atlantic in real time has been a source of whimsical delight, but also a magnet for boorish behavior that’s prompted officials to hit pause for now

New York Dublin Video Portal

NEW YORK (AP) — The video screen “Portal” that lets people in New York and Dublin peer into life on opposite sides of the Atlantic in real time has been a source of whimsical delight for sidewalk crowds in the two cities, but also a magnet for boorish behavior that’s prompted officials to hit pause for now.

The livestreaming public art installation known as “ The Portal ” made its North American debut on May 8, with a circular screen set up below New York City’s iconic Flatiron Building and a companion screen on Dublin, Ireland's main thoroughfare, O’Connell Street, with city landmarks including the Spire in the backdrop.

Exhibit organizers touted the interactive display as a unique way to “embrace the beauty of global interconnectedness.”

“Portals are an invitation to meet people above borders and differences and to experience our world as it really is —united and one,” said Benediktas Gylys, the Lithuanian artist who conceived the installation, when the screens were unveiled to fanfare.

But just days into a run that was to have continued into the fall, the portals were shut down Monday night after videos spread on social media of people behaving badly — from an OnlyFans model in New York baring her breasts to Dubliners holding up swastikas and displaying images of New York’s Twin Towers burning on 9/11.

The screens, which only broadcast video with no audio, were back up Tuesday morning but were to be powered down again Tuesday evening, according to officials in New York and Dublin.

Michael Ryan, a spokesperson for the Dublin City Council, said exhibit organizers are looking into “possible technical solutions” to address the inappropriate behavior. The displays are expected to return later in the week, he said.

“Dublin City Council had hoped to have a solution in place today, but unfortunately the preferred solution, which would have involved blurring, was not satisfactory,” Ryan wrote, declining to elaborate. “The team is now investigating other options.”

Zac Roy, a spokesperson for the Flatiron NoMad Partnership, a local Manhattan business group, stressed the “overwhelming majority” of people interacting with the city’s portal have behaved appropriately. Roy said there’s been around-the-clock security and barriers in place at the New York location since the exhibit launched.

Gylys, meanwhile, didn’t respond to messages seeking comment on Tuesday, but his organization Portals has said it encourages people to be respectful.

“Our goal is to open a window between far away places and cultures that allows people to interact freely with one another,” the group, which also has installed similar exhibits between Vilnius, Lithuania and Lubin, Poland, wrote.

On Tuesday morning, crowds on both sides of the portals were mostly behaved. Some gave a friendly wave or made heart signs with their hands. Most took a selfie.

But on the Dublin side, a man stood behind a crowd of school children in uniform and extended two middle fingers.

Later, a woman on the New York side held up a sign imploring folks in Dublin to join her in a TikTok dance. When the crowd didn’t comply, she did the lighthearted dance anyway, while a friend recorded the routine on their phone.

Killian Sundermann, a 30-year-old from Dublin who was in New York on a visit, held his phone to his ear as he waved and spoke to his girlfriend watching from the Dublin side.

At one point, he approached the security barrier and jokingly attempted to impersonate someone going down an escalator. The Irish crowd didn’t seem amused, so he walked back into the crowd.

Sundermann said many of his countrymen have taken the kerfuffle over the on-camera antics to heart, even as he questioned the wisdom of placing the Dublin screen in such a busy stretch of that city's downtown.

“I don’t think you could have picked a worse spot for late-night drinking crowds,” he said. “I don’t know what I would have done as a young lad walking past it after I’ve had a few too many pints.”

Joe Perez, a 46-year-old Manhattan resident who held up his sizeable pitbull Virgil for the Dublin crowd to see, shrugged off the bad behavior.

“No one is getting hurt. It’s fine. It’s all peace,” he said. “A middle finger doesn’t hurt me.”

Nearby, Lynn Rakos waved and blew a kiss toward the screen.

“I think it’s sweet, as long as we all behave,” said the 60-year-old Brooklyn resident, who lived for a time in Dublin. “We have all these connections on our phone and Facebook, but here it’s unscripted. You don’t know who is there and you’re just saying hi.”


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