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A ‘portal’ lets New Yorkers communicate—and flirt—with people 3,000 miles away in Dublin

The futuristic installations feature a 24/7 livestream between the two cities that allows for the real-time interaction among Dubliners, New Yorkers, and visitors. 

Art exhibits have evolved over the years. Aside from the usual exhibitions where guests get to behold masterpieces, installations have also become more interactive and playful.

Case in point: New art installations in New York City and Dublin, Ireland that allow viewers to communicate with people 3,000 miles away on opposite ends of the Atlantic.

People in New York City wave to Dubliners on the other side of the The Portals installation. The installations will remain in place until fall 2024. Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Aptly called “The Portals,” the installations are the brainchild of Lithuanian artist Benediktas Gylys and allows people on either side of the ocean to interact with each other via a video link, as per a CNN report

This is not the first time that an artist has brought New Yorkers closer to people across the Atlantic, according to the same CNN article.

In 2008, British artist Paul St. George linked the city with London via his Telectroscope, which similarly allowed people in New York to communicate visually with those in the British capital. The Telectroscope was a brass and wood device which measured an 11.2-meter-(37 feet) long by 3.3-meter-(11 feet) tall.

Art that transcends physical barriers

So far, “The Portals,” which are part interactive sculpture and part webcam, have been well received in both locations, with crowds gathering to check out what’s happening in the other city. There are plans to link up other countries in the future, like Poland, Brazil, and Lithuania in July.

“Portals are an invitation to meet people above borders and differences and to experience our world as it really is—united and one,” says the artist Gylys. He further shared that the idea was “conceived as a testament to the power of art to transcend physical barriers.

On the other side of the portal in Dublin. Photo by Shauneen Henry

“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,” he added.

The installations are the latest in a series of portals built by Gylys, with the first pair opening in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius and the Polish city of Lublin in 2021.

Bringing out the best—and the worst—in people

In a creative twist of a different sort—city dwellers have been using the connection also for other, more flirtatious (and sometimes scandalous), purposes. And despite the heartwarming concept behind the installations, it has already brought out the worst in some people.

The Portals have already caused “mischief-makers” on Ireland’s side flashing everything from their bare bums to swastikas and a photo of the Twin Towers in flames on 9/11, according to The New York Post.

Within hours of the Dublin portal going live, a “very drunk” woman in her 40s was led away by cops and arrested after “grinding” her backside against the screen.

Within hours of Portal going up in Dublin, a “very drunk” woman was arrested for “grinding” against the 8-foot-by-8-foot video screen. Photo by @Nerdy_Addict / X/The New York Post

Untoward incidents aside, The Portals have attracted mostly good vibes on both ends.

In a statement to Euronews Travel the team behind the portals said they are overwhelmed by the reactions, which are “vastly” positive. “We are not trying to suggest any particular way in how people should interact with the Portals or with each other,” they added.

“Instead, Portals are an invitation to meet fellow human beings and for people to draw their own interpretations and feelings. In this sense, we are also just observers of this event, and it’s great to see the amount of creative energy that people have and how powerful human connection can be.”

While the main idea behind the art installations is connecting people, “The Portals” is also part of Dublin’s recent designation as European City of Smart Tourism 2024.

“We are delighted to connect Dublin with New York which we share a deep historical and cultural bond with,” said Lord Mayor of Dublin, Daithí de Róiste, as quoted in a Euronews article. The Mayor added he is aiming to make the Irish capital more inclusive.

Where to see The Portals

If you are lucky enough to be in New York at this very moment (until fall!), you can head to Flatiron South Public Plaza at Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and 23rd Street, next to the Flatiron Building.

People dance in unison on both sides of the portal. Photo by Emily Tan / Simons Foundation/
The New York Post

Meanwhile on the other side, visitors and locals can find the portal on Dublin’s O’Connell street, with the iconic GPO building and the Spire as the backdrop.

The Portals will remain in place until late this year with a number of cultural performances scheduled to take place in front of the installations in both New York and Dublin.

Associate Editor

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