"Public technology sculpture" The Portal shut down after "inappropriate behaviour"

A portal sitting in New York

An interactive video installation connecting Dublin and New York City that was set to form part of NYCxDesign programming was temporarily shut down for poor behaviour from both cities.

Founded by Lithuanian artist Benediktas GylysThe Portal installation is an ongoing initiative in which two circular screens are installed in partner cities and cast a 24/7 live feed of its inhabitants to the other, as a “bridge to cultures from around the world”.

Described as a “public technology sculpture”, the most recent installation of the project – which bridges New York City and Dublin – opened on 8 May and formed part of the city’s NYCxDesign programming, with a talk about the power of public art set to take place by it.

People gathered around portal installation in NYC
An installation virtually connecting Dublin and New York was recently shut down due to poor behaviour

Located at Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street in New York and O’Connell Street in Dublin, both portals were officially shut down on 14 May for a “few days” after videos circulating on social media showed crass language, drunkenness and flashing passed between the two cities, reported TIME magazine.

In another instance, videos show a cellphone image of the burning Twin Towers quickly passing before the screen from a Dubliner to the sounds of a surprised New York crowd.

New York’s Flatiron NoMad Partnership, which supported the project locally along with Simons FoundationNYC DOT ArtDublin City Council, the EU Capital of Smart Tourism, and portals.org, said the behaviour came from “a very small minority” of visitors, although it ultimately led to the Portal’s closure despite 24/7 on-site security.

A person standing in front of portal with sign
The ongoing project connects cities through a 24/7 livestream

“The overwhelming majority of visitors to the Portal have behaved appropriately and experienced the sense of joy and connectedness that this work of public art invites people to have,” said Flatiron NoMad Partnership.

“Instances of inappropriate behaviour have come from a very small minority of Portal visitors and have been amplified on social media. The Portals team and our partners in Dublin are working on additional solutions to limit such behaviour appearing on the live stream.”

According to the team, the Portal will be turned off temporarily and return to both cities by the end of this week.

The installation is expected to remain running through Fall 2024, with other videos picturing urbanites reuniting with friends or playfully asking for numbers.

Woman touching screen of portal installation
It will be shut down temporarily and remain in the city until the fall

“Portals are an invitation to meet people above borders and differences and to experience our world as it really is – united and one,” said Gylys.

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.”

Other public artworks in New York include a mirrored sculpture by Anish Kapoor and designer Thomas Heatherwick’s climbable Vessel sculpture, which was shut down after a fourth suicide attempt in 2021, but is expected to reopen this year.

The photography is courtesy of the Flatiron NoMad Partnership.

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