Through Newly Installed ‘Portals,’ New Yorkers and Dubliners Can Wave, Dance and Inappropriately Gesture to Each Other in Real Time

New art installations connect the two cities through continuous silent video feeds

The portals were unveiled on May 8 in Manhattan's Flatiron District and on Dublin's O'Connell Street. Flatiron NoMad Partnership

A portal has opened in New York City: Complete with a large circular screen and an outward-facing camera, a new sculpture in Manhattan’s Flatiron District displays live video from a twin installation in Dublin, allowing people in each city to communicate in real time.

The newly installed “public technology sculptures”—collectively named “The Portal”—form an “unprecedented visual bridge between these two iconic cities,” according to a statement from the Flatiron NoMad Partnership, which presented the installation in collaboration with the Simons Foundation and New York City Department of Transportation Art Program.

The sculptures are the latest in a series by artist Benediktas Gylys. In May 2021, he set up his first portals, connecting the Polish city of Lublin to the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius.

“Portals are an invitation to meet people above borders and differences and to experience our world as it really is—united and one,” says Gylys in the statement. “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.”

Dublin One
In both Dublin and New York City, visitors to the new installations held up signs for each other. Flatiron NoMad Partnership

The sculptures do not transmit audio, which would “[take] away from the essential experience that portals offer,” according to the project’s website.

The Dublin installation looks onto the city’s main drag, O’Connell Street, including views of two iconic landmarks: the General Post Office and the Spire. Its New York counterpart is in the Flatiron South Public Plaza beside Madison Square Park and the famed Flatiron Building. The sculptures will remain until the fall of 2024, with artistic performances scheduled to occur before the cameras throughout the summer.

Dublin Two
The portals were conceived by artist Benediktas Gylys, who first installed the displays in Lublin, Poland, and Vilnius, Lithuania. Flatiron NoMad Partnership

Other artists have previously tried to connect New Yorkers with people across the pond, as CNN’s Jack Guy writes. In 2008, two much larger sculptures—resembling 37-foot-long steampunk science fiction props—rose up in Brooklyn and London. Created by British artist Paul St. George, the “Telectroscope” linked the United States and England through continuous video feed.

“We have all this technology; people are still amazed to see one another just standing there looking through this device,” Peter Kohlmann, a producer of “Telectroscope,” told the Associated Press in 2008. “They’re excited, and they hold up little signs … and they communicate.”

'Telectroscope' Allows View Across the Atlantic

As it turns out, the recently installed “Portals” have elicited similar reactions. As the Irish Times’ Dan Griffin writes, “Viewers on the Dublin side waved at the New Yorkers, blew them kisses and tried to entice them into dance-offs.” People in Manhattan reciprocated and mimicked these gestures. One flexed his bicep; another did cartwheels.

The Irish Times adds: “It took at least half an hour before a guy in a flannel top on the New York side gave the middle finger to the Dubliners, who repeated the gesture back at him enthusiastically.”

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