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'Inappropriate' behaviour shuts down Dublin to New York City portal

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That didn’t take long. Less than a week after two public sculptures featuring a livestream between Dublin, Ireland, and New York City debuted, “inappropriate behaviour” in real-time interactions between people in the two cities has prompted a temporary shutdown.

The two sculptures, “The Portals,” are round, lens-like installations with a 24/7 video link to allow residents and visitors in the two cities to interact with each other. Social media videos have shown people flashing body parts to people on the other side. The installation does not include audio.

The creators of the sculptures are now “investigating possible technical solutions to inappropriate behaviour by a small minority of people in front of the Portal,” according to a statement from the Dublin City Council.

“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,” the City Council said late Tuesday. The team behind the sculptures, Portals.org, is looking at other options.

The City Council planned to switch off the live stream at 10 p.m. local time Tuesday and said that Portals.org expected to be able to turn it on again later this week.

“We are delighted by how many people have been enjoying the Portal since it was launched last week,” the statement said. “It has become a global phenomenon and it is important to note that the overwhelming majority of people interacting with the Dublin Portal have behaved appropriately.”

People view the live stream portal between Dublin and New York, in Dublin, Ireland, on Monday May 13, 2024. (Niall Carson / PA via AP)

Organizers in New York also underlined that the inappropriate behaviour has come from “a very small minority” of visitors.

“In New York, we have had a set of protocols in place since the Portal’s launch, including 24/7 on-site security and barriers to prevent people from stepping onto the Portal,” said a statement from Flatiron NoMad Partnership, one of the project’s organizers in New York.

While the creators and their partners in both cities work on “additional solutions to limit such behavior appearing on the livestream,” the New York Portal will be turned off for a few days starting at 5 p.m. local time Tuesday, according to Flatiron NoMad Partnership.

On the Dublin side, the portal is installed facing the capital city’s main street, O’Connell Street. In New York, the portal sculpture is located on the Flatiron South Public Plaza at Broadway, Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street.

The Portals are the brainchild of Lithuanian artist Benediktas Gylys.

The project’s intention, according to Daithí de Róiste, Dublin’s Lord Mayor, was to expand global connections.

“One of my key aims as Lord Mayor is to make the City more inclusive. The Portals project embodies this, bringing together technology, engineering and art to bring communities from across the world closer together and to allow people to meet and connect outside of their social circles and cultures,” de Róiste said in a news release on May 8 announcing the project’s debut. The Lord Mayor noted the “deep historical and cultural bond” between the two cities.

In July, Dublin expects to connect to destinations in Poland, Brazil and Lithuania, according to de Róiste’s statement.

“I would encourage Dubliners and visitors to the City to come and interact with the sculpture and extend an Irish welcome and kindness to cities all over the world,” de Róiste’s May 8 statement said.

De Róiste said the portals project is part of events lined up to coincide with Dublin’s 2024 EU Capital of Smart Tourism Designation.

The Dublin-New York city pairing isn’t the first real-time bridge between cities through these sculptures.

The first Portals, according to the organization’s website, linked Vilnius, Lithuania, with Lublin, Poland, in 2021.

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