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Artistic Portal Connecting Dublin and New York: Uniting Cities, Dividing Behaviors

The notion of a portal linking distant cities evokes imagery from science fiction, yet a recent art installation merging Dublin and New York has materialized a rudimentary iteration of this concept in an interesting manner. The artistic portals serve as symbols representing the connection between two distinct locations, effectively bridging physical gaps and cultivating a collective sense of unity and shared experiences. In a global landscape where physical separations may seem insurmountable, these installations serve as potent reminders of the transformative power of innovation and creativity in forging stronger interpersonal connections.

Despite originating as a peaceful initiative conveying a message of unity, the installation encountered instances where individuals diverged from its intended purpose. This divergence included the propagation of hate comments and participation in inappropriate behaviors, often driven by a desire for social media virality and comedic recognition.

The “portals” are large, circular digital screens mounted on a modern, industrial-looking stand by a Lithuanian artist called Benediktas Gylys. From these screens, citizens in Dublin can see the New York side and vice versa through a continuous live stream. The New York portal is located on the Flatiron South Public Plaza at Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and 23rd Street, one of the Big Apple's most dynamic intersections. In contrast, the Dublin portal is just off the junction where North Earl Street runs onto the Irish capital's main thoroughfare, O'Connell Street. The 24/7 livestream allows people from both sides to see what is happening on the other side all day.

The artwork’s unveiling was met with a peaceful reception, with visitors departing in a positive and impressed state. Dublin’s Lord Mayor, Daithí De Róiste, further encouraged engagement with the portals, advocating for a welcoming and kind reception to cities worldwide. Future plans include cultural performances on both ends of the portal to facilitate cultural exchange, with expectations for the installation to become a fixture in Dublin throughout the summer and fall. Additionally, plans to expand the portal’s connections to other global cities such as Poland, Brazil, and Lithuania are slated to commence in July. However, doubts arise regarding the feasibility of these initiatives, particularly in light of the recent temporary shutdown due to misuse of the portal.

"Instances of inappropriate behavior have come from a very small minority of Portal visitors and have been amplified on social media," a Flatiron NoMad Partnership spokesperson said in a statement on Tuesday. According to the spokesperson, despite the New York installation having barriers and round-the-clock security since its opening, the bad behavior has persisted. Therefore, the portal was shut down at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 14th, one week after its opening. Nonetheless, it is expected to be back up by the end of the week.

The primary reason for the shutdown was attributed to instances of individuals displaying inappropriate content on the portal screens, as documented by Independent Reports. Examples included an OnlyFans model exposing herself, a heavily intoxicated woman engaging in suggestive behavior, and a man exhibiting indecent exposure. Notably, such incidents were not confined to one side of the portal; hate speech was reported from the Dublin side as well. Although the nature of the incidents on the Dublin side was less sexual in nature, they were equally unsettling and deemed unacceptable. One individual from the Irish side reportedly displayed a picture from 9/11 on their phone, displaying disrespectful behavior towards the tragedy, as reported by the Guardian.

Following the shutdown, the previously mentioned OnlyFans model, Ava Louise, claimed credit for the portal's closure. In a humorous video posted by TMZ, she stated, "I thought the people of Dublin deserved to see my two New York homegrown potatoes."

The company responsible for the artwork and the governments involved are trying to address the disrespectful behaviors that have degraded the installation. It is a bitter irony that a portal symbolizing unity that has found a place in a lot of people’s childhood dreams has become a target for selfish individuals seeking attention at any cost. The misuse and disrespect shown towards the artwork serve as a stark reminder of the darker side of human nature, where the pursuit of fame and recognition trumps all sense of decency and respect. The installation, intended to bring people together, has instead become a battleground for egos and selfish desires.

This was not the only instance where a public artwork has gone rogue. Similarly, in 1979, performance artist Marina Abramovic executed an experimental piece involving public interaction. She maintained complete stillness and passivity for six hours while spectators were invited to manipulate various objects placed on a nearby table, including roses, feathers, chains, and even a gun. This performance functioned as both a contemporary artwork and a social inquiry, exploring the implications of surrendering agency to unfamiliar individuals encountered in public spaces.

The artist recalls, "In the beginning, the public was really very much playing with me." With a gentle touch, they fed her cake, kissed her, and placed a rose in her hand. However, as the populace grew more hostile, "it became more and more wild." “It was 6 hours of real horror,” says Abramovic solemnly, “They would cut my clothes, they would cut me with a knife close to my neck, drink my blood, and put a plaster over the wound. They would carry me around half naked, put me on the table, and stab the knife between my legs into the wood.” One man even tried to rape her, whereas another one found the gun with the bullet and pointed it at her.

Once the experiment was finished, people were ashamed of what they had done. They suddenly realized that they were dealing with a real, living person. As Abramovic came back to life and walked toward the people who tortured her, not one of them was able to look her in the eyes because of how horrified they were by the product of their tortures. Abramovic describes those moments as, “After 6 hours, which was like 2 in the morning, the gallerists came and announced that the performance was over. I started moving and start being myself, because until then I was there like a puppet just for them, and at that moment everybody ran away. People could not confront me as a person.”

It's widely acknowledged that Marina Abramovic's performance remains one of the most unsettling artworks in history. Despite the disparity in intensity between the 1979 piece and the 2024 incident, the former provides valuable insights into the underlying motivations of individuals involved in the latter.

The disconnect between participants on either side of the portal illustrates a failure to recognize each other's humanity, reducing the counterpart to a mere image on a screen. In an era where technology can easily fabricate images, the absence of tangible evidence reinforces this perception, despite the awareness of the other's reality. Abramovic's work underscores situations where even sensory input may not prompt acknowledgment of the other's individuality. Both artworks serve as poignant reminders of the imperative for heightened accountability and respect in our interactions with public art and fellow human beings.

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