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Opinion: A tale of two cities' 'Portal' pandemonium

The New York-Dublin Portal was shut almost as soon as it opened.

The Portal is a live circular video screen by Lithuanian creator Benediktas Gylys by which people in two different cities can, in the words of exhibit organizers, "embrace the beauty of global interconnectedness."

But, "global interconnectedness" can be messy.

Portals were set up earlier this month near the Flatiron Building in Midtown Manhattan, and O'Connell Street in Dublin. Those who crowded into view to smile, wave, snap selfies, and make heart signs or faces between the two cities were overwhelmingly courteous.

But New York and Dublin are not Mayberry.

CNN saw a man in front of New York's Portal flash two middle fingers. Social media sites show a few people on the Dublin side hold up swastikas and images of the destruction of the twin towers on 9/11, which were especially horrifying. Ava Louise, who has an OnlyFans site, responded by lifting her shirt in front of New York's Portal as "revenge," she told the Daily Star.

There are other Portals in Lublin, Poland, and Vilnius, Lithuania. I find no record of similarly demonstrative citizens there. But New York and Dublin are celebrated world centers of edginess.

New York has been home to Philip Roth, Lenny Bruce, the New York Dolls, James Baldwin, Charlotte Moorman, the Topless Cellist, and many artists whose words and works have sometimes been disdained and even banned.

And Dublin? Home to Samuel Beckett, Oscar Wilde, William Butler Yeats, and the Boomtown Rats. Dubliner Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels depicts a giant who quenches a fire by relieving himself on it. There's a scene for The Portal!

James Joyce's Ulysses, about a day in Dublin, couldn't be published at first for its frank depictions of other facts of life. Dubliner Sinead O' Connor notably shredded a photo of Pope John Paul II on live TV in America in 1992, and declared. "Fight the real enemy."

Perhaps the civic and business groups who support the installation might seem a little naïve to invite Dubliners and New Yorkers to "embrace the beauty of global interconnectedness" and not expect some invective, profanity, and outright slurs to seep through The Portal.

The technical team says they're working on what they call "additional solutions to limit such behavior appearing on the livestream," and that the installation will reopen this weekend.

The Portal does not include audio. As someone on the New York Portal side might put it, "Fuggetaboutit!"

Copyright 2024 NPR

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.