I Saw the New York-Dublin Portal in Its Magical, Spontaneous Prime

Would I normally be delighted by two men humping a screen at each other? Impossible to say. But there was something special about watching two people thousands of miles apart simultaneously act on the same spark of divine inspiration.

I Saw the New York-Dublin Portal in Its Magical, Spontaneous Prime

The For You Page is a bi-weekly column by Alise Morales that explores, inspects, traverses, sifts through, and dives into internet culture. 

Few screens have captured the public consciousness like the New York-Dublin Portal. This giant, 24/7 livestream connected New York City to Ireland’s capital for a total of six days before being shut down for “inappropriate behavior”–a fact that quickly made its way around Twitter and TikTok to a resounding, “Yep, that sounds about right.” As someone who’s lived in New York for over a decade and also has a passing understanding of what goes on in Dublin, it feels hilariously naive to think a “portal” between these two cities would not result in exactly the type of shenanigans that led to its closure. Personally, I think it’s incredible we even made it 24 hours, let alone six days, before somebody flashed the camera, but it seems city administrators felt differently. 

I first saw the portal when a friend and I were passing through Madison Square Park and decided to stop to stare at the people in Dublin who were stopping to stare at all of us in New York. Within minutes, two men who kind of looked alike approached the portal from either side of the Atlantic and, thanks (surely) to some portal-based psychic connection, both simultaneously began humping the air. They were laughing their asses off the entire time much to the delight of the crowd, myself and my friend included. Would I normally be delighted by two men who sort of look alike humping a screen at each other? Impossible to say. But the thing that made this interaction so fun to watch was the spontaneity. There was something special about watching two people thousands of miles apart feel the same spark of divine inspiration and then immediately act on it, even if the end result was more “middle school playground” than it was “a touching moment of human connection through art.” 

The New York-Dublin Portal was not the first of its kind. The first portal was conceived by Lithuanian artist Benediktas Gylys and opened in 2021 to connect Vilnius, Lithuania to Lublin, Poland. That portal drew thousands of visitors during its time and—as far as I can tell—did not have to be shut down because the two cities could not stop exposing themselves to each other. As a New Yorker with a smidge of Irish heritage, I’ll admit that this fact makes me a little proud. When asked why the New York-Dublin portal was received so differently by the residents of its respective cities, Gylys said the difference “reflects the current state of humanity.” I agree, though perhaps for different reasons than Gylys had in mind (sadly it seems the gulf between this artist’s intention and impact grows wider every day).

Thanks to our carefully curated algorithms, humanity is more siloed than ever. Despite our constant, dizzying connection via social media, our For You Pages are less a reflection of humanity as it is and more a reflection of humanity as we already expect it to be. We only see what the algorithm wants us to see, which is basically just different versions of stuff we’ve seen before. The constant stream of content we fill our days with is lacking in the one thing the portal provides: the chance to be surprised. The portal’s website (yes, the portal has a website) describes it as “an invitation to meet fellow humans above borders and prejudices and to experience our home–Planet Earth–as it really is: united as one.” I think what it really shows us is that–even in a world where connecting with someone 3,000 miles away via a screen isn’t breaking new ground technologically–there is nothing more alluring to humanity than the chance to stumble upon the unexpected.

The next time I heard about the portal it was being shut down. On May 14th—just six days after it opened—it was taken offline due to a string of incidents including a woman in Dublin who mooned the screen, people on both sides showing “offensive” images to the camera (like a person who held up a picture of 9/11), and a man in Dublin sniffing a mysterious white powder while staring directly into the screen. The final nail in the coffin appears to have been when a woman on the New York side flashed her boobs.

And thus the portal was brought to its only logical conclusion. 

I saw the portal for the second time shortly after it reopened on May 19th. The new portal’s security measures include a fence that prevents anyone from getting too close to the camera (presumably to stop anyone who might be inspired to hold up pictures of a terrorist attack) and a deeply bored-looking security guard on a folding chair making sure everyone keeps their clothes on. The portal is also no longer 24 hours. It now runs from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET every day. Both times I saw the portal the scene surrounding it was the same–people standing awkwardly on opposite sides of an ocean while giggling and occasionally waving. Ultimately, I think the portal’s biggest lesson on humanity is how much we all crave the chance at the unknown. It’s a craving so deep that crowds will form in cities with no shortage of things to do or people to see. It’s a desire deep enough to make people thousands of miles away stop and stare at each other–hoping against hope that their doppelganger will appear in the crowd to make humping motions at them from across the sea. 

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