Benediktas Gylys’s The Portal temporarily closes in New York and Dublin due to “inappropriate behavior”

Since The Portal opened on May 8 outside New York’s Flatiron Building and in Dublin, the majority of visitors have been respectful. It did what the Lithuanian artist and entrepreneur Benediktas Gylys set out to do: Connect people outside of their social circles and cultures, “transcend geographical boundaries, and embrace the beauty of global interconnectedness.”

This week, the Flatiron NoMad Partnership and Dublin City Council announced that the The Portal has been temporarily closed because of “inappropriate behavior.” The Portal’s closure comes less than a week after the virtual livestream between New York and Dublin opened.

Well, The Portal’s critics can’t argue that it didn’t connect people. While many used the streaming ring to wave hello to strangers across the pond and share new dance moves, a Dublin drunkard stood before the camera and gave the middle finger for at least 30 seconds and a New York TikTokker exposed herself to unsuspecting onlookers in Dublin.

A woman in Dublin was thwarted by the Gardai for aggressively “grinding her bum” on The Portal after drunkenly exiting a bar. There were also instances of Irish teenagers hoisting their iPhones into The Portal with imagery of 9/11 and swastikas. Later, The New York Post called Gylys’s contraption “Portal to hell.”

people taking photos of the installation
The installation closed due to inappropriate behavior in both cities. (Courtesy Flatiron NoMad Partnership)

Writing for UnHerd, Sam Leith cited Chaucer and the Canterbury Tales when he said we shouldn’t be so quick to condemn the art object, and the lewd activities it elicited. Rather, Leith said Gylys’s social experiment should be understood as “a microcosm of the internet itself.”

“It’s lols. It’s craic,” Leith offered. “[The Portal] manifests the unruliness, the corporeality, the boisterousness that’s the best of us as well as the most annoying of us. It’s just that boisterousness that derails utopian projects and reminds the self-serious and vainglorious that they belong in the mud with the rest of us. So here’s to grindy-bum girl.”

On May 13, the Dublin City Council issued a statement confirming the temporary closure: “While we cannot control all of these actions, we are implementing some technical solutions to address this and these will go live in the next 24 hours. We will continue to monitor the situation over the coming days with our partners in New York to ensure that portals continue to deliver a positive experience for both cities and the world.”

“The overwhelming majority of visitors to the Portal have behaved appropriately and experienced the sense of joy and connectedness that this work of public art invites people to have,” the Flatiron NoMad Partnership said in a statement. “Instances of inappropriate behavior have come from a very small minority of Portal visitors and have been amplified on social media.”

On an Instagram story Flatiron & NoMad, NYC shared yesterday, it said it the installation “will be back on by the end of this week.”

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