Portal Combat

The first time I visit the Portal, I stare at my own sour face as it is reflected on the surface of a blank screen. At the top of the eleven-foot disc, a tiny camera eye blinks red: Though the cluster of people at the intersection of Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and Twenty-Third Street couldn’t see any moving images, we are being recorded and displayed in real time. Whoever is standing at the identical Portal in Dublin can see us squinting, confused.

On May 8, the Portals opened on Flatiron Plaza and off O’Connell Street in Dublin, inaugurating a 24/7 video-only livestream between the two cities that had no apparent purpose other than that of an entertaining gimmick. Tens of thousands visited in the first five days, and almost two billion more followed their antics online; by May 13, the Department of Transportation shut down the Manhattan attraction, citing inappropriate conduct. “It was the other side doing funny business,” a private security guard tells me. “You saw them with the 9/11 picture? You can’t be doing that to New York.” As he talks, he leans against the prot…

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