Where New Yorkers Start Being Polite and Stop Getting Real

At 2:45 p.m. on a sunny Wednesday in a plaza near the Flatiron Building, a crowd of a few dozen was watching, and appearing in, New York City’s most infamous new reality show.

On a round video screen, encased in a porthole-like structure behind a railing, they could see a livestream of onlookers across the Atlantic, in the center of Dublin. “They can see you just like you see them!” a staff member minding the exhibit told the crowd.

Therein lay the attraction, and the problem. The Portal, a two-way-video art installation, opened on May 8, then promptly closed down on May 14, because of “inappropriate behavior.”

On the American side, an OnlyFans model had flashed her breasts at Dublin, a stunt that, she later said, netted her a boost in subscribers worth tens of thousands of dollars. From the Irish side, people displayed images of swastikas and of the 2001 World Trade Center attack. The transgressions went viral, not the sort of global connection and sharing that the organizers were hoping for.

Who, besides everyone, would have thought that some people would behave badly given access to a public live camera? When the Portal reopened on May 19, it had new hours — 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. New York time — and new safeguards, including a “proximity-based solution” that would blur the livestream if anyone or anything got too close.

Today, the crowd was keeping it on, keeping it all on. At least on this side of the ocean. Onscreen in Dublin, a pair of high-spirited lads lifted their shirts and exposed their bellies to America. In a few minutes they graduated to full topless, whirling their shirts over their heads, before they were seemingly encouraged to leave by security.

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