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Who Thought a New York-Dublin Portal Was a Good Idea? This Guy

It was supposed to bring people together. Things went sideways fast.

New York-Dublin portal

Seth Wenig/AP

Last Sunday, Ava Louise and her boyfriend, Vinny Buffa, woke up in their home in Jersey City, took the train into Midtown Manhattan, and Louise flashed her boobs to the people of Dublin.

The 25-year-old OnlyFans creator’s transcontinental self-exposure was made possible thanks to an art installation known as the Portal, which connected people in New York City to those in the Irish capital via a 24-hour live video feed on display in two circular sculptures. The project was intended to foster goodwill and a sense of shared humanity between people thousands of miles apart. Instead, Louise was among a number of people in both cities who seized their chance to get up to no good — even if she’s refusing to see it that way.

“I think I made the Portal nicer,” Louise tells Rolling Stone. “Who doesn’t love a pair of tits?”

The two portals — called NYC Portal and Dublin Portal, respectively, but known collectively as the Portal — were the work of Lithuanian artist Benediktas Gylys, who may have underestimated just how sick and twisted we all are.

When Gylys helped unveil the Portal on May 8, he had hoped the project would run for months. But instead, the two 3.5-ton structures had to be switched off — temporarily, at least — less than a week after launching, with Dublin officials bemoaning a number of incidents of “inappropriate behavior” involving nudity, references to terrorism, and, in one particularly high-concept insult, potatoes.

In hindsight, opening a portal that connected New Yorkers with the Irish was perhaps only ever going to end one way. But Gylys, 34, tells Rolling Stone that he and his team are trying to find ways to reopen the artwork to account for the two cities’ behavioral proclivities. Sounding almost like the parent of a pair of misbehaving children, he didn’t appear angry — just disappointed.

“I wouldn’t say it’s ruined,” Gylys said in a video interview, in which he tried to make sense of the nuances of Irish and American sensibilities. “It’s a different culture and somehow I think we just need to adjust.”

“I think humans are doing very human things, and as humans we have lots of light in us, but we also have some darkness in us,” he says.

Gylys says that his original idea was to connect people in faraway cities using a blend of art and technology in order to meet one another “above borders, differences, and disagreements.” He first installed two portals in 2021 in his hometown of Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, and the Polish city of Lublin. He said the idea had first come to him five years earlier during a highly depressive episode he experienced after achieving financial success as a web developer only to then question his life’s purpose. Suddenly, in what he described as “mystical experience,” he felt an intense connection to all life on Earth, and he wanted his sculptures to recreate this feeling of attachment. (A similar artistic project, dubbed the Telectroscope, connected people in New York City to London back in 2008. From what we can tell, no such shenanigans ensued, although a contemporaneous report noted at least one instance of some light teasing about soccer/football.)

Gylys’s bold plan is to eventually link all the sculptures together — and build more portals in places like Ukraine, Iraq, Australia, and Brazil — so they function less as two-way digital mirrors and more as a network. “We are trying to connect humans, not cities,” Gylys said.

But although the New York/Dublin portals initially opened with family-friendly dances and waves, things eventually took a turn as the portals slowly morphed into what Slate’s Lizzie O’Leary described on X as a “digital glory hole.” In Dublin, there was the guy who appeared to snort a bump of cocaine, the person who held up his phone to show a hardcore porn video, the guy who flashed his ass, and the individual who showed an image of the second airplane striking the Twin Towers on 9/11. Police had to escort away a woman who had been grinding on the portal just hours after it opened.

New Yorkers weren’t exactly on their best behavior, either, with one dude holding up an image on his phone of a potato (presumably referencing the Irish Potato Famine). And in probably the most viral video to emerge from the fiasco (more than 50 million views on X alone), Louise flashed her breasts at the portal, before bouncing up and down for full effect. She later proudly told her 417,000 followers on Instagram, “I thought the people of Dublin deserved to see my two New York homegrown potatoes.”

Speaking with Rolling Stone, Louise, 25, was frank about her motivations: she wanted the attention she correctly predicted this would bring her. “I did it to go viral. That’s been my whole career,” Louise said. “I saw an opportunity and I jumped on it.”

Indeed, Louise actively seeks publicity on a regular basis. She’s gone viral a few times; first in 2019 when she appeared on Dr. Phil to exclaim that she would rather die a “skinny legend” than live to be fat or ugly. The next year, as the Covid pandemic kicked off, she filmed herself licking an airplane toilet seat while on a flight to Miami, earning her another invitation on to Dr. Phil to explain her behavior. “I was really annoyed that corona was getting more publicity than me,” she explained.

Louise insists that no children were around when she lifted her shirt, but said that those around her seemed to find her flashing entertaining. Evidently, many people online were also intrigued. Since the stunt, she said she’s gained about 35,000 OnlyFans subscribers, netting her as much as $40,000 in just a few days.

As for whether she regrets potentially sullying the innocence underscoring Gylys’ project, Louise was defiant. “I don’t feel guilty at all. I didn’t ruin his art,” she said. “If you wanted to connect people and do a piece about human nature, what’s more human than a hot girl showing her boobs?”

For his part, Gylys seemed empathetic to Louise, calling her behavior “a reflection of humanity” — perhaps one that even made sense in the context of his art. “I think people are doing everything to gain attention these days, to grow their popularity on social media,” he says. “I felt only love for this person because I fully understand her. Now we live in the attention economy, and everyone is trying to use the portal narrative to also gain something for themselves. For me, this is part of the story that we are writing together.”

Gylys has a few theories as to why the Dublin and New York City portals have caused problems that the Vilnius and Lublin ones did not experience (the worst that happened there, he said, was one guy taking off his shirt to do push ups). For one, the first two European cities to get portals are much smaller than their Irish and American counterparts, meaning those sculptures attracted less visitors. Second, the time difference between the U.S. and Ireland is also probably a factor that might explain some of the rowdiness, with Dubliners enjoying drinks on a night out at times when New Yorkers might still be on their lunch break.

But he also suspects Polish and Lithuanian portal users are more reserved thanks to the decades they spent under Soviet rule. “People are more likely to keep to themselves,” he says, somewhat diplomatically. “They are less expressive and they’re less willing to fully express themselves.”

For now, Gylys has directed his staff to come up with solutions to make the portals more family friendly, although he declined to go into detail on what those might look like. Irish officials have said only that one measure that involved “blurring” anything held up to the camera was not satisfactory.

And although the New York Post has since dubbed his work a “portal to hell,” Gylys said he believes heaven can’t exist without a little bit of that.

“It’s just us humans creating this artwork together with all the lights and some darkness,” Gylys said. “With the numbers that we are achieving, it’s very normal to have some darkness and some negativity. It’s just humans doing human things, and it’s part of our trip here on planet Earth.”

From Rolling Stone US