Sci-Fi “Portal” Connects Citizens of Lublin & Vilnius, Allowing Passersby Separated by 376 Miles to Interact in Real Time

Can we ever tran­scend our ten­den­cy to divide up the world into us and them? The his­to­ry of Europe, which polit­i­cal the­o­rist Ken­neth Minogue once called “plau­si­bly summed up as prepar­ing for war, wag­ing war, or recov­er­ing from war,” offers few con­sol­ing answers. But per­haps it isn’t for his­to­ry, much less for the­o­ry or pol­i­tics, to dic­tate the future prospects for the uni­ty of mankind. Art and tech­nol­o­gy offer anoth­er set of views on the mat­ter, and it’s art and tech­nol­o­gy that come togeth­er in Por­tal, a recent­ly launched project that has con­nect­ed Vil­nius, Lithua­nia and Lublin, Poland with twin instal­la­tions. More than just a sculp­tur­al state­ment, each city’s por­tal offers a real-time, round-the-clock view of the oth­er.

“In both Vil­nius and Lublin,” writes My Mod­ern Met’s Sara Barnes, “the por­tals are with­in the urban land­scape; they are next to a train sta­tion and in the city cen­tral square, respec­tive­ly. This allows for plen­ty of engage­ment, on either end, with the peo­ple of a city 376 miles apart. And, in a larg­er sense, the por­tals help to human­ize cit­i­zens from anoth­er place.”

Images released of the inter­ac­tion between passer­by and their local por­tal show, among oth­er actions, wav­ing, cam­era phone-shoot­ing, syn­chro­nized jump­ing, and just plain star­ing. Though more than one com­par­i­son has been made to the Star­gate, the image also comes to mind of the apes around the mono­lith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, react­ing as best they can to a pre­vi­ous­ly unimag­ined pres­ence in their every­day envi­ron­ment.

Iron­i­cal­ly, the basic tech­nol­o­gy employed by the Por­tal project is noth­ing new. At this point we’ve all looked into our phone and com­put­er screens and seen a view from per­haps much far­ther than 376 miles away, and been seen from that dis­tance as well. But the coro­n­avirus-induced world­wide expan­sion of tele­con­fer­enc­ing has, for many, made the under­ly­ing mechan­ics seem some­what less than mirac­u­lous. Con­ceived years before trav­el restric­tions ren­dered next to impos­si­ble the actu­al vis­it­ing of human beings else­where on the con­ti­nent, let alone on the oth­er side of the world, Por­tal has set up its first instal­la­tions at a time when they’ve come to feel like some­thing the world needs. “Res­i­dents in Reyk­javik, Ice­land, and Lon­don, Eng­land can expect a por­tal in their city in the future,” notes Barnes — and if those two can feel tru­ly con­nect­ed with Europe, there may be hope for the one­ness of the human race yet.

via Colos­sal/MyMod­ern­Met

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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See Web Cams of Sur­re­al­ly Emp­ty City Streets in Venice, New York, Lon­don & Beyond

Dis­cov­er Euro­peana Col­lec­tions, a Por­tal of 48 Mil­lion Free Art­works, Books, Videos, Arti­facts & Sounds from Across Europe

The His­to­ry of Europe from 400 BC to the Present, Ani­mat­ed in 12 Min­utes

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Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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