portal street art East Village-NYC New York-Untapped Cities-Lara Elmayan

If you’ve wandered Alphabet City lately, you might have noticed the artwork pictured above, or others like it. This hand-painted mural on the corner of Avenue C and 7th Street, the first portal in series of an eventual 13, looks like something out of a Meso-American temple, but invites invites viewers to “enter the portal” by scanning a QR Code with their smartphone.

The message revealed by the code brings the intrepid smartphone user (who is willing to submit their their e-mail to the Oracle) to a clue or journey that essentially leads them to some sort of “theatrical happening.” The Atlantic Cities reportedly recently that the most recent one involved a group of people wearing black converging with a group wearing white for a parade that culminated in a party on the rooftop of a church-turned-community-center. Hidden at these performances are 64 keys that provide access to a final event at Portal 13. The objective is to “pass through all 13 portals and arrive at Portal 13.” Whatever this involves will somehow “bring timeless knowledge through the channels of modern technology, merging past and present into a new and transformative reality.”

13 Portals was schemed up and is directed by Nicolina Johnson, the founder of the Free Art Society (FAS) and the resident artist of the Lower East Side Girls Club. She and other members of FAS spend about three weeks painting each mural, their art backed with ample research on ancient history, numerology, science, and magic. They unveil one mural each Saturday, installed, with appropriate symbolism, on abandoned doorways. Obviously, the nature of the art is ephemeral; one of the murals was already torn down, despite the fact that Johnson worked hard to find permission to install them on the buildings that didn’t seem abandoned. But it’s a testament to the resilience of public art philosophy that she and her team continue to risk creating and installing destructible art for the sake of bringing strangers together, encouraging self-expression, and widening the influence and implications of art.

Portal One has been up for over a month, but the entire game, according to Curbed, will last into October, when the secrets of Portal 13 will be revealed. EV Grieve has also been following the progress of Portals.

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