New Yorkers could see their English cousins across the pond Thursday without benefit of cable TV or video conferencing, courtesy of an unusual live optical hookup created by a conceptual artist with a fanciful tale of a long-lost tunnel.
An optical device called a "telectroscope" was placed at the Fulton Ferry Landing in Brooklyn and another one on the Thames River in London on Thursday.
Spectators stepped up to the machine on both sides of the Atlantic and waved and wrote greetings to each other in real time on wipe-off message boards.
They told knock-knock jokes, asked about the weather and found time for a few shout-outs to Queen Elizabeth and the Manchester United soccer team. Manhattanite Lorena Yeves, 21, even exchanged cell phone numbers with a fellow on the London end.
The contraption is the invention of Paul St George, a London artist known for his tiny replicas of monumental pieces of art.
Publicists will say only that it uses fiberoptic communication. St George prefers to stick to his story that the machine was started by his great-grandfather in Victorian times and transmits images via a tunnel under the ocean.
According to the project's Web site, St George's work "has always been concerned with questioning the relationship between the viewer and what is viewed. His work is also often associated with different realities, spectacle and viewer participation."
The telectroscopic spectacle and viewer participation will be in operation on both sides of the Atlantic until June 15.