Michael Portnoy

Progressive Touch: Series 1 (2019)
Video installation

The goal of Michael Portnoy’s new multichannel video work is to “improve” sex, as he puts it. Exploring and expanding the relationship between human sexuality, choreography, and musical composition, he aims to combat the apparent simplification of rhythm in human movements and gestures. This can be observed in the industrialization of labor or the history of contemporary dance, where the relation to rhythm has been either severed or reduced to allusions to pop culture. This situation can also be noticed in the predictable cadences and movements of sexual intimacy, long since exploited, commercialized, sensationalized, or desensitized. Portnoy proposes complicating this all-too-predictable condition by introducing the complex meter and compositional structures found in progressive rock and math metal to the sexual act. A group of actors performs modified steps in the sexual encounter in slapstick vignettes. Together they make up a composition resembling a rock opera and also provide an example to be tried out at home.


Helmut List Halle
Waagner-Biro-Straße 98a
8020 Graz
♿ Venue accessible for wheelchairs

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Free admission with Festival Pass
Due to mature content, you must be at least eighteen years old to attend the venue.

Commissioned by steirischer herbst ’19

Coproduction by steirischer herbst ’19, Vleeshal Center for Contemporary Art (Middelburg), and supported by Chris Fitzpatrick 

Director: Michael Portnoy
Performance: Tizo All, Juan Felipe Amaya González, Ilona Bankiraj, Marc Philipp Gabriel, Mad Kate, Astrid Panaken, Deva Schubert, and Adrienne Teicher 
Music: Stefan Meier and Michael Portnoy
Producer, Berlin: Esther Niemeier
Producer, New York: Julia Simpson
Assistant choreographer: Moss Beynon Juckes
Director of photography: Darja Pilz
Focus puller: David Kizner
Gaffer: Jens Thurmann
Sound recordist: Camilo Garcia Castro
Hair & make-up design: Servulo Mendez
Production design: Ran Chai Bar-zvi and Leonard Mandl

→  Video Archive

Michael Portnoy (1971, Washington, D.C.) comes from a background of dance and stand-up comedy. His performance-based work employs a variety of media—from participatory installations to sculpture, painting, writing, theater, video, and curating—and plays with the use of language and behavior, often to a brutally comic effect. Portnoy lives in New York.