Michael Portnoy (b. 1971, Washington, DC, USA) is a New York-based artist. Coming from a background in dance and stand-up comedy, his performance-based work employs a variety of media: from participatory installations to film, sculpture, theater, writing and curation. Portnoy is largely concerned with manipulating language and behavior as a tool for world-bending – either in his "Relational Stalinist" game structures in which confusion, complication, and ambiguity are used to stretch participants' speech and movement; or his quest to "improve" existing breeds of art through re-engineering. He has presented internationally in museums, art galleries, theatres and music halls, including recently Steirischer Herbst, Graz, Austria (2023, 2019, 2018); Witte de With, Rotterdam, the Netherlands (2016); the Centre Pompidou, Paris, France (2015); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands (2014); Cricoteka, Krakow, Poland (2014); Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France (2013); KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany (2013); The Kitchen, New York, USA (2013); dOCUMENTA 13, Kassel, Germany (2012); 11th Baltic Triennial (co-curator), Vilnius, Lithuania (2012); and the Taipei Biennial, Taipei, Taiwan (2010).


The Society of Societies, Steirischer Herbst, Graz, Austria
Progressive Touch, The Emily Harvey Foundation, NY

Progressive Touch, Vleeshal Center for Contemporary Art, Middelburg, Netherlands
URGENT, Wilfried Lentz, Rotterdam

Progressive Touch, commissioned by Steirischer Herbst, Graz, Austria
Portnoy (born 1936) Improvises, Hauser & Wirth, NY; FIAC, Paris, Block Universe, London

Touching on Everything, commissioned by Steirischer Herbst, Graz, Austria
WRIXLING.COM, online project, commissioned by CAC Vilnius with CORPUS

Character Assassination, Akademie der Künste der Welte, Cologne, Germany
Progressive Touch - Total Body Language Reprogramming, KW Berlin, Germany

Relational Stalinism - The Musical, Witte de With, Rotterdam

100 Big Entrances, Donaufestival, Austria

100 Beautiful Jokes, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

THRILLOCHROMES, Wilfred Lentz Rotterdam
27 Gnosis, Playground Festival, STUK, Leuven, Belgium
27 Gnosis, The Kitchen, NY

I'm back fore ground!, IBID PROJECTS, London
Alligators! Experimental Comedy Club, Beursschouwburg, Brussels, Belgium

Script Opposition in Late Model Carrot Jokes, Objectif Exhibitions, Antwerp & Wilfried Lentz Rotterdam

Alligators!, de Appel, Amsterdam, curated and directed by Michael Portnoy and Ieva Miseviciute

Human Intwist Group, Kunstverein, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
On se bat toujours quelque part, Le Confort Moderne, Poitiers, France

The Dudion Levers, Martos Gallery, New York, USA (with Oliver Sudden)
Lend a Polt in the Put, IBID PROJECTS, London
Casino Ilinx, Sculpture Center, New York, USA

Wandbiss, Art Unlimited 38 Basel, Basel, Switzerland. Presented by The Swiss Institute, New York
Seminar in Subliminal Carnage – The 33 Holdmusic Variations, Performa 07, The Swiss Institute, New York, USA
Talus, Dexter Sinister, New York, USA
The Gutsongs of Xar, Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm, Sweden
Piano Destruction Party, 159 Rivington, New York, USA

Necktie over the Atlantic (performance with Theodore Fivel), Migros Museum, Zurich, Switzerland
The K Sound, The Kitchen, New York, USA

Strangergames, Kaaitheater, Brussels, Belgium

Shucking the What, The Kitchen, New York, USA
Billy Joel Nose, chashama, New York, USA

Strangergames, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Centre, New York, USA 1998
Soy Bomb, Radio City Music Hall, New York, USA


It’s Weird, Shedhalle, Zurich, Switzerland

Une Exposition Mise En Scène, La Ferme du Buisson, Noisiel, France
When Gondola Engines Were Taken to Bits, GES-2, Moscow

Objects Like Us, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, CT, USA

A Choreographed Exhibition, CA2M, Madrid, Spain.

Liverpool Biennial, Liverpool, UK

Nouveau Festival, Centre Pompidou

Nothing Twice/Nic 2 Razy, Cricoteka, Krakow, Poland
Father Can't You See I'm Burning, de Appel arts centre, Amsterdam
Before Normal: Concept after Concept , Museum for Contemporary Art Roskilde, Denmark
The Crime Was Almost Perfect, Witte de With Contemporary Art, Rotterdam

Nuit Blanche, Paris, France
Jew York, Zach Feuer Gallery, NY
Un Escalier d'Eau, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France
The Bet, KW Institute of Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany

dOCUMENTA 13, Kassel, Germany
11th Baltic Triennial, co-curator, Vilnius, Lithuania
Radical Languages, Cricoteca, Krakow, Poland

Clifford Irving Show, Objectif Exhibitions, Antwerp, Belgium
Taipei Biennial 2010, Taipei, Taiwan
The Prompt & Living Pictures, Transart Festival for Performa, Bolzano, Italy
Une Forme Pour Toute Action, Le Printemps de Septembre, Toulouse, France
Répétition Island , Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
Macedonian Museum for Contemporary Art, Athens, Greece

This place you see has no size at all..., Kadist Art Foundation, Paris, France
The Prompt, Kunstverein, New York, USA. Co-curator. Performa 09 Biennial
Made in the USA at Pete’s Motors, Pete’s Motors Showrooms, Great Barrington, USA
STRIP/STRIPE, Emily Harvey Foundation, New York
Remap2, Athens, Greece
Paper Exhibition, Artists Space, New York, USA
Dr. Portnoy (screening), Sundance Film Festival, Park City, USA

One of These Things is Not Like the OtherThings, 1/9 Unosunove, Rome, Italy
Word Event, Kunsthalle Basel, Basel, Switzerland

A Choreographed Exhibition, Kunsthalle St. Gallen, Switzerland.
Chemical City, Deborah Colton Gallery, Houston, USA
Speak Easy: Reading on the Rocks, SculptureCentre, New York, USA
5 on 5 is 5, Central House of Artists, 2nd Moscow Biennale, Russia.

The Invasionistas, Kling & Bang Gallery, Reykjavik, Iceland
Deitch Gallery Art Parade 2006, New York, USA
An Evening of Experimental Jokes (and other joke swills), Andrew Kreps Gallery, NY, USA
Male Entertainment, Monkeytown, New York, USA
Everything Beautiful and Noble Is the Result of Reason and Calculation, EFA Gallery, NY

Concrete Castle, Le Confort Moderne, Poitiers, France
Deitch Gallery Art Parade 2005, New York, USA
threeASFOUR Fashion Show, threeASFOUR, New York, USA
Still Ill, Momenta Art, New York, USA
Jump On Me, Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn, Germany.

Collision, Ace Gallery, New York, USA
Shucking the What (prelude), Canada Gallery, New York, USA
Domestic Porn, Galeria Fundacji Foksal, Warsaw, Poland

Secrets, Little Theatre at Tonic, New York, USA
Professor Kiffy on Kitchen Jokes, Little Theatre at Tonic, New York, USA

The Yoghurt Boys, Bowery Pottery Club, New York, USA
As Four Opera, Cooper Union Great Hall, New York, USA

Arse about Face, Jack Tilton Gallery, New York, USA

The Yoghurt Boys, Dumbo Arts Festival, New York, USA
Tie-Off Fear Sleeves, Chashama, New York, USA

Bucket, (the working title), in collaboration with Claude Wampler. Triple X Festival, Amsterdam;
Kaiitheater, Brussels; Victoria Festival, Ghent; P.S. 122, New York.
Bunnipatchers, White Box, New York, USA

Bucket, (the working title), collaboration with Claude Wampler. National Festival of Live Art; Glasgow, Scotland. Downtown Arts Festival, New York, USA
24 Hours on the Staten Island Ferry, Staten Island Ferry, USA
Eviannese Gesamtcuntsjerk, Audio Room, Vienna, Austria
SONTAG, Movement Research, Judson Church, New York, USA

How’m I Doin’? HERE Gallery, New York, USA
Moronmachine, P.S. 122, New York, USA
Lepsies, St. Marks Church, Downtown Arts Festival, New York, USA


1993 BA English Literature/Creative Writing, Vassar College, New York


EMPAC, Troy, NY – residency, 2014
Confuse the Cat (residency leader), The Banff Centre Canada, 2014
Visiting Lecturer in Visual Arts MFA Program, Malmö Art Academy, Malmö, Sweden, 2013-ongoing
Sandberg Institute, Amsterdam, MFA workshop leader, 2013
Experimental Comedy Training Camp (residency leader), The Banff Centre, Canada, 2012
Goldsmiths, Art Writing MFA, London, workshop instructor, 2012
Werkplaats Typografie, Arnhem, Netherlands, workshop instructor, 2010
Bard College, NY, USA, MFA Faculty, 2009
Yaddo, NY, USA – residency, 2005

Visiting artist at Art Institute of Chicago, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, University of Chicago, HEAD (Geneva), Piet Zwart Institute (Rotterdam), School of Visual Arts, and New York University.