Michael Portnoy
American, born 1971
Relational Stalinism – The Musical,
Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art

Multimedia and performance artist Michael Portnoy infuses his art with comedy and linguistic absurdity, often drawing laughs with his artwork-jokes. This is central to Portnoy’s work, which investigates social exchange and the rules of communication and play. His projects imbue regular social conventions with esoteric communications, symbols, and gesture. For instance, with Gnosis 27 (2012), a game show he devised and staged within a giant mound of mud at dOCUMENTA (13), he attempts to reduce all knowledge into an “alphabet of human thought” from which to develop a language. Meanwhile, Portnoy’s performative “High Action Drama Paintings” are “about choreographing the obstacles that the paint encounters on its way to its pre-destined surface,” he explains, adding, “I also sing the course of the circuitous route of the paint towards the painting.”

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