progressive touch

Progressive Touch


Can you fu*k to an irregular beat? Progressive Touch depicts three futuristic, absurdist love scenes in which the goal is to “improve” sex by complicating its rhythm and choreography. Sex as dance as comedy. Enacted by three real life couples, the dancers’ every explicit move is synchronized to the propulsive, unpredictable score which borrows elements from progressive rock, trap, and math metal.

Michael Portnoy ~ Austria

Categories: Art/Abstract



Michael Portnoy is a New York-based multimedia artist. Coming from a background in dance and experimental comedy, his performance-based work employs a variety of media: from film and participatory installations to theater, sculpture, writing, painting, and curation. He has presented internationally in museums, art galleries, film festivals and theaters, including recently Steirischer Herbst, Graz, Austria (2019 & 2018); Akademie der Künste der Welte, Cologne, Germany (2017); KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany (2017); Playground, STUK, Leuven, Belgium (2016, 2014); Liverpool Biennial, Liverpool, UK (2016); Witte de With, Rotterdam, the Netherlands (2016); the Centre Pompidou, Paris, France (2015); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands (2014); Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France (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). He is a visiting professor at Malmö Art Academy. For more information visit:


Excerpts from VICE Magazine interview:

Why did you make this film series, Progressive Touch?

As a comedian, I am always looking for humor-free zones to pervert. Why is there so little truly absurdist porn out there? This should be a whole niche industry! I’m not talking about parody or kink, which is still recognizable and codified in its non-conventionality. I’m talking something joyously imaginative and terrifyingly other, like the sex scene in the Swedish film Border, for instance. I want sex and sensuality to co-exist with manic nonsense and laughter. The hope is if you can reprogram human behavior at the root level of sex, by introducing formal invention and abstraction, then you can affect change similarly at higher levels of interpersonal exchange.

How did you come to this series?

It started with imagining people fu**ing to a highly irregular beat. The idea only became funnier and more inspiring to me over the years, and it was brewing for a long time. The human body is pretty uninventive musically. A healthy heart has a regular beat, we walk at a steady pace, and our genitals are wired to need a steady rhythm to climax. Foreplay can be all free jazz but to get off we need a good ole 4/4. As a progressive rock fiend, and someone who works with choreography, music, and comedy, the question is naturally going to arise: what is progressive sex? By that I mean, bodies connecting in all sorts of strange meters, tempo shifts, stops and starts, changes in dynamics, unpredictable flourishes and permutations. Now that’s just musicality. But what if we also “improve,” or complicate our movements – complicate our touch and the approach of two bodies moving towards each other. Why should a tongue go directly to a clitoris? Can’t it travel through the room in complicated, swooping baroque patterns until it gets there?

Often this is slapstick. Are these vignettes both wholly satirical and earnestly serious to you?

I love physical comedy, and you could almost see these as cartoons, like if Mr. Bean was ripped and hot, had a dick in his mouth and studied dance in Brussels. The comedy that I’m after teeters between something beautiful, sexy, uncanny, abstract, WTF hilarious, masterful and stupid as hell.

book club