Marni Kotak, an NY-based performance artist is planning to give birth at the Microscope gallery in Bushwick. She’s calling the project, “The Birth Of Baby X.”
The theme of this creation is procreation: “I hope that people will see that human life itself is the most profound work of art, and that therefore giving birth, the greatest expression of life, is the highest form of art,” Kotak said.
The gallery will be equipped with an inflatable birthing tub, a bed, a shower and a rocking chair (hey, sounds better than most hospital rooms in NYC). A midwife will attend the birth and visitors interested in watching will be alerted via email when she goes into labor.
The history of performance art is full of people displaying bodily functions and physical feats: artists have slept, stared, stood still… There’s been plenty of nudity, blood and sweat. Chris Burden shot his own arm in a flesh-ripping, seminal piece. Giving birth fits in with this particular trajectory–it’s certainly going to be visceral. Visitors will also be forced to contemplate the temporal nature of this genre; the average length of a first time labor is 24 hours.
The gallery installation portion of Kotak’s piece, brings to mind the brilliant “Post Partum Document” by Mary Kelly. In this 1970s installation, Kelly obsessively collected and scientifically displayed “documentation” of her baby’s first year– a spit-up on a burping cloth, a nappy pin, etc.
But I wonder how labor will go with all those people around! Maybe it’ll be just fine and her midwife, labor support doula and husband will give her extra help maintaining focus. A woman’s labor can slow down or stall when there are lots of people around.
Any day now, Nancy Salguiero, will broadcast the home birth of her third baby across the internet for anyone who signs up to watch. But Salguiero is not anartist, she’s a birth coach and activist making a point about how labor can be quite serene (if hard) and beautiful (if boring). She hopes to change “our visual blue print” of birth.
Kotak’s performance beings Saturday, with an exhibit featuring a variety of art related to her pregnancy. “With ‘The Birth of Baby X,’ ” the gallery posted on its Web site, “Kotak continues to present her life experiences as works of art, works in which she strives to avoid the spectacle often involved in performance art to reach what is real.” This certainly sounds like a thought-provoking piece, but I’m not sure I’d say it’s getting away from spectacle.
photo: Marni Kotak