Performance artist Marni Kotak is about to have a baby, and she’s trying to schedule her latest installment according to her due date — because her art installment is her giving birth, and she’s inviting people to come see it. So, if you’re in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn and want to stop by the Microscope Gallery (that is not a misprint, that is the name of the gallery where this woman is inviting people to witness an extremely intimate moment), one of the things that you can do is watch a lady give birth to an as-yet-unnamed “Baby X.”
If you’re thinking that this is one of the weirder things you’ve heard about recently — despite the beauty and miracle of birth, yada yada yada — you’re not alone. In fact, speaking as someone who wants to have kids one day, I have mixed feelings about this. Kotak is certainly taking some precautions, like setting up her gallery to replicate a home birthing room and is employing the services of a doula (she’s not going fully raw, like giving birth on a floor with no assistance). Her message is to shed light on fully natural childbirth, saying “What is more real than life itself?” and that the process is “possible and beautiful.” Inspired by raw performance art of the 1970s, past exhibits have included recreations of her grandfather’s funeral and the loss of her virginity. So yes, in case you had any questions, Ms. Kotak is accustomed to the whole “putting it all out there” thing.
The room will include a water birthing tub, her late grandmother’s bed, and the rocking chair her mother used when the artist was a baby herself. A generational theme, like the circle of life, the handing down of traditions of comfort, etc. Other items in the room/exhibit include her positive pregnancy tests and subsequent medical tests confirming her pregnancy.
Kotak does not know exactly when the baby will be born, but is running the exhibit, Marni Kotak: The Birth of Baby X, for about a month, starting yesterday and with a planned closing date of November 7, or whenever Baby X is born. (She mentioned that she thought opening night, October 8, would be the night, but there are no indications that she’s given birth yet.) And no, the baby is not going to be named “Baby X.” (Kotak is not that artsy.) The gender of the baby will be a surprise to both parents, and the baby will be named after the birth. Kotak plans on spending part of every day in the gallery, which will be extending its hours for the duration of the exhibit, but lives so close that should she go into labor, she will not have far to travel to give birth in the gallery.
And yes, it felt weird to type that. How an audience will be notified so they can go view the birth (again, yes, this is still kinda weird) was not disclosed, and those people who are genuinely interested and are prepared to potentially go watch a stranger give birth to a baby in a Bushwick art gallery in the wee hours of a weekday morning might want to receive some kind of Tweet or text, I’m assuming.
Art is different for all people, and so is the experience of childbirth. Some women would prefer to keep all uninvolved parties away (because, come on, the human machine is amazing yes, and sometimes it poops on the delivery table) and some will let cameras into the delivery room. And this woman would like to do this in front of an audience to demonstrate the most raw example of life begetting life. No one is being forced to see this, so no one should be too up in arms about it. But we just hope Ms. Kotak and her baby have a smooth, safe, and healthy birthing experience. Mazel tov!
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