Crowning achievement! Artist will give live birth in a gallery

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She’s giving the performance of her — or, more accurately, her baby’s — lifetime.

Artists usually give birth to their work in their studios, but Bushwick-based performance artist Marni Kotak is giving birth, literally, as the climax of her month-long exhibition at Myrtle Avenue’s Microscope Gallery.

Kotak conceived of the idea in March, when she found out she was pregnant. Shortly thereafter, she met Elle Burchill, the creator of the newborn gallery, who approached her about giving birth to an exhibition this fall.

Kotak took it literally.

“It was kind of a strange coincidence,” said Burchill. “She said, ‘I’m pregnant.’ And I said, ‘Oh, you should do the birth here.’ And she had already been preparing this idea at the time I said that.”

For the past six years, Kotak has been performing re-enactments of seminal events in her life, including her grandfather’s funeral, her childhood slumber parties, and the time she lost her virginity — complete with her parents’ actual sky-blue Plymouth Acclaim and an appearance by the ex-boyfriend who did the original honors.

Recently, Kotak started incorporating her own life’s events, as they were happening, into her work. Her baby shower coincided with the sprawling Bushwick Open Studios this summer, and she made her wedding a “collaborat­ive art-making performance.”

The consumation and subsequent conception of “Baby X” were the few events in Kotak’s life that were not public.

As such, her birthing performance is easily her crowning achievement.

The voyeuristic exhibit echoes a state fair’s birthing tent, where a cow’s insemination is timed to bear a calf in front of a rapt, corn-fed audience, but Burchill and Kotak believe no one has ever given birth in an art gallery.

“I was really surprised that it had never been done,” said Kotak. “Most performance actions, such as driving a nail through your penis, getting shot, or cutting yourself are pretty self-destructive. But the pain of labor to bring another being into the world is life-affirming.”

Every day for the next five weeks, from 11 am to 6 pm, Microscope Gallery will serve as Kotak’s birthing center, complete with a bed, rocking chair, birthing pool, and a kitchen stocked with food.

A doula will provide Kotak with continuous physical and emotional support throughout her pregnancy, and a midwife will join her when she goes into labor.

Unlike her other performances, squeamish audience members don’t need to worry about participating in the miracle of life. But they can sign up to receive texts and e-mail alerts regarding Kotak’s progress. And they are encouraged to bring salty snacks — you know, for the cravings.

“I like Nutella on rice cakes,” said Kotak. “And potato chips. Any kind. I’m open-minded.”

Burchill and her friends will keep their cellphones on to serve Kotak around the clock and alert people when she goes into labor. Kotak does not know the baby’s gender and has not named it yet, but those surprises will be part of the performance as well.

Her exhibit will last through November — or until Kotak’s contractions start to come every minute or so.

“I have a feeling it’s going to be sooner rather than later,” said Kotak. “It could happen this weekend.”

So bring enough champagne for two.

“The Birth of Baby X” at Microscope Gallery [4 Charles Pl. at Myrtle Avenue and Bushwick Avenue in Bushwick, (347) 925-1433], opening party on Oct. 8, 6–9 pm.

Updated 5:27 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Or from Yellow Hook says:
The fine line between art and a sideshow!
Oct. 8, 2011, 8:35 am
gimmer from around says:
Pregger art will be just so 2011 soon, ovvvvvvver
Oct. 8, 2011, 11:16 am
SkyRoller from WrightHair says:
Where are the real artists any more???
Anyway here's some really cool music.
Oct. 8, 2011, 1:43 pm
Leonor from bushwick says:
I agree with the Skyroller That is not art.. women have been giving birth for thousands of years Natural birth is something that should be share with family and friends not a bunch of strangers. Also is she going to sterilize the audience?
Oct. 8, 2011, 4:51 pm
Joe Z. from greenpoint says:
Somebody should have sterilized this attention starved me-monkey.
Oct. 9, 2011, 12:37 pm
K. from ArKady says:
If she could poop out a Collateralized Debt Obligation she might have something there...
Oct. 9, 2011, 1:38 pm
Hannibal from Parkside says:
Bring a box of Placenta Helper and well all have lunch!
Oct. 9, 2011, 1:46 pm
jim from cobble hill says:
That kid is gonna get bullied something fierce in grade school once the other kids find the video if this rediculousness.
Oct. 9, 2011, 6:41 pm
Mike from Bay Ridge says:
I'll bet you a year's Similac she's going to charge admission (aka voluntary contribution) at the last minute.
Oct. 10, 2011, 9:15 am
carrie from williamsburg says:
Oct. 10, 2011, 4:44 pm
Nuts from the Can says:
When's her due date? Can I bring my dog???
Oct. 11, 2011, 6:51 am
Deborah Moncrief Bell from Texas says:
I am the child's grandmother, the mother of Marni's husband, Jason Robert Bell *also an artist). Anyone who dies not "get it" need not concern themselves about it. The child is being brought into the world by two amazing parents who will giv eit the best of their highly cereative and loving selves. People make comments that are snarky because they are uncomfortable with the subject but Marni is doing one of the most natural things in the world. Every measure is beign taken to insure a safe birth and a healthy baby and isn;t that what really matters. Art is in the eye of the beholder and for me, this baby indeed will be the greatest artwork of all.
Oct. 11, 2011, 11:18 pm
whitwagg from Arkansas says:
Birth is beautiful. Thanks to this artist, more people are going to see it that way. In a home(ish)setting, assisted by midwife and doula. Just the way that any low risk pregnancy should be managed.
Oct. 12, 2011, 1:33 pm
Mike from Bay Ridge says:
Childbirth isn't art any more than a crucifix in urine or elephant manure on a portait of a saint. If biological processes are now art, what next? Bowel movements? Are we going to reserve front row seats to see "performance artists" sweat in a sauna or do deep knee bends in the gym?

There's more "art" and beauty in a good haircut than any of the above. I wish people would just stop self-indulgently fooling themselves in the never-ending pursuant of 15 minutes of fame.
Oct. 12, 2011, 2:52 pm
Addy from Minneapolis says:
To those who are confused about why this could be called art.

While you're right that birth is natural and common, it is remarkable that it has been treated in our country as so very unnatural, pathologized to no end--we hide, medicate, schedule and culturally sanitize birth. Art can have many reasons for being and I think that the disruption and reorientation of cultural standards and norms is pretty valuable bit of justification.
Oct. 12, 2011, 7:55 pm
David on Middagh from Brooklyn Heights says:
So... Who went to the opening?
Oct. 15, 2011, 10:43 am

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