It’s easy to say that life influences art, but it’s another thing entirely to make your life a work of art. Performance artist Marni Kotak has done just that, reenacting everything from her grandfather’s funeral to the first time she had sex, but her latest piece, The Birth of Baby X, brings the audience directly into her life. The very-pregnant Kotak has transformed Microscope Gallery, located in Bushwick, Brooklyn, into her home birthing room, and for the next five to six weeks, she will be on display for visitors, eventually giving birth in front of a live audience. The exhibit, described as Kotak’s “most profound and physically challenging performance” yet (you think?!), is meant to show that human life itself is the highest form of art.
The Birth of Baby X opened on October 8 and is scheduled around Kotatk’s actual due date, which should be sometime around November 7. Kotak will be having a natural birth, assisted by her midwife and doula. She has made the gallery into a warm, comfortable environment filled with familiar objects, including her deceased grandmother’s bed, her mother’s rocking chair, artwork made by her husband, Jason, and a video projection of waves crashing on her favorite beach. She also installed a shower and an inflatable birthing pool.
“I know it will be challenging, but I think if people give birth in the completely inhospitable environment of hospitals, hooked up to IVs and monitors and strapped with stirrups into a bed, I can give birth in an art gallery,” Kotak said in an interview with the Village Voice.
The gallery notes that visitors should be prepared to find themselves suddenly as witnesses to a live birth, as there is no way to know exactly when Kotak will go into labor. The exhibit already has a lot of people talking, and over the next month, it’s sure to spur many more conversations about the experience of giving birth and the expectations that the public has for expectant mothers. But Kotak hopes that people take away from the exhibit is simply how beautiful the gift of life is.
“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,” said Kotak. “This child is the greatest work of art that Jason and I could ever make together.”