Wednesday, October 12, 2011


A pregnant Brooklyn performance artist has arranged to give birth in a gallery space, while an audience watches. The artist, Marni Kotak, is spending every day over the next six weeks at the Microscope Gallery in Brooklyn until the big day. The gallery has been turned into a "birthing room" and she will be attended by her husband, a midwife and doula. Kotak has said that "The Birth of Baby X," will show that "giving birth, the greatest expression of life, is the highest form of art."

If it happens is a gallery is it art? The history of performance art is filled with over-sharing. Intimate body functions, blood, plenty of nudity, and sweat are central to this type of art. Kotak herself in her career has reenacted her own birth, the loss of her virginity, and the funeral of her grandfather.

She's getting a heck of a lot of press. My quick Google search turned up 1.2 million results. Damn, girl! And reactions are divided between those believing that she has the right to choose this event as an expression of her art and those that think it's just gross. Some even go so far as to suggest this is child abuse.

But is it art? Personally, I feel a bit mixed about it. I couldn't image giving birth in front of a crowd, but
how about all those women that appear on TLC programs like "A Baby Story?" Discovery also aired "World Birth Day," that documented births from all over the world and some of that got very real. These women are giving birth in front of a world-wide audience. And is Kotak's performance any different from those birthing movies I saw during childbirth classes? They were "educational" I suppose. But is it wrong to view that experience as entertainment as well? Isn't there a growing trend of giving birth and streaming it online now? How would you like to be on the other side of that webcam?

It is the "highest form of art?" For Kotak the answer is yes. There are many that might consider it an opportunity to be part of something they wouldn't be otherwise. Is it just gross? Probably for many it is. I think it falls somewhere in between.

If her performance is well-attended at least Kotak's child will have money for the future therapy he/she will inevitably need.


  1. this is a little too much for me....I didn't want pictures while I was "birthing babies" and would certainly not like to see anyone else doing what should be a special moment to share with your spouse and family. Does anyone remember when that artist submerged religious items in urine? Didn't need to see that either, but it did get the artists name a ton of press! Great Post Good Girl!

  2. Thanks, Dawn! I appreciate your comment.

    All art, but especially performance art pushes boundaries and tests the prevailing taste of society. The art community tends to be more accepting of those outside the mainstream. This particular example is definitely not for everyone.

  3. I totally agree, Good Girl.
    All "art" is not always for everyone - nor may one group or person define if it is or if it isn't.
    If it was a documentary & not live - would it be "different"???
    Performance arts blur the lines -- matter of taste and comfort for many... and other artists are more tolerant. Artist may tend to be more educated about other "questionable" movements in art history.
    REMEMBER --- The now beloved post -impressionist, FAUVE ARTISTS, (think Matisse), were called "WILD BEASTS" - critics and people were nasty & outraged.... now worth MILLIONS.

  4. My definition of art is something creative that evokes an emotional response in the viewer. But there are levels of art and most art, even bad will hit that to some level. We need to filter that further. Good art will fill people with the emotion the artist intended and great art will be nearly universal in that emotion without the need for anyone telling you what it is you should be experiencing. While anyone's birth is very emotional as a participant or a viewer, I doubt this will hit the mark as great art.

  5. Very true, Barbara. The Impressionist movement caused an outrage among critics and society. It was the most controversial art movement of any time. Within a decade, it was not only accepted, but brought much success to the artists which hasn't diminished after more than a century.

    I appreciate your comments, Garyo. Art is on a level a very personal experience for the viewer. I agree that this particular performance will achieve the status of great art. It seems more like a novelty than art.

  6. And then there are the artist who aren't appreciated until after they are dead....

    Only time will tell where this "art" goes......