Oh baby!

Talk about pushing the limits of art! This woman is definitely pushing, whether it’s art or not, that’s up to the viewer I suppose. In Microscope Gallery in Brooklyn, on October 26th, Marni Kotak gave birth to a baby boy in front of spectators as an art piece. I was a bit shocked when I first heard about this. I had no idea what the reason for this performance piece was. After further research, I discovered her intentions with the piece.

“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….my performance is about, addressing the assumptions about the way birth in our culture is viewed.”

This performance does sound to me very raw and most likely moving. It probably reminds us of our animal nature as we see one human physically coming out of another, it must remind us how connected we are. In this age of media and technological interactions, Also, it is a returning to home birth and to times when the community would be present at births. I think it is very interesting to have a communal birth. The thing that is different about this communal birth is that the community is largely made up of strangers, not friends and family. Thrusting these strangers into such an intimate event is striking and indeed what all good theatre in my opinion does. It brings people together in a personal, communal way, and allows them to look at a slice of life in whatever style it is presented. This is perhaps the extreme version of that idea. Marni does say that:

“random gawkers are discouraged: In order to view the birth, audience members must “spend some time with me in the space, getting to know each other and talking about the performance. This is all part of my approach to life and art, and my goal of creating authentic interactions, rather than the Facebook kind of friend that you’ve actually never met,” Interesting.

The part that is a little unsettling about all of this to me is the fact that the baby has no say in all of this. The mother and father chose to do this, the audience chose to come (if this were geurilla street theatre this would be a whole other story and situation to examine) but the baby is having his first moments on earth and already he is performing. I suppose he’s not performing technically because he is unaware of the circumstances. However, this quote is unsettling to me: “The beautiful baby boy was wide-eyed, and as quiet as could be, staring blankly into the camera and video lens that hovered above him.” Imagine coming into the world and the first thing that you see is a camera lens? A crowd full of observers? It makes me wonder who this boy will grow up to be and what his relationship with his parents will be in particular.
This event of course raises the old question, what is art? I believe this is art because Marni is taking a natural event and framing it in a new context. She is making a private event in this day and age, public. Would you go to see this performance? I don’t know if I would go, but I am definitely intrigued.

One Comment

sbmeyers posted on November 8, 2011 at 12:41 am

I hear what you’re saying about the unsettling nature of the child’s first performance being public, but don’t we begin our performance as soon as we leave the womb and enter the world? Immediately we take in the world that exists and respond. Maybe that’s something the artist also wants the audience to consider. When does the performance of gender, race, sexuality, etc. really begin?

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