One week ago, performance artist Marni Kotak shocked the world by announcing that she would give birth — in Bushwick’s Microscope Gallery, which has been converted into a birthing center to give audiences a front-row seat to the miracle of life. This week, legendary pregnancy-watcher Aaron Short begins a weekly update with Kotak as she bears down towards the birthday of her gender-unknown child.
Aaron Short: How are you feeling health-wise?
Marni Kotak: I am feeling pretty good health-wise, trying to take it easy and not do too many interviews so that I can focus on preparing to give birth.
AS: What did you eat and do while you were at the gallery?
MK: I have been eating breakfast at the gallery — usually Greek yogurt, Special K cereal with raisins and soy milk. For snacks, I like Nutella, coconut water and bananas. I have spent most of my time relaxing on the bed or rocking chair, talking to gallery visitors and press. Tomorrow, I am going to take a shower in the space and do some pre-labor exercises.
AS: A shower? Yowza!
MK: It’s a standard shower stall, which we installed to fit in the gallery. The shower curtain is filled with photos from my baby shower performances, as are the towels. I don’t have much privacy in the gallery, but the idea is that I am going through this process while engaging with the public.
AS: How was your first week?
MK: My most enjoyable times this week have been spent with the people who have come out to see the exhibition and spend some time getting to know me and discussing the issues surrounding my project. I have met a lot of very interesting, sincere people, and have enjoyed making new friends.
AS: What “issues surrounding your project”?
MK: My project raises issues involving a fundamental fear of female sexuality and sexual power, which is reflected in how our society deals with birth. For some reason, birth is treated like a medical emergency to be feared, rather than a natural, beautiful moment in a woman’s life to be embraced and revered. Birth is women’s greatest power, yet it is commonly treated like a painful embarrassment to be hidden. People find it “shocking” that I would choose to give birth in public. I find it “shocking” that giving birth, a completely natural, life-creating act, that has been done by women since the dawn of time is provoking these kinds of reactions.
AS: The exhibit features two giant trophies and the box of Texas soil. What is up with that?
MK: There are two trophies, one dedicated to Baby X for being being born, the other for me for giving birth, obviously to be bestowed upon us after the birth. The soil is a Texas tradition as my husband, Jason, is from Texas. If you are a Texan, and your baby is born outside of Texas, you are supposed to dip the child’s feet in Texas soil after he or she is born.
AS: What did people say or do?
MK: People came and were clearly very moved by the installation. When they saw they space, they knew that I was serious in creating a sacred space to give birth in. The weirdest story was a couple that met for the first time in the space on an Internet date. They seemed to hit it off pretty well, and even asked to use the birth pool, but we had to say, “No.” Hee, hee.
AS: Did anyone bring anything?
MK: One woman brought me cookies, and another brought me flowers. Someone even left a little white angel.
“The Birth of Baby X” at Microscope Gallery [4 Charles Pl. at Myrtle Avenue and Bushwick Avenue in Bushwick, (347) 925-1433], Thurs-Monday, 1-6 pm (and by appointment). For info, visit www.microscopegallery.com.