It’s a boy — and the reviews are mixed!
Performance artist Marni Kotak delivered a nine-pound two-ounce baby named Ajax inside Bushwick’s Microscope Gallery at 10:07 am on Tuesday — and art critics, being what they are, were quick to file their first drafts of history.
“I’m impressed,” said Kevin Regan, who co-founded the gallery, Famous Accountants, referring to Kotak’s piece, not her progeny. “It completely blurs the boundaries between life and art in a visceral and thought-provoking way.”
But another art insider criticized the work as “not being terribly surprising or unexpected” — and, in a particularly cutting dig, overly influenced by reality television.
“I find myself uncomfortable with the prospect of Ajax growing up to the realization that his life is not his own,” said Bushwick-based curator Steve Weintraub. “Performance art has always been a controversial media — especially when one of the performers has not expressed his consent to the audience. I believe something is truly lost in art when the goal becomes the desire to push our boundaries without challenging our expectations.”
Regardless of the mixed notices, Kotak said on Wednesday that she, her husband and her new son were healthy and resting comfortably in their Bushwick apartment. She wasn’t taking calls and refused to pose for a photo, but promised that she would show a video of the performance and “other remnants” at the gallery on Friday night as part the “Beat Nite” neighborhood art crawl.
The birth of Ajax — heretofore known as Baby X — was a stunning climax to a first-ever performance art piece that stunned the world when Kotak announced it two weeks ago
Since converting the Charles Place gallery into a birthing center in hopes of giving audiences a front-row seat to the miracle of life, Kotak fielded scores of interviews from reporters throughout the world and discussed her plans with hundreds of gallery visitors.
But the birth itself was a quiet affair — only Kotak’s midwife, doula, a few gallery loyalists and a few customers who were in the right place at the right time got to witness the mother of all performances.
Audience members had to sign a confidentiality agreement prohibiting them from sharing details of the artwork without the approval of gallery director Elle Burchill. The agreement also banned all photos and videos of the event, except for those taken by Kotak’s husband, Jason Bell, and the gallery itself, according to a source.
As a result, the public will have to wait until Friday to decide for itself whether the performance confronted the “fundamental fear of female sexuality and sexual power,” as Kotak wrote, or was just an exploitative sideshow for everyone involved (including the media).
Either way, baby gifts are welcome.
“Congratulations to Marni, Jason and Baby X!” said Chloe Bass, who runs the Arts in Bushwick festival. “Does this make Friday’s Beat Night the best new baby party ever?”
“The Birth of Baby X” at Microscope Gallery [4 Charles Pl. at Myrtle Avenue and Bushwick Avenue in Bushwick, (347) 925-1433], Oct. 28, 6-10 pm. For info, visit www.microscopegallery.com.