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Jo Chard voices her concerns with Marni Kotak’s next performance piece, “The Birth of Baby X”

By Joanna Chard | 21 Oct 2011

This week, performance artist Marni Kotak unveiled her next work, which has been stirring up a little controversy in the art media – in my view, for the wrong reasons. In the Microscope Gallery, New York, during the next five weeks, the artist plans on giving birth in front of a live (startled) audience and then using the child's upbringing as a giant, very long performance piece until the time that ‘baby X’ attends college.

A very pregnant Marni Kotak

As usual, anything that is mildly conceptual is bashed by traditionalists and sceptics and I suppose it's not fair to call them Luddites or close minded ignoramuses, but have they not realised that for the past one hundred years, artists have moved on from producing paintings of trees and picturesque haywains. They should stop ranting about defining things and 'oh look, who ever knew an old lavatory bowl could be art', and while they're moaning about inconsequential nothingness, they might just miss the point about something that, in my view, is actually quite sinister.

You see my issue with Marni Kotak's new work is nothing to do with metaphysical questions on the meaning of art. My issues are far more basic. First and foremost, bringing the seven billionth person into the world isn't really it?  And secondly, if you're running out of performance ideas, you should probably just retire. What you shouldn't do is give birth, and make the child into some kind of baby art clown. It’s not a question of ‘is it art?’. That’s wholly irrelevant. The point is, a child's life shouldn't be an artwork. You shouldn't be able to sell videos of their 8th birthday to Sotheby's for thousands of dollars. The child can't say, 'actually mummy, I don't really think I want to be a dramatic prop for 18 years'. The bond between mother and child shouldn’t be exploited for artistic or monetary gain and just because it’s in the name of art; it shouldn’t and doesn’t excuse its use for a higher cultural purpose. Here’s hoping there’s some clause in child labour legislation that includes crazy artist mothers wanting to pimp out their newborns.



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