“If my parents told me I was born in an art gallery, I would think that’s awesome,” artist Marni Kotak says as she sits in a rocking chair at Microscope Gallery, the 500-square-foot carpeted space where she’ll have her baby in the next couple of weeks. We visited Kotak at the gallery to discuss the media frenzy and onslaught of criticism that ensued after we broke the story about her latest art exhibition, “The Birth Of Baby X,” in which Kotak will be giving birth in front of an audience.
What do you think of the hateful comments about what you’re doing?
I don’t read them. I did in the beginning, and I guess I was kind of shocked. For me it seems like a natural thing to do. I honestly wasn’t prepared for all the media attention.
Why do you think people are having such an issue with it?
I think it has to do with our society’s issues surrounding birth. I think it freaks people out so much that they’re trying to find a way to dismiss it or accuse me of having the wrong intentions. I must be doing this because I’m an exhibitionist or to exploit the child or…I don’t know, some bad reason behind it… like it couldn’t be just because I wanted to have my child in this way, which is the case.
So the negative feedback hasn’t at all hindered what you’re trying to do here?
It can’t. The thing is, I’ve also gotten a lot of support. People have contacted me and said “this is great,” “this is amazing,” “good for you.” From what I’ve been told, the negative comments on blogs, that is kind of the standard. People who respond to those things generally have nothing better to do.
The media response has been mixed. Most of the time the people who have taken time to talk to me and come by here get the whole story. It’s different and more balanced.
I know what I am doing here is not for everybody…having birth in front of an audience. I am comfortable doing that. But a lot people say “Oh, it’s so in the public and it’s not private enough” but for me, I actually think it’s more private and intimate than to have a baby in a hospital, because you’re in this sterile, uncomfortable environment.
We went on a tour at the birthing center at St. Luke’s because we were considering that at first, and it was a very inhospitable environment considering they want you to pay $900 a night in addition to whatever the insurance pays to stay in these rooms. And they weren’t even trying to sell me on it, they were like “this is what we got.” They take you around and there are all these rules, and anyone who is in the hospital, you’re hooked up to an IV and you have to be hooked up to a monitor so you can’t move around. And depending what kind of interventions you get, you can’t eat at all.
Then you have all these residents, and hospital staff coming in and out, looking at you all of the time having all kinds of authority on what you should be doing. Like if your labor isn’t moving fast enough, they want to stimulate contractions to get somebody else in that bed. Somehow that is more acceptable than creating a beautiful, sacred space to have a child in, and inviting a small group of people who have come out here and are sincerely interested in this project. To me that is more meaningful.
Actually 35 percent of the people that go to the hospital end up having C-sections, so that’s better?
Some people have said “Oh, this isn’t fair to the child, how do you know it wants to be born this way?” Well if my parents told me I was born in an art gallery, I would think that’s totally awesome. And the child isn’t going to remember his or her birth anyway, until I explain that. You know eventually when the child is old enough we’ll sit down and have a talk about it.
Our child is going to be raised by artists and exposed to artists, and be growing up in New York.
Some people thought you’d be having birth in a huge gallery space, surrounded by white walls, with a large group of people watching over you.
Yeah, with film cameras around, and there would be a web cam or something.
But that’s not the case. It actually feels like a home in here.
Exactly, but they think otherwise, because they haven’t come.
“The Birth of Baby X” is open now through Monday, November 7, at Microscope Gallery, 4 Charles Place, Bushwick. The hours are extended to 7 days a week, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and, the gallery says, “we will remain open or reopen if the birth is in process.” Visitors to the show can be added to a list and be notified when Kotak goes into labor.