"Raising Baby X: Little Brother" is an ongoing collaboration between Marni Kotak and her son Ajax (aka Baby X), who she gave birth to in Microscope Gallery on October 25, 2011 as a work of performance art. Ajax is outfitted with a tiny wearable video camera capturing the intricacies of his early infancy and toddlerhood from his own perspective, recording the actions of everyone around him, including how they interact with and treat him. Ajax's camera has captured everything from bedtime stories, to his first time in the ocean, to his first snowstorm, to his first trip to the zoo, all from his own point of view.
Presented by Microscope Gallery in October 2013, two years after the baby's birth, Ajax's Second Birthday Party, like many of the artist’s previous works, positioned an actual real life occasion – in this case the actual 2nd birthday of her son – as a performance in which the public was invited to participate. For “Singin’ Rain…”, Kotak debuted an interactive and immersive video and sound rainstorm installation, including a rain machine and umbrellas for all. The event also featured live music by jazz trio The Brooklyn Players, instruments for others to join in, and a ball pit for toddlers.
Held as part of the Brooklyn International Performance Art Festival, and in conduction with the event “Neo-Domesticities” held at Glasshouse Project Art Life Lab on July 9, 2013, Kotak invited the public to jam along with her, Ajax, and her husband, the baby’s father, Jason Robert Bell, in “Raising Baby X: Family Jam Session.” For the past year and a half, she, Ajax and Bell have had regular family jam sessions, which have been a great source of joy for a toddler who has a great musical sensibility and loves to dance. In “Family Jam Session”, the audience engaging with Kotak's family in this everyday playful ritual that became a work of art.
Held at Grace Exhibition Space in April 2013. Marni Kotak and her son, Ajax, invited the community into their lovely play space in the performance venue, equipped with a ball pool, play tube, children’s books, wooden toys, musical instruments and more! The performance was documented from Ajax’s point of view, and presented via live-feed projection in the space, as part of the mother and son's ongoing collaboration called Raising Baby X: Little Brother.
Held at Cutlog Art Fair in May of 2013, Calorie Countdown was a durational performance dealing with the pressures of weight loss and fitness in current culture, with an emphasis on those placed on women following childbirth. The performance drew directly from the artist’s real life experience as a new mother. Since giving birth to her son Ajax 18 months prior as a live performance at Microscope, Kotak saw her weight loss progress hindered first by a bout with postpartum depression and then by a broken foot which occurred on Thanksgiving Day.
At Cutlog Art Fair, Kotak, dressed in her summer bikini, worked out continuously on an elliptical machine while wearing a BodyMedia FIT armband that tracked her real-time fitness information including calories burned against calories consumed, proper intake of vitamins and minerals, and the artist’s progress towards achieving her weight loss goals. The ongoing analyses tracked by the armband was fed wirelessly into a computer and projected onto the wall so that she and the audience could track her progress as it happened. Hanging on the wall, beside the projected information was a “Before” photograph of Kotak during her pregnancy and an award plaque such as those given to athletic winners that she received upon finishing her performance in which she ultimately took 176,947 steps on the elliptical machine, burned 23,775 calories and lost 11 lbs over 5 days.
Held at Microscope Gallery in October 2012, one year after the baby's birth, Ajax's First Birthday Party, was a live performance and real-time birthday event featuring the Hungry March Band, Audrey Crabtree as Pepper the clown, a champagne toast, a giant cake and more. In First Birthday, Kotak presented the actions, rituals, and pageantry of this traditionally important rite in the context of a performance at the same time the moment was being lived. The public was invited to join in the celebration.
"Raising Baby X: The First Year", a solo exhibition, was held at Microscope Gallery in Brooklyn, NY in October 2012, featuring sculpture, photography, video and multimedia installation works based on a year-long performance re-contextualizing the everyday act of raising a child as performance art, through the eyes of both mother and child. The “Raising Baby X” project was launched last year at 10:17 AM, October 25th, when Kotak gave birth to her son Ajax before an audience at the gallery as part of her exhibit “The Birth of Baby X”, and continues the artist’s more than decade-long practice of presenting real life as the ultimate performance.
Held at Fountain Art Fair NY in March of 2012, Kotak re-enacted her actual real life experience with Postpartum Depression that peaked about 3 months after giving birth to Ajax. During this 6 hour durational performance, Kotak was lying on a bed in a barren space surrounded by medical imagery and other memorabilia from the original episode. Sullen, she pumped breast milk from both breasts from a handsfree bra, while wanting to actually be with Ajax and nurse him, and read and journaled about how she could change her life so that she would feel happier.
Currently in its third year, "Raising Baby X" is an ongoing performance art project in which I present the everyday act of raising my child as a work of art. The long-term project will ultimately encompass the overall span of the child's life from birth through attending college and developing an independent life. Various aspects of raising the child will be taken into consideration such as food, education, clothing, the child's room, healthcare, playtime, travel, safety, discipline, entertainment, and simply loving the child. In addition, I will write and publish a memoir about my experiences with the project of motherhood, containing journal entries, photos and other documentation. For more information or to make a non-profit donation to this project, visit the project page at Fractured Atlas: Raising Baby X: The First Year
"The Birth of Baby X" was a durational performance that Kotak conducted from October 8 through November 7 at Microscope Gallery in Brooklyn New York, culminating in the live birth of her baby boy Ajax, on October 25, 2011. The entire gallery was installed to create her ideal homebirth center, including an inflatable birthing pool, the rocking chair her mother used to rock me to sleep on, her grandmother's bed upon which Baby X was conceived, a shower stall with a curtain covered in photos from my baby showers, an altar to Baby X's ultrasound, a kitchenette, and a video projection, sound piece, and photo wallpaper border of the artist and her husband at Marconi Beach. Also in the exhibition were two ten foot trophies -- one dedicated to Baby X for being born, the other for Kotak for giving birth.