Samhain, The Spirit of Halloween (Ajax’s Socially Distanced 9th Birthday Party) (Halloween, 2020)
Samhain, The Spirit of Halloween was the 9th annual birthday party and performance which took place as part of my ongoing project “Raising Baby X” on Halloween 2020. The event drew inspiration from the traditional Gaelic cultural festival of the harvest, Samhain. The event was held outdoors in front of my Bushwick, Brooklyn home, adhering to social distancing, sanitary, and other safety protocols for COVID-19.
Raising Baby X: 8 Birthdays (2020)
In this one minute video, I string together clips from Raising Baby X: Little Brother of the first 8 birthdays in the “Raising Baby X” project series in which I and the audience sing Happy Birthday to Ajax through the years.
Love Masks (2020)
Streamed live online via Microscope Gallery on April 20-22, 2020, Love Masks took place in my home, seated in my kitchen listening to the evening news, and sewing masks for my family and others to wear during the COVID-19 pandemic. My mother is a retired nurse who taught me how to sew, and recommended that I make a mask for the safety of myself and my family and some to donate to community members. I decided to make a personalized mask that I would like to wear and see others wearing, one that would spread a message of love, rather than add to the fear and hopeless many are feeling right now. Each mask, which comes in three variations, features the word “Love” embedded in a lotus flower, a reference to the symbol of the lotus in Buddhism, symbolizing the beauty that emerges from the muck, or deepest challenges in life. Two of the images are prints of pastel drawings by myself and the third is a digital image made by my 8-year-old son, Ajax. Half of all proceeds from the sale of the masks are donated to City Harvest.
Dancing In The Oval Office (2019)
A solo exhibition at Microscope Gallery, from October 18 – December 1, 2019, Dancing In The Oval Office featured works in performance, installation, video and painting made in response to the 2016 election and Trump presidency. The title piece is a performance and installation that found Kotak dancing continuously each day of the exhibit within a recreation and personal reinterpretation of the White House Oval Office. As is a custom in her family, I used dance in this work as a way to transform my daily anxieties into a cathartic and liberating act, seeking to reclaim my right to joy as an individual and an American, standing in opposition to those who abuse power, or use fear and other authoritarian methods. I encouraged as many people as possible to join in and dance with me daily in the gallery and was present in the dancing in the gallery throughout the run of the exhibition, 161 hours in total.
A solo exhibition held the Microscope Gallery, May 12 – June 18, 2017, Treehouse continued my practice of presenting life as art, this time in the context of a recent and major fire in mine and my family’s home and art studios, involving substantial losses of possessions, temporary displacement, and a long restoration, testing my sense of security and familial stability. The durational performance and installation in the show also titled Treehouse was conceived as a gift for my son Ajax and an act of rebellion against a society that tends to undervalue personal time. The large triangular-shaped wood structure – elevated on tree stumps, with chalkboard paint on its interior walls – was proposed as an alternative world for playing games, for making art, and for enjoying each other’s company free from fears and distractions, both immediate and seemingly distant. I was present in the space during the exhibition, at times accompanied by my son and members of the public to set aside time for meaningful endeavors and to contemplate the concepts of love and compassion, beyond their clichés.
Mad Meds (2014)
Mad Meds was a durational performance and installation held at Microscope Gallery July 18 through August, 25, 2014, during which I began slowly withdrawing from Wellbutrin, Abilify and Klonopin, medications I was prescribed to cope with postpartum depression after The Birth of Baby X and during a subsequent stay in the psychiatric ward at Beth Israel Hospital. During the show, visitors were welcomed into a waiting area and offered to visit me as I wrote with my left hand in gold pen on a large drawing pad about my process of weening from the meds, and to converse with me about their own experiences with mental health. The exhibition was installation in gold-painted room and featured gold-leafed furniture and imagery of myself and my family in the Tivoli Bays forest around Bard College. There was also a gold-leafed elliptical machine and photo printed yoga mat that I could use to work out my stress and recuperate during the show.
Raising Baby X: Little Brother - Years 1 & 2 (2012-2014, 3:59) (preview)
In "Raising Baby X: Little Brother", Kotak outfits her son Ajax (aka Baby X), with a wearable video camera capturing the intricacies of his early infancy and toddlerhood from his own point-of-view. Ajax’s camera records the actions of everyone around him, including how they interact with and treat him, flipping the traditional viewpoint of early childhood documentation. “Little Brother” has captured everything from bedtime stories, to Ajax’s first time in the ocean, to his first snowstorm, to his first trip to the zoo, all from his own point of view.
Ajax, Stronger Than Dirt! (2012, 1:02)
Dear Friends and Family,
I am so excited to announce to you all Baby Ajax’s new partnership with Colgate-Palmolive. In exchange for their sponsorship of his life for the next 18 years, Ajax has been tattooed with the Ajax logo and will serve as International Ambassador of Goodwill for the Ajax product line. We are very excited about this new venture. Please click on this link to view our new advertisement for Ajax, Stronger than Dirt! Xoxo (April Fools, 2012)
Ajax Visits the Mall Easter Bunny (2012, 1:51)
This video documents Ajax's first easter with his trip to see the mall easter bunny with his grandparents in North Attleboro, MA, my home town. The video is a composite of footage shot from Ajax's "Little Brother" camera, and my camera, with the sound coming from his camera. I hope you enjoy the video, and Happy Easter for you and yours.
Raising Baby X: Project Launch Video (2011, 9:40)
Shown with the launch of the Raising Baby X project, this video outlines the challenges faced by new mother's today in a society that gives a lot of lip service to 'family values' but doesn't provide real support to new mothers. I also discuss the costs of child-rearing today, the lack of paid maternity leave, and why I need to do a project focusing on the raising of Ajax as a work of art.
Playing With Barbies (2012, 2:12)
Created for "The Marni Show" held at Grace Exhibition Space in early 2012, this video discusses my love of playing with Mattel Barbies as a child, mocking YouTube product reviews.
How To French Kiss (2009, 6:56)
Held at Grace Exhibition Space on June 19, 2009, and curated by Jill McDermid as part of the Bushwick Biennial organized by NURTUREart Non-Profit, Inc. This performance was a re-enactment of practicing how to make out with my best friend in the 5th grade, where we covered our mouths with plastic baggies in order to not be “really making out.” Performing in this event with me were Juri Onuki and Nadine Sobel.
S'mores (2009, 2:04)
Performed on September 5, 2009 as part of the 10th Annual Open Art Performance Festival, curated by Jill McDermid and Chen Jin, in Beijing, China. In this performance, I re-enacted a familiar American family ritual of making s’mores around a campfire with the audience of about 100. In a site near a coal transfer station outside the gallery of the Open Art Realization Center, I set up a giant bonfire, and got it burning with the help of the audience who added kindling and fanned the flames.
My Grandfather's Funeral (2009, 6:17)
Performed at English Kills Gallery on August 29th and 30th, 2009 with a cast of clergy, soldiers and family members. In this piece, I created a re-enactment of my grandfather, Chickie Kotak’s 2005 funeral in Norwood, MA. The piece involved three acts – The Wake, The Funeral and Burial Rites – and approximately 20 performers.
Target (2005, 6:59)
Target was first performed at Artists Space in November 2005.