Thursday, October 27, 2011

Art & Placenta

I realize that appreciating progressive art takes an intelligence and personality that I do not possess. While others can stand around obliquely-stacked scrap metal titled “Ravenous Incarceration” and claim to perceive the profundity of our human condition, I can see only a pile of scrap metal that would be identified as a code violation were it to be installed in someone’s front yard. In most cases this is not the fault of the artist themselves, but a shortcoming of their audience’s vision.

Sadly, I believe that I will never be cultured enough to appreciate the depth of expression found in some of today’s budding artists. That being said, I feel that my aversion to some performance art pieces is unrelated to my lack of sophistication. Case in point is a New York based artist named Marni Kotak who is known for her unusual creative endeavors. Some of her previous projects include:

Sandbox – The audience gets to witness her playing a sandbox and singing “You are my sunshine..” repeatedly while she builds a sandcastle.

Birth – Kotak lies in her deceased grandmother’s bed (which she and her husband splinted during lovemaking) as she sheds layers of clothes symbolically regressing toward her birth.

My Grandfather’s Funeral – As the title would suggest, Mrs. Kotak recreates her grandfather’s funeral onstage using actors. The performance included full burial rites.

S’mores – While in China, the artist created an outdoor bonfire and taught the audience how to make s’mores while other artists played her “parents.” It was later shut down by Chinese authorities.

Sunny Blue Plymouth – In this piece, the artist reenacts the loss of her virginity in the back of a Plymouth Acclaim by having intercourse with her husband in the backseat while the audience peers through the windows. The piece ends with the sedan being dismantled by several artists wielding tire-irons.

For her most recent piece, Marni Kotak chose to give birth to her first child in a Brooklyn art gallery in front of an audience. Patrons left contact information so that the gallery could notify them the moment Mrs. Kotak went into labor. The gallery was decorated with a birthing pool, shower, and the bed that the child was conceived on (yes, that same bed).
Marni (pre-performance)
The performance was called “The Birth of Baby X” since neither Marni nor her husband Chris wished to name the child ahead of time. Her stated goal was to address social taboos regarding the human body and spotlight this essential aspect of life that normally transpires out of the public’s view. As it turns out, she gave birth to a boy which the couple quickly named Ajax.

While I respect Marni’s artistic bravery, I must admit that the prospect of watching a total stranger give birth in a small Brooklyn art gallery is not my cup of tea. There is also irony in the importance of context when it comes to performance art. For instance, two adults fornicating for an audience in a gallery is art, while the same scene transpiring in a Wendy’s parking lot would be considered a misdemeanor. Similarly, a grown woman singing to herself in a giant portable sandbox is avant-garde in an exhibit hall but a sign of mental illness in a Walgreens.

I am also somewhat disturbed the pair’s unwillingness to purchase a new bed. We all have items of sentimental value, but it might be time to suck it up and catch a Serta pillow-top on clearance once Nana’s box springs have more stories to tell than a third-year Congressional intern. Of course, it is easy to second guess a couple that names their offspring after an industrial cleaner.

Having read through Mrs. Kotak’s extensive portfolio, I wonder exactly how far we can push the envelope of “true life performance art.” I have a few ideas that may seem mundane or even repulsive to most of you, but I have no doubt that your reluctance to embrace them is the result of your simple, unsophisticated ways.

Regret – This involves the artist seated on a toilet after consuming three chimichangas and a liter of chocolate milk. The scene will be sound tracked by a live harpist.

Choice – The artist will be shown agonizing over which Netflix plan she wishes to subscribe to. The scene will be sound tracked by a looped recording of Kelly Ripa coughing.

Tartar – The artist will have her teeth cleaned in real time while the audience votes on what flavor of dental polish she will use. A one-armed tambourinist will provide musical accompaniment.

Movement – The artist will move a sleeper sofa up two flights of stairs while screaming out the middle names of her previous lovers. Sound track will be a recording of ASE certified mechanics violently weeping.

1 comment:

  1. Naming a child Ajax ?

    I suggest another cleaning product - COMET !

    ReplyDelete