Performance Artist Goes Off Her Meds in the Name of Art

Marni Kotak, Mad Meds (2014). Photo courtesy of the artist and Microscope Gallery.

Marni Kotak is best known for her 2011 performance The Birth of Baby X, in which she gave birth to her son inside Brooklyn’s Microscope Gallery. Unsurprisingly, the act garnered global media attention, most of which was sensationalistic. Afterward, she suffered from crippling postpartum depression that landed her in a hospital psych ward and eventually on a cocktail of anti-depressants. Mad Meds, also at Microscope, will document her weening off this medication, or as Kotak told the Daily Beast, her “personal struggles with her own mind, the US medical system, and the pharmaceutical industry as she attempts to withdraw from psychiatric medicines.”

In the small gallery space, Kotak has a gold-painted bed, matching gold bed sheets, pens with gold ink, a gold nightgown, a gold desk, gold chair, and gold exercise equipment. A stained hospital gown is framed at the foot of the bed, a relic from her hospital days, when the nurses confiscated and restricted access to her breast pump. Clearly, Kotak is comfortable using her body and personal life as fodder for her art, but she insists that the meaning behind this piece is much greater than herself. America’s healthcare industry, she believes, has grown far too reliant on prescribing pills, rather than getting at the root of patients’ problems.

Of course, most visitors to the gallery come expecting a spectacle—a dose of reality television up-close-and-personal, a woman in the throes of a mental breakdown. Unfortunately for those people, Kotak insists that her work is not meant to be sensationalist or attention-seeking, and that she is weening herself off the pills slowly and healthfully, hoping to make a statement rather than a scene.

“I don’t expect to become totally unhinged,” she says, adding, “but I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

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