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Performance artist who created birth-centre in NYC gallery gives birth to 'Baby X'

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NEW YORK, N.Y. - A performance artist who said giving birth is the "highest form of art" has delivered a baby boy — inside a New York City art gallery

Marni Kotak gave birth at 10:17 a.m. on Tuesday, the Microscope Gallery in Brooklyn said in a brief statement, adding that everyone was recuperating on Wednesday. It said the baby, named Ajax, was 21 inches (53 centimetres) long and weighed 9 pounds, 2 ounces (4.57-kilograms).

The gallery said 19 to 20 people were present for the relatively quick birth in a birthing pool. The gallery gave no other details. A video of the birth will be added to the gallery's upcoming exhibition.

The 36-year-old artist had set up a home-birth centre at the gallery, turning the space into a brightly decorated bedroom with ocean blue walls and photo-imprinted pillows.

During "The Birth of Baby X" durational piece, which began Oct. 8, Kotak spent as much time at the gallery as possible talking to visitors about motherhood, art and other issues. She said those who left their contact information would be notified when she went into labour.

She expected about 15 people to attend.

Kotak, who was born in Norwood, Massachusetts, said all her performances focus on everyday life experiences. She has been re-enacting events from her life for more than 10 years, including her own birth, losing her virginity in "a sunny blue Plymouth" and her grandfather's funeral.

In combining the birth of her child with artistic expression, Kotak said she wanted to show "this amazing life performance that ... is essentially hidden from public view" and that addresses social taboos regarding the human body.

"She's in the tradition of using your life as your authentic material and shaping and forming it" — a tradition that goes back to 1959 when filmmaker Stan Brakhage recorded the birth of his first child as a work of art, said feminist artist Carolee Schneemann, whose own works deal with taboo themes of sexuality.

"She's vulnerable, she's exposed," she said of Kotak. "It's the most basic visceral experience that also has the most taboos."

The entire gallery was given over to the installation. The artist even carved out space for a fully-stocked refrigerator and a portable shower with curtain pockets filled with photos from her three baby showers.

Kotak said she and her husband will share the details of the birth with their child "over time as an organic process."

"The overall message that we will communicate to the child is that he or she was born in an art gallery because, as artists, that is our sacred space, and in doing this we are telling the world and our child that his or her life is a precious work of art."

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Online: www.microscopegallery.com

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