Monday, October 17, 2011

Birth as performance art? What will the name be like?

It's birth week on Marginamia! (I define 'week', by the way, as starting this Monday and ending at close of the day next Monday.) We'll be celebrating the act of childbirth in various ways this week from birth announcements, to birth stories, looks at childbirth pioneers, and name consultations.

There may end up being a double post today.... so stay tuned!

We start with a very attention grabbing headline from Brooklyn, NY. 

Marni Kotac, Brooklyn based performance artist will be using the Microscope Gallery as a birthing center. Birthing her child will be her latest bit of performance art. Needless to say, this was one of the funnest lists ever to comprise. 

I know there must be some extreme reactions to this birthing choice, but the museum is set up just like a birth center (with, I imagine, even more safety measures for legal purposes) so it's at least as safe as a normal home birth or birth center birth (which I happen to think are totally safe for normal pregnancies--I had one, myself.) 

And ultimately, who attends a woman's birth is her business, whether she needs solace (me), twenty family members and a ten person medical team cheering her on, or an audience of strangers in a museum. It's the one time in a woman's life when she should unabashedly have what she wants.

I do hope for her that she feels no pressure from the spectacle of it all and can really experience her birth, but at some point in labor, that happens without our control, even.  There's a point  after which a birthing woman can't get away from or out of the experience; she's no longer separate from it, and most of us, no matter who's watching, are going to do what we need to do with zero self-consciousness.

Aside from mother nature's modesty ban during labor, something tells me Marni has some practice at getting on with her experiences in front of an audience, sort of tuning them out, or not minding them at the very least. This may be a setting in which she feels totally comfortable. 

Not being able to judge her particular motives or intentions, I just want to say that this choice doesn't automatically indicate a lack of care for the baby, an unsafe choice, or a self-indulgent dedication to an artistic agenda over the needs of or feelings toward the child.  Viewing her child's life as art, even, doesn't mean she views the child as secondary to some other agenda. It may just very well mean that in a world where art is the best thing, the birth and life of her own child may be the creation most beautiful and most deserving of the title.  Life as art is nothing new, and what lives are more beautiful to us than the lives of our children? And what better wish could we have for our kids than that they live artfully: authentically; intentionally; free; engaged; enraptured; treating each day with passion, dedication and inspiration?

In Ina May Gaskin's book, Spiritual Midwifery (more on that later this week,) there is a birth story end with a similar stage approach (even if not intentional.)  The group who would eventually found The Farm was on the road, via caravan, from California, going to make their new home in Tennessee. Naturally, there were some pregnant women along for the journey. This is, in fact, how many of these women became midwives, by attending the births that occurred on the road. They all ended up receiving a lot of professional training, but their humble beginnings were in actual live births,  whereby their attendance was demanded out of necessity. One of the births happened while the group was pulled over at a university attending some sort of lecture. The woman went into labor in her trailer, and before she knew it, there was an audience. She felt herself to be a sort of performer at first, and was motivated by this to move her labor along with courage and bliss. Then she reached the point we all reach where we just don't care what's going on around us.  This worked for her (so ultimately for her baby), and benefited the audience.

Before making up your mind, read Marni's interview about it.

And... I can not WAIT to see what this child will be named.

 Not that Marni needs my help, but since I suggest creating baby name mood boards (kind of approaching the naming process in an artful sort of way,) we might be perfect naming cohorts.  I have, therefore, made some suggestions for her. Some of the choices are slightly random, but most are related to life, the real (Marni's work is centered on exploring what a real experience is), art, or performance:

Artemis (I mean Art is right in it.)
Concordia (the immortal goddess of harmony and concord. I think the concord and harmony of art and life makes this apt. and Concordia Kotak is awesome in sound.)
Lula (love this by way of Louisa or Talulah, or just on it's own)
Beatrice, Beatha or Beata (Be Kodack? Being able to call her child Be seems pretty perfect)

Umi (means 'life', amongst other thing, and works for either gender)

Earnest (so, so apt)
Cedar (seen here, thank you Sarah Winward)
Arturo (Art)
Salvador (just a fabulous name and Dali did performance art, too)
Vito (a life infused name and one of her inspirations is Vito Acconci)

I would love to see a name that incorporates life or truth with art or performance:
Vito Thespis
Earnest Arturo
Umi Vrai
Enid Cleona

and based on sound alone (and solely from this list), I love: 
Agnes Lively 
Concordia Rue
Lark Philomena
Vita Rhapsode
Artemis Liv
Billow Beata
Talulah Reve (Lula)
Louisa Fawn (Lula or Lou)
Cyprus Musadora
Beatrice Cleone 
Earnest Salvador 
Clovis Rin
Junius Lively
Cedar Arturo

Best of luck to you, Marni! May you have a beautiful and fulfilling labor and birth in the place of your choice. And may some of your viewers walk away having been touched by the amazing and unforgettable experience of witnessing a live human birth!

Any names you'd add to the list, readers? Any middle names you think just sound lovely with the names on this list?

Any comments on this birth/performance choice? I always welcome lively discussion and divergent opinions!

(images: viewing paintingmarni on beachbirth space)


  1. Hi Kristen! This is (formerly) E., from your first name consultation post. In an email I sent you recently, I let you know that I have chosen the name Tallulah. I'm now considering middles, and Reve was on my list before I saw this post! Maybe its meant to be :)

  2. oh fantastic!! Tallulah Reve is stunning! I'm so glad you found inspiration here, Tallulah. Tallulah is also a favorite name of mine, and it has so many great nickname options, as well.

    Also... I check email on a pretty rigid schedule now that I'm getting more of them. returning emails and commenting on posts is a bit of a challenge at the moment, so hang in there commenters and letter writers!! I have two small children; I homeschool one of them (the other is a baby), so I'm still getting this all figured out! Thanks for your patience everyone!