The Corporate Sponsorship of Baby X

Yesterday, Bushwick artist Marni Kotak emailed a video of her baby, Baby X (aka Ajax), and the announcement that he has a new corporate sponsorship tattoo. The email read:

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!

It’s not the first time an artist has affixed corporate brand names to the skin of a baby (here are others) but in the case of Ajax, a child who is living his entire life as a performance piece it feels particularly “real” and possible.

Marni Kotak reading to Baby X at the 2012 Fountain art fair in Manhattan. (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

The last time I saw both mother and son in person was at the 2012 Fountain Art Fair last month. She was getting ready to read to Ajax in front of fair goers and a video camera. While Kotak read the story, she turned the pages to the audience to allow us to enjoy the images as much as Ajax did. It was obvious she was performing for us, while reading to him.

One of the things I like about Kotak’s “Baby X” performance is that it gets to the heart of a major issue any person faces when it comes to parenthood. How will I be able to work when my baby arrives? It’s a particularly acute problem for women, who are often assumed to be the caretakers, but it’s certainly not limited to one gender. Kotak has created her solution by framing the act of child rearing (not to mention pregnancy and child birth) as an art project. Her work is her life. Some may disparage the project for seeming too simple but I have a feeling there will be some surprises along the way.

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