Artist Goes Off Meds For Performance

July 24, 2014 | Sophie Weiner

Brooklyn artist Marni Kotak, who stirred up controversy in 2011 by giving birth at a gallery, will now wean herself off the psychoactive medications she started taking during her postpartum depression. For six weeks, Kotak will sit in a gallery while taking notes on her fluctuating feelings as she withdraws.

The artist’s performance is intended as criticism of the pharmaceutical and psychiatric industries. Kotak was placed into a psych ward after her depression began, where she said “they just didn’t have time to help me.” The artist thinks there is an over-reliance on drugs as treatment for mental illness and told The Daily Beast that “psychiatry may have manufactured the growing epidemic of mental illness in the country.”

This is a highly dangerous experiment. The risk of relapse when getting off prescribed medication for depression is high and experimenting with mental health is simply not a privilege afforded to most people. One in four adults in the United States suffers from a diagnosable mental illness in a given year. Meanwhile, 13.4% of Americans have no health insurance, and many more have no mental health coverage. The meds that Kotak is giving up simply aren’t available to most of those who need them; 25% of the homeless population suffers from diagnosable mental illnesses and 48% list mental illness as the reason they’re on the streets. Projects like this one which seem to imply that mental illness is a scam made up by doctors — and shame those who need medicine to function — perpetuate the stigmatization of these illnesses that so many suffer from. I guess we’ll have to see how it plays out. (Photo: Gatis Gribusts)