Performance Artist Goes “Off Her Meds” For Art


The Daily Beast reports that Brooklyn artist Marni Kotak is weaning herself off a cocktail of antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs in a Brooklyn gallery in a show called Mad Meds, with the intention of documenting her “personal struggles with her own mind, the US medical system, and the pharmaceutical industry as she attempts to withdraw from psychiatric medicines.
More from the Daily Beast:

“Kotak isn’t subtle in her criticism of America’s mental health professionals, telling me that “psychiatry may have manufactured the growing epidemic of mental illness in the country.” She claims that Abilify “can cause long-term brain damage” and notes that it’s the “No. 1 selling pharmaceutical drug across all categories in the U.S.” 

“There is something old-fashioned about Kotak’s prescription for mental illness and desire to circumvent Big Pharma. ‘We are built to be able to surmount life’s difficulties. A hundred years ago people survived without these medications.’ It’s a pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps, do it yourself message–and one that might be better suited for those suffering from postpartum depression than bipolar disorder.”

“In the four days since the opening of Mad Meds, she says, some people have come expecting to see pain pornography, a madwoman in the throes of withdrawal. ‘I’m going slowly. So I don’t expect to become totally unhinged, but I don’t know what’s going to happen.'”


  1. Very good! :
    Mad Meds incorporates new works in photography, video, and sculpture situated within an ideal environment – such as a gold-leafed bed, fluffy photo pillows, blankets and rugs, exercise and meditation equipment – created by Kotak to facilitate her attempt to gradually reduce her medical dosage to zero. With Mad Meds Kotak suggests an alternative approach to dealing with “madness”, one in contrast to her own traumatic experience as a inpatient of a hospital psych ward, and reflects on the possibility of a med-free existence.

    Centerpieces are two evolving and opposing sculptural works “All The Meds I Didn’t Take”, a Fabergé egg housing the Klonopin, Wellbutrin and Abilify she discards during the withdrawal and “All the Meds I Took”, an ornate gold medicine cabinet filled with the empty containers of the medicines Kotak still consumes during the weaning process.

    The exhibition also includes the new video works: “Dis(abilify)”, made from appropriated YouTube advertisements for Abilify, the atypical antipsychotic and the nation’s number one overall selling pharmaceutical drug, and the multi-channel “Mad Ms. Video Project”, featuring stories, solicited and collected by Kotak, of women in the US who have had experiences diagnosed as mental illness.

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  2. I liked this part of the article:

    “I had to be cut off from my family, which made everything worse,” she tells me. Indeed, her performance is as much a political statement about America’s mental health care as it is a personal one. “I feel like people should be integrated into the community and we should have social rituals to support people who are going through that experience of madness.”

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  3. That’s an interesting performance art concept; except one can’t anticipate if, or when, the drug withdrawal induced super sensitivity manic psychosis will occur – for me, it didn’t start until about six months after I’d been weaned from the drugs. Although, it was a “show.” I would wake up and dance for an hour, exercise, work, garden, paint, write, go on long drives with the radio blaring music that was filled with lyrics that told the story of my relationships with others throughout my life. And even others’ vanity plates and the street signs worked into the “psychosis” / lyrical midlife reflection story going through my mind – everyone and everything was connected. It was really quite cool, and amazing. “Turning my cheek for the sake of the show,” it was a “show.”

    I agree with the artist that our current “mental health” crisis is caused by the psychotropic drugs. But I think weaning off the meds is likely a good idea for most “bipolar” patients too, since it seems most “bipolar” people in the US are people who were misdiagnosed (according to the DSM “bible”) as “bipolar,” due to the ADRs and withdrawal effects of other drugs (such as antidepressants, stimulants, pot, etc.)

    I wonder if the psychiatrists will ever stop trying to drug and torture all the artists? The art schools really should start warning all their students that the psychiatrists have delusions of grandeur it’s their right to defame and tranquilize all the creative thinkers.

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