MITHU SEN, 46, ARTIST, POET AND PERFORMER (Sexualised) Museum of Unbelonging
HER FIRST BABY was Jack. He wears tattered clothing and was a doll she shared with her sister Mou, the one whose name the Museum of Unbelonging (MOU) echoes. “We had Jill too,” says Mithu, “but she died in an operation. My sister told me not to give Jack to anybody.” Part of the muchacclaimed curated project—After Midnight: Indian Modernism to Contemporary India 1947/1997—at the Queens Museum in New York in 2015, it described Sen’s work thus, “Displayed as a phantasmagoric fantasy, the work comments on the duality of eroticism, charged both with control and liberation.”
“Our hearts are museums of memories,” says Mithu. And so there are deities, a dog mating with a human, a terracotta man with a large phallus, puppets, a seahorse with a curled tail, a pair of binoculars, hair clips, a stuffed liger and a leopard, a black rose, white rose...
She calls the objects in her museum her babies. They are a cataloguing of her emotions, and emotion, as the great French philosopher Gaston Bachelard said, “…is perhaps nothing but an expression of a poetry that was lost”. Mithu has always seen herself as “near poets” rather than “near historians”.
So her museum is a carnival, a celebration, an imaginary world. One in which there are no forevers. She gives away her babies and finds new ones.