MITHU SEN, 46, ARTIST, POET AND PER­FORMER (Sex­u­alised) Mu­seum of Un­be­long­ing

India Today - - THE ARTS -

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.

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