Interview: Mithu Sen / Srinjoy Gangopadhyay/ Part II
Srinjoy Gangopadhyay: The level of viewer activation and interaction that you incite in some of your major works like ‘Black Candy’, in a sense, subverts the conventional white cube viewing experience. Would you agree in this case also?
Mithu Sen: I always make my audience walk. I would like them to respond physically and mentally and contemplate; you know why it is so. They are moving around the piece and the work is called border ‘unseen’. So the border is 82 feet long and then couple of feet, I don’t know may be 15-20 feet it is almost on the floor but slowly it goes up and then almost at 45 feet it is like 3 feet to 5 ½ feet high. Then it goes even more.
SG: It kind of goes out of the human scale. In addition, the miniature figures, cartoony scull, sea shells, non-human teeth and other occasional objects alongside the teeth, further manipulate the sense of scale.
Unseen – made visible:
SG: In ‘Border Unseen’ you made visible and maybe spoke of transgressing barriers? What is that border for you?
MS: Well, not necessarily it has to be like a border between two nations geographically or politically, it can even be a border between two persons, in a relationship, the whole humankind is like marginalized by one way or another. So, it can be lingual, it can be emotional, it can be political, there are… …every stages of life it feels certain kind of, you know…
SG: Something holding you back.
MS: Yeah, and they are in a way for me, they are invisible and we have to … … we have to deal with that and we can you know, it’s totally up to us because it’s actually invisible, you cannot see that, so it is you who make that… …for me the top of the fencing is not so important than the negative space around it, The main thing is like the negative space. I wanted to define the negative space around the border.
SG: In a sense, the piece becomes a physical manifestation of the imagined barriers we impose or are forced to impose, on ourselves?
MS: I thought, like you know what is actually this wall made of ? What is the weight of it? What is the weight of your imagination… …if you want you can step over, if you want you can go under, So you can easily cross the border, but most of the time you really cannot. You have to confront the border. It is totally up to you.
SG: One piece comes parallely in my mind -‘Shibboleth’ by Doris Salcedo at Tate Modern. Salcedo created an elongated crack or rather a subterranean crevasse along the floor of the entire Turbine Hall. Exploring the tension between her work and the Turbine Hall architecture, the Colombian origin artist Salcedo said that her work addressed issues of race and was intended as a post-colonial critique of ‘Western Modernity.’
MS: Yes, that’s an amazing work. I love that piece. But I really have to think about ‘Border Unseen’, if it was really like some kind of Indian voice on American land.
SG: Is it more universal then, rather than specific, In a sense?
MS: Yes it is.
Transgressing barriers in a multidimensional practice:
SG: You are an important feminist voice in Indian Contemporary Art, yet you don’t like to be pigeonholed as a ‘woman artist’.
MS: I don’t like to be stereotyped. I can’t, I can’t see myself … …it’s not that I don’t like and have a conscious like you know workout for that but I don’t see myself you know… I think I am like you know in a confused state (smile). I think definitely I am a feminist but feminism has to be redefined, it’s not that, you know that Idea we had from the 70s. From feminism you know it’s also about crafting one’s own relationship.
SG: What are some of the upcoming projects that you are working on?
MS: I have a solo coming up in Vienna and also into Kochi Biennial this year and next year have a show in Queens Museum, so couple of things. Also I do like doing some design, like my next summer collection with an Italian designer and I am also an art ideator of a choreography company in Dusseldorf, so I do a lot of dialogue stuff.