I have only one language; it is not mine

Mithu Sen

Kochi-Muziris Biennale

Kochi-Muziris Biennale
Fort Kochi, India

Mithu Sen, in her multi-media installation I have only one language; it is not mine (2014), engages with the idea of “radical hospitality”, exploring in the process the limitations of language and the possibility of dialogue outside it. For the project, Sen spent several days at a home for minor female orphans and victims of sexual and emotional abuse in Kerala, interacting with children as the alter-identity ‘Mago’– a seemingly homeless person who speaks in gibberish, does not understand the concept of time and is in a state of transit between two unknown places.

During this unscripted performance, Sen sought to surrender her body to this group of children who became her host. According to the artist, she placed herself in the situation as if she and the children themselves were all fictional, seeking to make herself the subject as much as the inmates of the home. According to Sen, the interaction was an attempt to understand the complexity of the construction of domesticity, family and relationships.

The performance was documented on video by the artist, a house mother at the home and the children, who intermittently took the camera into their own hands. The manner of documentation evolved in the course of the project, Sen said. A video and sound installation assembled from this footage, along with “remnants” of the performance and other related elements, form her exhibit.

Reflecting on the work, Sen writes: “I believe language imposes a strange and alien logic that tells us not to smell poetry, hear shadows or taste lights. Escaping this rigid framework, this project seeks not only to locate communication outside the narrow alleys of comprehension, but also tries to envisage dialogue in a way that cannot be read, heard or understood.”


  • Title: I have only one language; it is not mine
  • Creator: Mithu Sen
  • Type: Multi-media installation
  • Medium: Video installation based on a perfomance
  • Gallery: Aspinwall House, Fort Kochi
  • First Creator: 1971
  • Date of artwork's creation: 2014
  • Creator's practice: New Delhi, India.
  • Creator's date of birth: West Bengal, India

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