The Manipura Sanctum
“In the last months of my father’s life, our family was absorbed in a whirlwind of hospitals, doctors’ visits, and at-home caregiving. My father had a complex and unusual illness that was not well understood by doctors. With the rapid changes in his health, we were forced to confront the limits of modern medicine and to untangle the complexities of the American healthcare system. I found myself asking a very fundamental question: What is healthcare? What does it mean to ‘care’ for the ‘health’ of someone else?”
– Smita Sen
In The Manipura Sanctum, artist Smita Sen nurtures an altar space that reaches toward contemplative, social healing. Sen’s metamorphosing installation is devoted to caregivers of all styles, and to communing with the public about the realities of community-driven healthcare. The Sanctum is a realm that not only praises care providers, but undertakes the labor of generating public wellness. It offers balance, attention, and regeneration to all visitors who cross its threshold and seek relief in its embrace.
In conjuring up this meditative portal, Sen will situate steel bowls in an ascendant, hanging assembly. Each bowl incorporates a 3D-printed form derived from medicinal herbs, bones, and soft body fossils––and together, these sculptural elements voice the resilience, curative potential, and vulnerability of a distinct caregiver that Sen has met and enshrined. Surrounding Sen’s steel bowls, bright therapeutic herbs will be introduced and continually rearranged, their aromas and pigments mutating according to the stories shared by visitors in conversation with Sen.
The Manipura Sanctum was born from Sen’s book, Manipura: Of Flowers and Bones, which archives Sen’s perennial sculpture series and furnishes a practical view of contemporary caregiving. An illumination of what healthcare feels like when it is an act of adoration and mutuality, Sen’s book captures the diversified perspectives of caregivers; it’s material evidence of the people who minister our ill and who often go unpaid and unsung for their sympathetic impacts on the American healthcare system. As an artist and wellness worker, Sen moves toward the design of this missing archive of care and, to that end, she appeals to caregivers to share their testimonies with her during The Manipura Sanctum. These collected histories will result in a second volume of Manipura: Of Flowers and Bones, following Sen’s Session at Recess.
From June 29 – August 10, the public is encouraged to make appointments to enter the Sanctum, meeting either Recess staff members or with the artist directly. The public may also contribute to the Sanctum via meditation sittings and events throughout the Session. Performances by Sen, Lavender Suarez, and Trina Basu Ramamurthy are public offerings that will punctuate Sen’s Session, beginning with an honorific initiation and ending with a dedication for all who have been a part of The Manipura Sanctum.
On view: November 11, 2023–January 25, 2024
Marcela Torres and Assembly
September 14–November 10, 2023
KING COBRA and Hue Hallums