Smita Sen: The Manipura Sanctum

June 29 – August 10, 2021

Due to the process-based nature of the Session program, The Manipura Sanctum will undergo constant modifications; the features of this page provide accruing information on the project’s developments.


A Zine Created From the
Shumka x Recess Workshop October 2021



Events are subject to change

The Manipura Sanctum at Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Branch

On view January 24 – April 23, 2022 | 46 Washington Ave BK, NY 11205

The installation and surrounding programming, including a performance by Trina Basu and poetry workshop with danilo machado, create a unique opportunity for Brooklynites to meaningfully engage and examine the state of contemporary caregiving. Sen will host a conversation with medical caregiver Khushmit Kaur and cultural worker Ezra Benus at the Library.

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Opening the Manipura Sanctum: First Offerings
a performance by Smita Sen 

Friday, July 2 ⋅ 5:00 – 6:00pm | 46 Washington Ave BK, NY 11205

A performance by artist Smita Sen in which she will begin nurturing an altar space an altar space devoted to caregivers of all styles

Register Here

Singing Bowls: A Sound Bath for Caregivers
a performance by Lavender Suarez

Saturday, July 10 ⋅ 5:00 – 6:00pm | 46 Washington Ave BK, NY 11205

A “sound bath” is an improvised concert for healing, relaxation and meditation. During a sound bath, Lavender plays vibrational healing instruments such as gongs, singing bowls, tuning forks and bells. Due to her extensive background as an improvisational musician, she is able to tune-in to participants to create a unique and expressive symphony with moments of pause and powerful crescendos that lift the spirit.

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Rituals of Sacred Surrender
a performance by Trina Basu Ramamurthy, violinist and composer, and Smita Sen

Thursday, July 29 ⋅ 6:30 – 7:30pm | 46 Washington Ave BK, NY 11205

Surrender is an act of yielding to the power of another; of relinquishing oneself fully and completely. At its most beautiful and most turbulent, palliative care is an act of surrender for both the patient and the caregiver. Negotiating the competing qualities of this sacred bond, of this sacred surrender between caregiver and patient, artist Smita Sen and violinist Trina Basu co-create a performance to honor the complexities of palliative caregiving. Weaving together Indian classical music, creative improvisation, and movement frameworks engaging breath, contraction, and release, Sen and Basu offer a performance rooted in surrendering to the affection, fear, hope, and endurance of palliative care.

Register Here

Closing the Manipura Sanctum: Folded Hands Full of Flowers
a performance by Smita Sen

Thursday, August 5 ⋅ 6:00 – 8:00pm | 46 Washington Ave BK, NY 11205

To close the Sanctum with gratitude and celebration, Sen welcomes all to share their voices and stories. With an Open Mic-style structure, all who have been a part of the Sanctum are welcome to share their creative expression of what caregiving has meant for them in this turbulent pandemic year.

Register Here

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

Visiting Hours:

Thursday – Saturday, 12-6 pm

Thursday, 2-8 pm

Ongoing programming:

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.

Smita Sen’s The Manipura Sanctum is part of Recess’s program, Session, which invites artists to use Recess’s public platform to combine productive studio space with dynamic exhibition opportunities. Sessions remain open to the public from the first day of the artist’s project through the last, encouraging sustained dialogue between artists and audiences. Due to the process-based nature of Session, projects undergo constant revision and the above proposal is subject to change.

 About the Artist

Smita Sen is an artist working with sculpture, dance-based performance, and advanced technology to research how the body internalizes its environment and significant life events. With installations, Sen attempts to reimagine sites of care and creates environments for the body to enter states of meditative healing. Sen’s work has been shown at venues like Bard College, Flux Factory, Anthology Film Archives, the Knockdown Center, and ISSUE Project Room. Sen was a fellow at the Mildred’s Lane residency (2018) and received the Instigator Fellowship from NYU ITP Camp (2018). She has served as a Visiting Artist at the Bard College Disturbance Lab and has given talks and workshops at Columbia University, Bard College, NYU ITP Camp, and LRLX NY. Sen is a graduate of Columbia University. An educator, she is currently teaching and designing the Emerging Media program at Choate Rosemary Hall.

Recess is supported, in part, by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; The National Endowment for the Arts, Art Works; the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in Partnership with the City Council; The Horace Goldsmith Foundation; The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation; Art for Justice Fund, Art Matters, The Jill and Peter Kraus Foundation, The David Teiger Foundation, The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, The Cy Twombly Foundation, The Fox Aarons Foundation, The Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Blavatnik Family Foundation, The Luce Foundation, The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation, Arison Arts Foundation, The Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, The Richard Pousette-Dart Foundation, David Rockefeller Fund, Robert Lehman Foundation, The Destina Foundation, Pinkerton Foundation, ELMA Philanthropies, Laurie M Tisch Illumination Fund, The Salomon Foundation, The Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Prospect Hill Foundation, Powerhouse Environmental Arts Foundation, The Willem de Kooning Foundation, and The Tikkum Olam Foundation. In-kind support is provided by Materials for the Arts.