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Dolly Sen is a writer, director, artist, filmmaker, poet, performer, playwright, mental health consultant, music-maker and public speaker. She has 8 published books since 2002; has taken on performance roles at The Young Vic, the Royal Festival Hall, and around Europe; undertaken a poetry tour; won a poetry award from Poet Laureate Andrew Motion; directed two plays and several TV films; and performed spoken word at City Hall and Oxford University.
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Are you a copyrighted soul?
By adding some text to a cheap mirror, I want people to question their identity and who owns it? Is it an abusive childhood, is it a system that delegates you to the sidelines because an unexamined but programmed view of disability? Are you scared to look in the mirror because somebody else has defined you as ugly? Why are other people owning your gaze? Who says you are you? Who has written your script? Look into your own eyes and be able to keep the stare. Copyright your own soul. Don't...
The Road is Paved with Good Intentions.
Yesterday I wrote this poem on a path. 'Do not step here, my dreams have fallen out of my pocket and are hard to find again. Don't grind them into the ground or I will have to wait for the rain to feed the daisies to push them back up again.' I didn’t have to aim it at a particular audience except humanity in a part of Brixton, South London. Didn’t know if they liked poetry or art beforehand. But it made everyone who came across it stop. They read it, asked questions,...
Fill in my sanity feedback form
Please fill in my sanity feedback form, which asks questions like: would you recommend sanity to others?
This is so I know whether to continue subscribing after the free trial ends.
RIP Robin Williams
It has taken me a while to write about Robin Williams for several reasons. I thought: why do it because he can’t read it, nor can I ease his family’s pain. Also, it has unsettled me deeply, because I can identify with his situation and am a bit more scared for myself. You either loved Robin Williams or hated him. I loved his work, so much of it was putting a hand into human darkness and pain and bringing out beautiful words and laughter. Thank you, Robin, for that. But now his...
Created a website called 'the future'. It will always be coming soon
Apocalypse Loyalty Card
Who wants an Apocalypse Loyalty Card? I decided to create one as I have survived several apocalypses, according to several religious groups, and I have nothing to show for it. Survive five apocalypses, get the rapture free. The terms and conditions are that Tory governments are not included. That is the dystopia loyalty card, where you get nothing for your loyalty. Or a fascist loyalty card that chops your fingers off for holding...
Institute of Inner Vision
This week my film ‘Outside’ was shown at the 'Shuffle Your Mind' event at Shuffle Festival. ‘Outside’ was premiered at the launch of The Institute of Inner Vision at the Barbican Centre in London in March 2013 as part Wellcome Trust's 'Wonder in Film' season. The Institute of Inner Vision was set up at the London College of Communication by Sal Anderson to create and support a community of filmmakers and photographers with...
My visit to Reality
Sanity Test Kit instructions
My artistic output at the moment is very driven. I guess you just need to put me in the sun to ripen. If my daily deluge is too much for you, do not worry: you will return to your usual programming soon, when I will switch from art to writing for the rest of the summer months. ONE STEP SANITY MAINSTREAM TEST Please read all instructions. They will tell you what to think, do and feel. Failure to follow instructions may impair your ability to be part of the machinery. How to use the test: Remove...
Equality & Dignity - out of stock?
Why am I called a 'service user' when I have no choice in services? If I went to Argos for a kettle and somebody pumped me full of drugs I didn't want, pushed me on the floor because I complained my kettle was faulty, or electrocuted by said kettle, you know, I wouldn't go want to go back. How in any way, shape or form is that a service, especially if this 'service' affects your statutory rights. No refunds or exchanges for missed life. So I had fun creating an...
The dictionary definition of Bedlam is 'a scene of uproar and confusion'. This is because sanity constructed it to be that way. As Thomas Fuller said, 'It is madness for sheep to talk peace with a wolf.' If I had a free creative space, I would create a public Bedlamb, inspired by the one I created in my new home. A place where no wool is pulled over the eyes, yet a place of warmth, cuddles, and safety, with a Dolly Booooooooooooo Peep to make sure no one gets lost....
Do Not Bend Mind
My madness is sometimes a beautiful thing. It occasionally shows the world through x-ray eyes where all you see is love. And sometimes you look through the world with x-rated eyes that terrorises you into silence. Art does the same. It is such the twin of madness, they are almost conjoined. I don't know if I can separate them without one of them dying. What if it is the art twin that dies, with madness alone and feeling it has lost something? Today I have created two conceptual pieces...
Recovery's No Man's Land
One thing they don’t tell you about the recovery model is that it will lead some people into no man’s land. If you, like me, have been residing in psychotic hinterlands for a good few decades, you realise when you rejoin society, you are decades behind your peers. Your first love, job, career, home, relationships are new things in your 30s and 40s. People talk of lost youth like a misplaced item. Mine was never there in the first place. When you stumble with the mistakes in middle...
No blogs, then three come along at once.
I remember one of my amazing interviewees of my documentary 'Greenhouse of Hearts' saying something along the lines of that the language of art is truer to humans, to madness than psychiatric language would ever be.
This got me thinking: how would psychiatry view or cause some experiences in art. Here is what I came up with.
It has staggered me that I have not contributed to my blog for nearly a year. The first year on my Occupational Therapy degree has been a hard slog, due to my difficulties with sequencing, attention, and memory, leaving little mental energy to write beyond that. But now my studies are more or less over for the summer, I can concentrate on other stuff. I will start by catching you all up on the work I have done this year. My latest collection of poetry 'One More Ghost' is out on...
Dolly Sen Short Circuits
I was at the Short Circuit event at the lighthouse in Brighton last week, as part of the Brighton Digital Arts Festival. Short Circuit is an Arts Council initiative that brings together disabled artists and digital twiddlers to collaborate on a range of projects exploring this interface. The project is curated by Jo Verrent and Sarah Pickthall. My idea was to put an internet site through the experience of psychosis. It came from doing my Barbican-commissioned film, where I made...
A Very Short Poetic Blog about Writing
Is Recovery the Right Word?
Today I will be part of an event at the Dragon Cafe exploring archives and heritage around mental health. This stems from my involvement with the Mental Health Recovery Archive developed at the Wellcome Trust. I am putting my story in the archive to counteract and challenge the fact in most health archives, including the current Wellcome one, the voice of lived experience takes up less than 10% of mental health archives. It has been a challenge, because I want my story to be...
Dolly Sen is going to give the internet a breakdown
I have just come out of the Impact Arts Fair with a nice number of sales and a feeling of inspired invigoration. Now onto my next project, which is part of Short Circuit, a place where digital acumen and disability artistry collides, and will be platformed at the Brighton Digital Festival in September. I have been commissioned to give the internet a psychotic breakdown. I aim to create a website, with the help of Peter at Surface Impression and with sound provided by Jon Adams, that will...
Mixed Mind Media
One day I will write and make art about pretty things and being middle class, but I have still some terrors to release and some ghosts to make even more invisibile. I am having some therapy at the moment so I am able to make phone calls, and thankfully there has been some improvement. Yet at the same time I am creating art like this, where the compulsion to doodle wants to the rip the world to pieces. Making phone calls is really difficult for me because it is a huge trigger; it's...
Not Through the Glass Darkly - Madness and Film
The short documentary film 'Greenhouse of Hearts' came out of a commission from DAO and The Royal Academy. When I met with Kate Horbury, the then access officer of the RA, she said you have to go visit Portugal Prints, a mental health arts charity, who collaborate with the Royal Academy on a regular basis. So I did. The first thing that hits you is the warmth of the place, you are instantly accepted as family. So I decided to make a film exploring the heart of Portugal Prints. I could...
Art and Pain in Digital and Analogue
Yesterday I went to ‘Open Circuit’, which is part of http://shortcircuit.org.uk/ Short Circuit is a strategic action research project commissioned by Arts Council England, South East designed to put digital acumen and disability artistry together – it’s not about short circuit meaning malfunction, it’s about a short circuit to create new possibilities through a path of least resistance. Open Circuit was the first event of Short Circuit, where artists, technicians,...