Dolly Sen

Section 136 is a radical mental health art-action programme where madness is questioned, and institutional monsters are confronted using art, love, rage and sheep.


Dolly Sen

Artist and Activist Dolly Sen

Section 136

My arts practices crosses writing, performance, film and visual art. My work is seen as subversive, humorous and radical. I am interested in debate and social experiment around themes of madness, sanity, the other, and acceptable behaviours, from an unusual and unconventional position of power. I am interested in this because I have been labelled mad, although I think my challenging of inequality and vicious systems of the ‘normal’ world makes perfect sense. I am interested in society’s perception of mental health and madness - whether people think ‘it’s all in the head’ and not a response to social and political issues.

Madness is partly political.

Maybe we don’t have mental health difficulties, maybe we are living in a harsh, unjust, corrupt world that causes people to struggle.

To me, sanity is full of ridiculous acceptable behaviour and strange double standards, such as seeing street art as vandalism but the proliferation of demeaning advertising selling pointless things as acceptable. That being loud and aggressive whilst drunk is seen as someone being one of the boys - but if someone is shouting due to being troubled by voices, it is more reason to be scared, even though you are more likely to be injured or killed by the former.

The world is sanitised, not sane.

Why is acceptance and celebration of the mad self seen as lack of insight, when it has been forged by thought, pain and lots of questioning? There is a side to madness that doesn’t get shown, that is intelligent, funny, and pointing of the emperor’s new clothes. Much of this is done through my art. It is time to share that discussion with the rest of the world, and art is a very powerful way to do that. 

In Section 136 Dolly will offer three ‘mad’ acts or interventions ( Bedlamb, Mad sectioning and Broken Hearts for the DWP ) to highlight injustices, ask the public meaningful questions about madness, and explore what is making our society increasingly mentally distressed. 

Being 'sectioned' is the term that is often used when someone is detained under the Mental Health Act. The Mental Health Act is the law which can allow someone to be admitted, detained (or kept) and treated in hospital against their wishes. The police can use section 136 of the Mental Health Act to take you to a ‘place of safety’ when you are in a public place. This is typically used when someone is acting strangely, and the police don’t have an understandable and acceptable reason to make it a straightforward arrest. It is used if the police think that the person might be a risk to themselves or someone else.

But what is ‘acting strangely’ in our society?

What constitutes public display of mental illness which can harm people or those around them?


No. Sexist ads making you feel inadequate?

No. Compassion fatigue?

No. Casual racism?

No. Discrimination towards disabled people?

No. Through this project I intend to change the political narrative about what is happening to disabled people and the narrative that madness is to do with a broken brain and not being part of a broken society. You can have an argument on the phone and be left alone but if you have an argument with your voices, the police will take you a place of safety, which can be very unsafe. Last year there were almost 1,000 incidents of physical injury following restraint, and there have been at least 13 restraint-related deaths of people detained under the Mental Health Act since 1998.