I would like to take this opportunity to recommend some art events in London, which explore arguably Swedenborgian themes… Please note that Death: A Self Portrait at the Wellcome Collection closes on Sunday! So this weekend is your last chance to be enlightened…
SUSAN HILLER: CHANNELS | Matt’s Gallery | until 14 April
“I was vacuumed upwards at a great velocity…I couldn’t feel my weight at all…I could see the horizon clearly as if some curtain were lifted…We don’t have the vocabulary to describe what I felt.”
Channels, Susan Hiller‘s fourth exhibition at Matt’s Gallery, is a vast audio-sculptural installation in which disembodied voices report on ‘near-death’ experiences. Hiller uses audio accounts in many languages from people who believe they have experienced death as the raw materials for her new work. Vivid stories of those who believe they have died and returned to tell the tale constitute a remarkable contemporary archive, whether the accounts are regarded as metaphors, misperceptions, myths, delusions or truth. Further information.
Channels recalls Paul Tecklenberg‘s sound installation Random Passages in the basement of Swedenborg House in 2010, when the artist set up hidden speakers among the existing book cases, integrating recorded readings from Swedenborg’s Heaven and Hell with experimental photographs of the building. Indeed, it has been argued that Swedenborg’s mystical descriptions of the afterlife in Heaven and Hell and other works bear a striking resemblance to Near Death Experiences.
NICHOLAS HUGHES: ASPECTS OF COSMOLOGICAL DIFFERENCE | until 31 March
Dust particles rising through the projector beam of a darkened London theatre form the genesis of Nicholas Hughes’s series Aspects Of Cosmological Indifference, which examines the space between the world that people inhabit and that which nature still claims as its own. In this intermediary space between the two, the photographer seeks to explore the essence of the human spirit and its relationship with nature. By focusing on boundaries, planes and surfaces he acknowledges the limits humanity has imposed on the natural world and contemplates the future for both. www.thephotographersgallery.org.uk
Swedenborg wrote extensively on the interaction between the soul and the body, and the vital correspondences between man and nature. He was a formative influence on the American Transcendentalist movement, and on RW Emerson in particular. More can be read on this subject in Nature by RW Emerson and in Swedenborg’s works Life in Animals and Plants and The Principia (among other works).
DEATH: A SELF PORTRAIT | Wellcome Collection | until 24 February
This weekend is your LAST CHANCE to see the wonderful winter exhibition at the Wellcome Collection, showcasing some 300 works from a unique collection devoted to the iconography of death and our complex and contradictory attitudes towards it. Assembled by Richard Harris, a former antique print dealer based in Chicago, the collection is spectacularly diverse, including art works, historical artefacts, scientific specimens and ephemera from across the world. Rare prints by Rembrandt, Dürer and Goya will be displayed alongside anatomical drawings, war art and antique metamorphic postcards; human remains will be juxtaposed with Renaissance vanitas paintings and twentieth century installations celebrating Mexico’s Day of the Dead. From a group of ancient Incan skulls, to a spectacular chandelier made of 3000 plaster-cast bones by British artist Jodie Carey, this singular collection, by turns disturbing, macabre and moving, opens a window upon our enduring desire to make peace with death. www.wellcomecollection.org.
As a great scientist of his time, Swedenborg was fascinated by the physical processes behind life and death. And in his mystical works he claimed to have witnessed and experienced the processes beyond this life, describing these experiences in his seminal work Heaven and Hell. The Wellcome exhibition represents a thoughtful discussion on how we seek to rationalize death and how this may affect the way we live. The exhibition also includes rare prints by Albinus (1697-1770) and Wandelaar (1690-1759), whose work was studied by Swedenborg. First edition copies of their monumental atlas on the human body can be found in the Society’s library archive.
Thank you for reading and I hope you have a lovely weekend.