Swedenborg Takes to the Seaside

Emanuel Swedenborg has received recent publicity through the ‘Art Across the City 2014’ project, taking place in Swansea. Jeremy Millar, a renowned artist and tutor at the Royal College of Art, London, has embarked on an idea that will create awareness of Swedenborg’s presence in the Welsh seaside city, with some modest help from the Swedenborg Society. 

Millar was selected as the inaugural Locws candidate for the International Public Art Open Submission commission (Locws International being an artist-led charity in Swansea). Millar’s work is part of an event which will see artistic presence in Swansea expanded and recognized. Millar’s personal project involves the creation of a large flag that will fly in the city centre, marking the visits to Swansea of two extraordinary thinkers, Emanuel Swedenborg and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Swedenborg’s visit was a rather unconventional one, taking place many years after his death! His coffin in the crypt of the Swedish Church in London (now Swedenborg Gardens) was opened by a group of curious early followers who left it not properly sealed. The skull was then stolen and a replacement left in its stead. (This replacement one was then stolen too!) The thieves hoped to sell the skull(s) to phrenological collectors and Swedenborg’s skull ended up in the collection of a Swansea doctor who had bought it from a shop in London before the outbreak of the First World War. It was in Swansea that the poet Vernon Watkins saw Swedenborg’s skull, being inspired to write a poem on the subject.

Wittgenstein’s visits to Swansea, meanwhile, took place in the summers of the1940s. A lover of the seaside city, Wittgenstein famously declared upon his arrival: ‘Am I glad to be here!’

Millar’s work, which takes historical events and reactivates them in the present day, will mark the lives of both men in the form of a flag which includes Wittgenstein’s quote and a picture of Swedenborg’s skull. The Swedenborg Society is proud to have aided Millar in his project, supplying Jeremy with the picture for his flag from its archive.

Jeremy Millar’s fascinating project will be available to view in Swansea from 12th April – 1st June.



Victoria Rood


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