Thursday 26 January 2023

Occult London: Place in Exhibition at Swedenborg House

Concerning an Idea About Place is the name of an exhibition currently on in the gallery at Swedenborg House in London. The objects displayed force us to question our ideas about place, space and distance - from how we look at the buildings we are in to how we experience being inside our own skulls. 

The objects range from photographs of corners of rooms in the building to a chair once sat in by a historical figure to a plaster cast of "the wrong skull". Cast in 1908, it was supposed to be a replica of Swedenborg's skull but the wrong skull was copied by mistake. On the walls around it are various writings which this unusual relic has inspired, including text by Iain Sinclair.

The exhibition description on the Swedenborg Society website says

"In a now famous passage from his Arcana Caelestia, printed in London between 1749-56, Emanuel Swedenborg wrote that our ‘ideas of place and distance’ are not anything real but ‘states of thought and affection’. (§1376) Since then, this idea has had a profound influence on philosophers, writers and artists alike, and has had a direct impact on Romanticism, Symbolism, Surrealism and Psychogeography. Curated by the Society’s Museum Director, Stephen McNeilly, this intimate exhibition draws together miscellaneous items from the Swedenborg Collection that explore this theme and confirm our experience of place as an ‘inner sense’, linking the external world of things to our internal world of ideas and feelings."

I popped along to see the exhibition yesterday and found it thought-provoking. I took some photos including the ones on this post. Concerning an Idea About Place is free to enter although reserving a ticket is recommended, which you can do here: It runs until the end of February.

Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) was a London-based philosopher and visionary. The Swedenborg Society is a registered charity that publishes his works as well as hosting events and exhibitions. Swedenborg House and Gallery is at 20-21 Bloomsbury Way, London, WC1A 2TH. 

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