Realising the unreal - Swedenborg, photography and vision(s)
Royal College of Art, London
Supervisor: Professor Olivier Richon
My proposal seeks to interrogate how lens based media can address key concepts in the work of Emanuel Swedenborg (scientist and visionary, 1688-1772) in direct engagement with his writings and methodology. How can photography as material, process and image engage with other media in order to develop Swedenborg’s concept of the “unreal”? The locating and pointing out of the precise relationship (the back and forth) between the real and the imagined has been at the heart of my art practice for many years: whether it be a still image of a carefully Page 4 of 12 constructed interior designed for a flight of fantasy, a film about a man compelled to monitor outer space or a community and their relationship to their local saint. All of these subjects turn on some idea of failure (disappointment) and it is at this point that the real and the imagined are called into question and an imaginative leap must be made. Using photography, moving image, narrative and props I test and manipulate this relationship. Swedenborg’s ‘conversion’ from man of science to mystic visionary (in all likelihood caused by a sense of failure with his scientific endeavours) will become a model to connect photography with vision(s). Swedenborg’s belief that place is entirely constructed by emotional states, his use of hypnagogic states and his application of scientific approaches to matters visionary will connect with their instantiation using photography, props, architecture and light. I have been granted unique access to the Swedenborg Society in London, to work with the archive, artefacts and Swedenborgian experts to encourage these threads to be picked up. While Swedenborg’s influence is far reaching in numerous fields he remains a maverick and marginal figure with little by way of a visual response to his concepts, allowing for new approaches within the field of photography and beyond.