Swedenborg House is an intriguing place in itself: this elegant Bloomsbury listed building is the centre of operations for the Swedenborg Society, established in 1810, whose aim is to translate and publish the works of the idiosyncratic scientist, philosopher and visionary Emanuel Swedenborg. Fourteen Interventions is part of the society’s bicentennial celebrations – a series of site specific and site responsive artworks, dispersed throughout the four storey building to celebrate the space, its unique history, its architecture and its artefacts: the artists involved include Jeremy Deller, Olivia Plender, Jacob Cartwright & Nick Jordan, Bridget Smith. Brian Catling and Iain Sinclair.
At the crowded private view, it was difficult to get a good look at many of the artworks tucked away in unexpected corners of this rambling building, but I did get a chance to explore the installations in the basement store room, where mysterious voices emanated from speakers concealed within archive boxes, and flickering projections of blurred images were glimpsed in half-hidden spaces at the back of shelves.
I was especially interested in the combination of visual artworks with written texts throughout the exhibition: Sinclair’s commentaries on unusual and arcane objects from the society’s archives underlines the point that in such a unique and atmospheric context, there’s only a fine line between everyday object and artwork. In a building like this one, it can be difficult to see where site responsive artistic intervention begins and ends, and what is simply the fabric of the space itself.
Fourteen Interventions will be at Swedenborg House until 5 March.