Emanuel Swedenborg’s (1688-1772) work Heaven and Hell is a geography of the afterworld. In relation to the dead, we, the living, also inhabit “heaven and hell”, at least if we possess a sense of tradition: in relation to what was known then, we, belonging to the future beyond the grave, possess angelic information. Artists like William Blake understood this inheritance of angelic intelligence as a visionary capacity, a prophetic power to look into the futurity, as well as the moral history, of change.
The figure of this micro-macro-cosmic correspondence is the vortex, a supremely ambiguous figure in Blake, as it is in Shelley and Michelangelo, and perhaps there is no artist preoccupied with sketching the lineaments of the unseen who does not resort to the arabesque in trying to trace its energy form. “The nameless shadowy vortex” of continuous creation (centripetal) and egocentric consciousness (centrifugal) are entwined in “heaven and hell” in the struggle for freedom (the revolution that does not devolve into tyranny). The artist is the revolver, the stirrer of the face of the water, always suspended between narcissism and insight into the deep.
Redefined as messengers between this world and the next, the artists of the transition experience what it means to be born (a second time) of water. This presentation considers a mythopoetic map of creativity in which certain voyages of the Adelaide Festival’s Visual Art Program can be retraced.