Thanks for your kind comments. To tell you the truth I have been quite bored recently, and the new Dodal really got me inspired!
I used to teach graphic design, visual communication and color, back in Caracas. In fact, it was while studying graphic design many years ago that I became interested in the tarot. I am sure that such context informed the non-mystical/mainly-visual way the cards interest me. I think you gave the best definition of what a designer is: someone who imposes order to forms. The difference between art and design I was taught while studying graphic design was the difference between communication and expression. I still think that dichotomy is useful. Recently I have been very interested on what we could call ‘productive’ conceptual art, which in the words of art critic Matthew Jesse Jackson, is the one that “engages materiality and texturality... aspiring to hotwire emotive, mnemonic energies to fire them and take the viewers mind for an illicit spin”. Jackson says that this kind of conceptual art inhabits the intersection between the specific and the general. That is, I believe, something very important to take into consideration when we think in terms of communication vs. expression. Design appeals to our practical needs: we have to sit, we have to open cans, or cut meat with some precision, and we need specific tools to do that. It is the designer’s job to impart order to certain materials, so their shapes allow us to sit, open cans, or cut meat. Graphic design is no different, of course. I think there is a sense of ‘profit’ in that ordering that is precisely what becomes absent in art. Design is sender-oriented communication, in which the designer strives at making sure that the public will get one single specific message. Art is receiver-oriented communication, in which the artist hints at a set of collective memories, hoping for the public to fill the gaps with their own specific experiences. In good art, 1+ 1 always equals 3, and I suspect this is also true in good readings.
I am very interested in the physicality of materials because I believe that it is in the metaphorical quality of that physicality where art and magic are connected. (Incidentally, there is a very comprehensive and short talk on metaphors at TED.com right now:
And this is what I believe to be key in my own approach to the tarot, because this kind of conceptual art operates by activating a re-embodiment in the viewer. We look at certain objects, textures and shapes, and they take us back inside our bodies, to that moment in which we have experienced these substances at a personal level.
So, when we get the Death card, (or as it’s friends call it: “the card without name”) that grim reaper has a symbolism we all share, but it is also an opportunity for us to reflect about Death at a personal level. Deeper still, a scythe is a tool we all understand, but we all have our own experiences of how a blade feels. We can all understand what these cards are about -well, we could- but what turns a reading into a moment of awe is that illicit spin Jackson describes, which is linked not to the communicative aspect of the image, or with the author’s desire to represent Death, a king, or the resurrection, but to the specific, personal, mnemonics our pattern-recognition detonates while looking at these images. It is extraordinary when the images take us into an unexpected place. Yesterday for example, I saw a woman who got the 10 of Swords, Force and The World. I saw the sequence suggesting the end of a series of conflicts, with The World at the end suggesting that the whole situation could be overcome. But I asked her to pick one more card, just to see what happened after The World. She didn’t wanted to do it, but I insisted, and she got Death. “That hurts!” she protested, literally, so I asked her to take one more card: the Ace of Cups. Now, in the Dodal that skeleton is moving forward, so it seemed to be attacking that cup, which in the Ace is huge and looks like a trophy, a city, or a house. Here, she unfold her story: she has been screaming to people in the streets, she has been very mad, out of frustration because she is reigniting a fight against her building, and she is loosing it. This is the second time she tries to change something in her building that only her finds wrong, and no mater how much she argues or screams, no one listens to her.
Being card number 21, The World suggests an ending, and Death here suggests that any ‘new beginning’ here would be disastrous. When she was talking about suing the building, I pointed to these two cards: Death and the Ace of Cups. “Look, this is you against the building!” I didn’t said much more. From that point on, the entire reading became, for me, about the unexpected image created by these two cards. I spent the whole day yesterday haunted by these two images: there is something grotesque about that skeleton going in full force after that beautiful cup that looks like the New Jerusalem. I can only hope that she will be haunted by that image too, and that sooner or later she would realize that she doesn’t needs to be that grotesque. She, going around screaming to people out of frustration, had become that grim reaper.
All my Best,