A conversation with Rachel Pollack at Tarology

tongue exercise:

Reading the Marseilles Tarot: the Science of the Circumstantial (For Immediate release!)
A 'Pataphysical musing on the 'Pataphysics of the Marseilles tarot

Olde time meat the Ace de Batons
All the time meat in Lempereur's hand
All the time eat is like Le Pendu's pole

Poet André Bretón, who always championed the Marseilles tarot, also championed the writings of Jean-Pierre Brisset. Brisset's whole body of work was devoted to show how man descended from frogs. Beyond the memorable claim itself, what makes Brisset's work fascinating is that all of his evidence was... linguistic! Take this sentence from Brissetʼs 'The Science of God, or The Creation of Man', published in 1900:

“Jʼai un lʼeau, je mans (I have the water, I ea(t)), which became jʼai un logement (I have a home), shows us that the first home was in water and that people ate there.”

In his writings, Brisset would see the formal connection between the -French- words used to name two seemingly unrelated domains -men and... Well, frogs- as objective proof of their scientific connection. It is no wonder that he is considered a ʻpataphysicsʼs saint! His linguistic escapades are of interest here because his wordplay is very close to what the French define as ʻla langue des oiseauxʼ, a game mainly based on homophonies, in which the duplicity in the sound -shape- of words would be used to recall duplicitous meanings, but also, unlikely connections which could be either amusing or inspiring. Moreover, Brisset's connection with 'pataphysics is significant here in that 'pataphysics might allow us to place the Marseilles tarot within the broader context of a poetical tradition, both from a chronological, and an operative point of view.

ʻPataphysics is defined as “the science of exceptions” (although we may have reasons to believe this was an exception!). It is suggestive to think that the Marseille tradition has always used the tarot within a ʻpataphysical context, even if -or precisely because- it has done so unconsciously. Perhaps it would be more sobering to say that the Marseilles tarotʼs tradition unconsciously belongs to a whole school of French poetry that grew from Alfred Jarryʼs ʻpataphysics and informed -directly or indirectly- groups like Dada, Surrealism, Oulipo, and many others.

Card-maker Jean-Claude Flornoy suspects there was a visual stage of la langue des oiseaux (the language of the birds) that could have predated the verbal one. Contemporary authors working with la langue des oiseaux, like Luc Bige and Yves Monin, focus entirely in the written word. Even so, that kind of wordplay resembles that idea of finding connections between the details in tarot cards that is typical of the Marseilles tarot tradition ("card number Thirteen shows Le Fou's skeleton", "the wall behind the twins we see in Le Soleil card conceals the tomb we see in Le Judgement"). The circumstantial connections hinted by these visual homophonies are taken as positive proof of some actual knowledge being hidden in the images by his makers. A direct result from this is the deliciously masturbatory -and rather 'pataphysical- maxim: "the proof that there must be a secret in there is that we don't know it". This thesis belongs to what we could call the Marseilles tarot's 'folklore' -a parcel within its history- which has been fostered by some French authors active in the 20th Century - the 'pataphysician's century- like Tchalay Unger, or Philippe Camoin.

The Marseilles tarot's folklore is made from little circumstantial connections, like “Justice carries around her neck the rope to hang Le Pendu”. (This is a rather exceptional claim, since no rope can be seen around Justice’s neck in any other tarot, and even in the Marseilles tarot it can be said we are looking at a robe’s lace). Since these coincidences don't amount to a whole, cohesive, system or design, they fit very well into a "science of exceptions". Even so, all these arbitrary visual connections are taken as tangible proof of the card-makerʼs intention. While the reading of these details as a -rather crippled- body of hidden knowledge offers no advantage to our objective understanding of the Marseilles tarot's history or iconography (unless we understand folklore as a slice of history), it represents a whole quarry for 'pataphysical poetry. It is said that “Actual works within the 'pataphysical tradition tend to focus on the processes of their creation, and elements of chance or arbitrary choices are frequently key in those processes". Just as the members of the Oulipo group were notorious for imposing capricious restrains to their work, whoever reads the tarot accepts to create a meaningful narrative while being subdued by randomness and mathematical probability. (In the benefit of the circumstantial, it should be noticed here that Italo Calvino, whose 'Castle of Crossed Destinies' was composed under very the specific constrains implicit in using all the cards of a tarot deck, spread on a table, in one single arrangement, was at some point considered an Oulipo member).

Given that the poetics of the tarot are the poetics of Chance, and given that Calvino's process (like any non-moralizing reading of the tarot) can be seen as more memorable than its final result, we would like to submit 'The Castle of Crossed Destinies' to the hall of fame of 'pataphysical literature. Then, we would like to challenge Alejandro Jodorowsky's definition of the Marseille tarot as a "metaphysical machine" by re-defining it, instead, as a “'pataphysical machine”; for the tarot cannot be used to understand what is real, but to understand how what isn't real can become realizable. In his book ''Pataphysics, the Poetics of an imaginary science', poet Christian Bök, writes: “For ʻpataphysics, any science sufficiently retarded in progress must seem magical”. By turning whomever uses it into a ‘pataphysician, the Marseilles tarot becomes a tool of unmatched obsolescence to face the future. If Alfred Jarry, the father of ʻpataphysics, defined it as “the science of imaginary solutions”, we can confidently use the his definition to account for the process of choosing a life's course based on a random selection of tarot cards!

Enrique Enriquez, New York July 2010

(The management wants to thank Paul Nagy for the tip on Jean-Pierre Brisset)

tarology update:
a conversation with Rachel Pollack
(http://tarology.wordpress.com/2010/07/1 ... l-pollack/)

tarology announcements:

Art Circuits and Books&Books invites you Discover the poetry of tarot cads with Enrique Enriquez

On Thursday, July 29th, Enrique Enriquez will be revisiting Italo Calvino's Castle of Crossed Destinies. In 1973, Italian writer Italo Calvino wrote The Castle of Crossed Destinies, a novel in which characters who cannot speak to each other recount their tales using tarot cards. Enrique Enriquez will be re-enacting Calvino’s feat, turning Books & Books into a Bookshop of Crossed Destinies. Some members of the audience will be encouraged to tell their tales using tarot cards. Working as the narrator, Enriquez will put these tales into words. This event is FREE.

On Friday, July 30th and Saturday July 31st, from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m., Enrique Enriquez will be giving short tarot readings at Books&Books cafe. There will be no fixed fee, and every person is encouraged to give a retribution that fits their possibilities.

On Sunday, august 1st, Enrique Enriquez will be giving a workshop on The Marseilles tarot’s Visual Language. In this workshop, Enriquez shares his phenomenological approach to the tarot that doesn’t focus on symbolism but rather on the way we can use our body experience to understand images. By contrasting the the medieval notion of symmetry with our current understanding of the way our brain makes meaning, we will be able to apprehend the tarot’s language of shape. The cost of this workshop is $ 25

Enrique Enriquez’s work with the Marseilles tarot (a bestselling ’pataphysical machine) hasn’t granted him any award, financial breakthrough nor any social consideration whatsoever. Thanks to this enduring calmness he has been able to focus on the beauty of these images with the kind of passion and rigorousness that the exhilaration of prosperity would have made impossible.
What’s honeymoon salad? Lettuce alone
Don’t look now, mayonnaise is dressing!

Re: A conversation with Rachel Pollack at Tarology

Another interesting conversation Enrique, thank you.

Difficile de s'empêcher de penser, Enrique, au langage des oiseaux:

"C'est comme si un jeu de dé constituait l'origine même du langage."

Mon ami, mon dé de jeu non standard ~ says the juggler ~ mon dé pipé!

le mon de ...

the amount of .... what?

mon dé ... my die!

the amount of my die is 21, but

mon dé pipé, my die is loaded:P

XXI ~ le mon de mon dé
(the amount / sum of points on a die 1-6 = 21)

"Le démon: le doigt mien. Le démon montre son dé, son dais, ou son dieu, son sexe... démon peut donner: le mon dé = le mien dieu.Le monde ai = je posséde le monde. Le démon devient ainsi le maitre du monde en vertu de sa perfection sexuelle... Dans son sermon, il appelait son serf: le serf mon. Le sermon est un serviteur du démon. Viens dans mon lit mon = le limon était son lit, son séjour habituel. C'était un fort sauter et le premier des saumons. Voir le beau saut mon."

http://www.oniris.be/nouvelle/nat-etude ... e-491.html *

Le langage est en émulsion, les mots y sautent comme des grenouilles représentant les ancêtres et elles y sautent de manière aléatoire."

*At the same site above there is a retelling of an interesting little Flemish folk-tale of the stick of St. Winnoc:
http://www.oniris.be/nouvelle/vanhoerin ... c-492.html

**pipé = pīpāre "peep" as in chicks peeping through the holes in their egg shells, hence 'peep' (holes) = pips (as in English 'pip' cards, and the 'pips' on a die) ; also to make bird sounds to trap other birds (hence 'to decieve', 'to trick' (tromper) as with loaded dice), and to play the 'flute' :D
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: A conversation with Rachel Pollack at Tarology

Thanks Steve!

That is a great article. I loved this paragraph:

“On passe de « saloperie » à « duperie » par épisodes narratifs multiples. Brisset fait passer d’un terme à l’autre par la partie commune : « pris ». Mais ce mot est démultiplié en plusieurs puisque des sens multiples sont distingués. À ce propos, Foucault écrit : « flexion du verbe prendre, abréviation de prisonnier, somme de monnaie, valeur d’une chose, récompense aussi (qu’on donne le jour du prix). » Donc, les mots sont éloignés par des scènes, des événements et des figures. Ils subissent une décomposition et une recomposition aléatoires, dans un mouvement chaotique infini. Finalement, et comme par miracle, tout se stabilise en un mot. Pourtant, à chaque fois que le mot était évoqué, il désignait une chose différente. Alors, qu’est-ce qui fait l’unité d’un mot ? Juste le son, sa phonétique, c’est pourquoi Foucault écrit : « c’est la série improbable du dé qui, sept fois de suite, tombe sur la même face. Peu importe qui parle et quand il parle, pour quoi dire, et en employant quel vocabulaire : le même cliquetis, invraisemblablement, retentit. » L’interrogation habituelle, conventionnelle, est celle-ci : quand le son est-il devenu langage, symbole ; à quel moment clé ? La démarche de Brisset est inverse : il se demande comment, dans la multiplicité infinie des scènes, le mot est devenu unique ; il veut comprendre comment un son unique a jailli de la multiplicité des situations langagières, des énoncés. Sa réponse est la suivante : le mot naît de tassement, de compression d’énoncés. Quand le mot jaillit, il a alors tous ses sens. C’est pour cela que Foucault écrit que « Brisset a inventé la définition du mot par l’homophonie scénique. » (L’identité de sons dans des scènes)”

The ‘rolling the die’ metaphor made my day!

One thing that interest me is that search for the exception. The process described in that paragraph almost seems like a radiography of the mind thinking analogically, like a bird jumping from branch to branch. The more unlikely the place where the bird lands at the end, the greatest its feat. This is similar to that moment when a reader will describe in the cards an event that seems completely separated from the original idea behind the image, yet it is relevant. It is the same kind of magic.

It is just me, or the French language seems more suitable for these games?

What do you think?


What’s honeymoon salad? Lettuce alone
Don’t look now, mayonnaise is dressing!

Re: A conversation with Rachel Pollack at Tarology

EnriqueEnriquez wrote: It is just me, or the French language seems more suitable for these games?

What do you think?
French certainly appears suitably capable of rich word play of this type, but I don't know enough about languages to make comparitive statements about its suitability being more or less equall to others. English certainly has a rich capacity, but sometimes it helps to make play free from the automatic conventions of one's mother tongue. In Hebrew large tracts of kabalistic exegesis are formed from such word play based on homophony and permutation; the piece quoted above about le demon, le monde, mon dieu, for example reminds me very much of some of the stuff Abulafia wrote.
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot