Best-laid plans . . . .
Some unexpected events have gotten in the way of my ambitious agenda for the Exploration Project newsletters. (Not a Tower sort of thing—more like Wheel of Fortune.)
So I’m sending along the two stories I had already finished for 1.2, and will try to catch up the others soon.
Then: Tarot Network News
TNN was started in 1981 by publisher Jack Hurley (co-creator of the New Tarot) and editor Gary Ross. I did not know Jack—but Gary was the most inventive and adventurous Tarot theorist I ever met. To the best of my knowledge (corrections welcome!) TNN continued publication until 1995, bringing out 13 issues more-or-less unpredictably.
I have eight of them—beginning with Issue 1, Number 4 (Spring 1984) and ending with Issue 13 (Spring 1995).
#4 is tabloid-size (which means it unfolds to 11 x 17 inches), printed on newspaper stock, and numbering 15 pages. Several long articles were written by Gary, including a detailed review of Timothy Leary’s The Game of Life—which I plan to synopsize when time allows. It’s fascinating.
Among the other contributions is a profile of Jason Lotterhand, the beloved teacher of occult Tarot whose weekly lectures were captured in the popular book Thursday Night Tarot. Plus—a surprisingly candid Tarot-related memoir by legendary herbalist Susun Weed. She discusses the melodramas surrounding production of the collaborative Amazon Tarot (good luck finding one), and her own work on a planned (but never published) “Transparent Tarot.”
Also featured in this issue were a few images from Eliot Kolker’s charming Bearot. It’s one of my favorite indie decks, but unfortunately I don’t own a copy. So here’s a snapshot I borrowed from Tarot Garden.
Scattered through every issue of Tarot Network News are advertisements that provide a flavor of Tarot culture during the 1980s and 90s. In Issue 1, Number 4 there’s a small ad for Magickal Blend, promising the magazine will “take you on a transformative journey as it explores ancient and modern myths, magic and mysticism, charting the development of a new global age.”
Slickly produced and widely circulated, Magickal Blend lasted an amazing 100 issues, from 1979 to 2006. So you might be interested in a short history of the publication, written by one of its founders.
Looking over my issues of Tarot Network News, I’ve found a lot of content I’d like to share with new audiences. Not sure yet how to do that, but will think of something!
Lore: A Tarot-themed Art Exhibit
In 2011, the UK’s Focal Point gallery put together an exhibition titled “Outrageous Fortune: Artists Remake the Tarot.” And curator Andrew Hunt’s idea for organizing the show was as complex as a Tarot reading.
Each artist from a selected group was asked to recruit five more artists—creating a randomized group with unpredictable connections. Each of the resulting 78 participants was assigned a Tarot card, based purely on chance, and was asked to create a work inspired by the card.
Artists were free to use any medium, but almost all submitted paintings. Works were required to measure 428 x 285 mm (roughly 11 x 17 in).
The show itself was arranged in three gallery rooms, and in each room there was a posted list of the Tarot cards for that room, in their traditional order. The art works were displayed in the same order—so visitors had to match the card on the list to the art on the wall.
Echoes (often distant) of essential Tarot ideas and iconography were the only common denominator of the show’s artworks, which range from minimalist graphic prints to complex collages to manipulated photographs. Some of them bear an obvious—even super-obvious—relation to the assigned Tarot card, while others could not possibly be matched to the assigned image without following the map.
But all of them are fascinating, in the sense that they represent how artists unfamiliar with the Tarot take a limited amount of information about a single card, and create in their own style a small work intended to reflect that card.
There’s no coherent album of the show online—and the booklet that evidently went with it seems oddly mixed up, at least in the version I saw. The artworks were reproduced in a conventional deck format, with the 1000 numbered copies distributed by seemingly random means. And if there’s one of them still to be had somewhere, I couldn’t find it.
But! I’ve matched up a few of the artworks with their assigned cards, so you can get a small idea of the show’s diversity.
“The Magician” by Melanie Gilligan
“The Hanged Man” by Dawn Mellor
“Death” by Simon Popper
“Nine of Swords” by Mike Nelson
“King of Wands” by Dan Rees
“Two of Pentacles” by Adam Chodzko
“Ace of Chalices” by Anna Barriball
“Five of Swords” by Ruth Ewan
So that’s a very brief virtual tour of the show, which traveled to several different galleries and caught attention among UK art-lovers. Some of the artists contributing to the show were very well-known—including Suzanne Treister, whose Hexen 2.0 project was the subject of Newsletter 0.28.
Extra note: While gathering information about “Outrageous Fortune,” I came across two other Tarot-themed creative projects: a one-woman tour de force and a unique dance presentation. I’ll try to share more about those soon.
Warmest regards, Cynthia