Most contemporary art consists on understanding the poetry of objects. An object charged with associations, placed next to another object charged with its own associations, would elicit meaning just as words do….
That is what attracted me about the tarot in the first place. The visual language in the cards reveals… poetic images we read. We see how those streams of water being poured by the woman in The Star resemble the two dogs in The Moon, and we read: “Water runs like wild dogs.” If instead of the moon we have The Sun next to The Star, we read “Water wells up like the embrace of twins.” We find a suggestive image and we let it work on us. It takes the mind of a poet to decode it.
This places the use of tarot within the idea of “magic as the intentional use of symbols to engage the mind in a process of transformation.”
As an alternative, I propose a phenomenological approach to the tarot that doesn’t focus on symbolism as an intellectual construct but rather on the way we experience images.
The turning point would come in the 1960s. Having by now occasionally pre-signed his signature on blank sheets as a way of expediting the printing process, Dalí came to understand that a print-ready sheet bearing his signature was, on its own, already worth $40. The implications were not lost on the artist. Nor on his then-secretary, John Peter Moore, who pulled down a 10 percent commission on every Dalí contract he arranged. Moore would later be singled out as the first to encourage the artist’s excesses.
“With aides at each elbow, one shoving the paper in front of Dalí and the other pulling the signed sheet onto another stack,” writes author Lee Catterall, “it was claimed that Dalí could sign as many as 1,800 sheets an hour for $72,000. The practice provided a quick way to generate payment for a hotel or restaurant bill.” Indeed, having reneged on an agreement to produce 78 tarot card illustrations for the James Bond movie “Live and Let Die,” Dalí would resort to precisely this tactic to settle his debts. Between 1976 and 1977, the artist signed 17,500 blank sheets of paper for the tarot prints that had yet to be produced.