In 1781, the French Protestant pastor Antoine Court de Gébelin wrote an account of the Tarot’s origins. This spectacular story knitted together Ancient Egyptian mythologies, astrology, and the mysticisms of the Kabbalah. No historical evidence was given for his account. In fact, it was complete bullshit. But it’s a fantastic story, and fascination with the Tarot continues today.
This contemporary iteration of the Tarot plays with and distorts the linguistic and iconic sign systems of the deck. At the same time, it blends some of the more terrifying concerns of life today. Characters of the “Major Arcana” along with the Hebrew alphabet and its pre-alphabetic sources are re-interpreted via contemporary sign systems. The design on the back of each card is embedded with a QR code which links the deck to additional online content: stories about agricultural monopolies, institutional surveillance, banking practices, the pharmaceutical industry, pandemics… you get the idea. It’s called Paranoid’s Deck, and there couldn’t be a better time for it!
Ultimately, the project is a massive layering of ideas about “interface” and “randomness.” Language systems, numerical systems, image systems, the Major Arcana as a medium themselves, and finally machine-vision are all five of the interfaces at play in this deck.
The full title of the project is “Tarot Five-Point… Oh! (Paranoid’s Deck).” It debuted in the Typeforce 6 exhibition in February, 2015, at the Co-Prosperity Sphere in Chicago, IL. At the exhibition opening, Madame Pfeffer used the deck to provide readings for visitors. Her summary: “These are the most negative and cynical readings I’ve ever performed.”