Tarot at SFMOMA

Jankowski's Telemistica at SFMOMO

I recently wrote about finding tarot symbols at the Metropolitan Museum in NYC. I just came back from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and was interested to find the video piece, Telemistica,  by Christian Jankowski. Below is the text from the placard, which accompanies it:

Christian Jankowski, German born 1968

Telemistica, 1999, Single-channel video projection with sound, 22 min. Courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery, London

Desperate to come up with a new work for the prestigious Venice Biennale in 1999, Jankowski learned Italian in order to consult with the tarot-card readers popular on Italian television. In this video we hear him speaking live on the telephone with five such fortune tellers, asking each of them questions about the piece he was in the process of realizing and the future of his career. Not surprisingly, all of them predicted that the artist would be a success. These recorded, unrehearsed exchanges became the breakthrough piece in question. Telemistica reveals the tensions between faith and doubt, success and failure, that are inherent in the pressure to deliver a strong work. Jankowski has since collaborated with various television personalities to expand on the notion of art in ways that are both sincere and humorous.

Of course it’s the psychic readers who get television shows. The reader in the photo above gave Jankowski assurance  that he was going to be successful though she had little to offer regarding what he might do to move in that direction. Had I been channel surfing and come across her show, I would have clicked right past it. I find psychic readings to be rather vague and dull. In the context of installation video art, the reading was more interesting. Jankowski, the vulnerable artist seems sincerely in hope of a good prediction as he engages with the reader, while Jankowski the sophisticated artist has the confidence that the viewer will see through the shallowness of the reading without his need to overtly comment.

I would love the opportunity to show Jankowski more substantial ways to use the cards to inspire art.


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