What will 2017 bring? Consult an 'alternative, feminist, intersectional' tarot deck for the answer

"What Does Our Future Hold?" More than 50 artists from around the world have created a new kind of tarot deck to give you some answers.

This art project isn't just about seeing the future — it's about making it happen

Hobbes Ginsberg. Detail of Four of Cups. (Courtesy of What Does Our Future Hold?)

What's going to happen in 2017?

Frankly, we're still trying to piece together what happened last year. But if 2016 left you with a pile of burning questions — smouldering as endlessly as that dumpster fire of a year — where will you go for answers?

As a lifetime of watching psychic-hotline TV ads would have us believe, getting your fortune read is definitely one option for the New Year — a more predictable scenario than your actual future. And just in time for 2017, there's an all-new tarot deck for the purpose.

Called "What Does Our Future Hold," it's "alternative, feminist and intersectional." (Turns out the centuries-old cards have the same diversity issues as film, TV and other established entertainments.)

But the project's about more than just divining the future. If anything, it's about making it happen. And this vision for 2017 is all about building an international network of artists — one that's inclusive, safe and collaborative for all.

In this day and age, you don't really have any excuse to make a deck — or a show, or whatever — that only includes cis, white, straight artists.- Laurence Philomène, curator

"To me, a lot of the project is about community," says Laurence Philomène. "It's about bringing people together as much as I can." A Montreal photographer, Philomène is a member of The Coven, a feminist art collective that she co-founded in 2012.

From its origins on Tumblr, it's grown to produce IRL projects around the world, including "What Does Our Future Hold," which was co-curated by Philomène and fellow Coven sister Liv Thurley, Ione Gamble (Polyester Zine) and Isabella Podpadec (UK indie-pop band Dream Wife). Between them, they've recruited more than 50 collaborators from their networks, largely young artists from Europe and North America — illustrators, photographers, textile artists, you name it.

Charline Bataille. What Does Our Future Hold? (Courtesy of What Does Our Future Hold?)

The resulting 73-card deck will be launched at a one-night-only event in London this Saturday. Only 50 Risograph-printed copies have been made (an online pre-sale of 20 is already sold out), but Philomène says the deck will be made available for download after the show.

"We wanted to bring a level of diversity to the cards," Philomène tells CBC Arts of the project, and she means that both in terms of the artists involved and the experiences reflected in the cards themselves. "In this day and age, you don't really have any excuse to make a deck — or a show, or whatever — that only includes cis, white, straight artists, for example."

To create the deck, each artist was dealt their card (or cards). From there, they were free to create. "Because each card is really unique, it might lead to different interpretations, I guess, than a regular deck," she says — which might pose a challenge for anyone attempting a reading at the event.

Wishcandy. What Does Our Future Hold? (Courtesy of What Does Our Future Hold?)

Toronto artist Kendra Yee was recruited for the project by Philomène. "There needs to be more alternative, feminist, intersectional spaces within the art world," Yee tells CBC Arts by email — but to her, the project was about more than connecting with 50+ new colleagues.

Everyone on the project illustrated their own personal journeys through their cards, she says, so when the cards are dealt, the viewer isn't just thinking about what those symbols mean to them and their possible future. "By having a diversity of narratives represented, we see the collective connections as well as the individual experience," she writes.

Building empathy and understanding through images is a comforting idea, and Philomène — who grew up having her cards read — says tarot itself has always been "a calming, grounding thing" in her life. Not because of anything to do with seeing the future, she explain: "It helps you learn about yourself in a way. It's about how you relate to your own experiences."

Flora Hammond (a.k.a. flora fauna) is a self-described "casual tarot reader," and the Montreal artist illustrated the Moon Card for the project. "As a queer and mixed-race person, I sometimes have a hard time identifying with bodies that exist outside of grey areas," flora fauna writes CBC Arts. "A tarot deck is a small thing, but I believe you can start as small as you want or as big as you can. All that really matters is that maybe you make one person feel important or happy, that you were another voice telling them, 'You are so worthy and I believe in you and I see you.'"

That's relevant comfort, no matter what year we're entering. "I think in the artist community — and queer communities, trans communities — there's a lot of fear about what the future holds," says Philomène.

"Obviously we're not going to solve any big world issues with this exhibition (laughs) but if we can lift people's spirits for a minute, it's always good to do that."

Preview some of the cards...

The Page of Pentacles, Ambivalently Yours

“Tarot cards are iconic and represent popular archetypes, so they are a perfect starting point through which to subvert ideas of identity and representation. Also, in these terrifying political times, we could all use a more intersectional tool to guide us into an uncertain future," writes Montreal artist Ambivalently Yours. "So much of my work is centered on ideas of ambivalence, duality and having mixed feelings, so this card feels like something I aspire to more than something I embody. In my drawing I tried to represent a feeling of confident defiance while also leaving a touch of uncertainty. In other words, my representation is a question more than a statement." (Courtesy of the artist)

Jasmin Risk, The Hermit

"The Hermit is introspective and sometimes about withdrawal," Jasmin Risk says of her card. Writing from Calgary, she continues: "I wanted to represent a disassociated, abstracted 'body.'" (Courtesy of What Does Our Future Hold?)

10 of Cups, Kendra Yee

Says Toronto artist Kendra Yee: “I've been obsessed with angels verses demons this past couple of months, so all the characters on my card are angel-like figures. Instead of directly representing cups, the main angel is the keeper of 10 stars. It is delivering them to people within the community, connecting everyone together.” (Courtesy of the artist)

The Moon Card, flora fauna

"The moon was a perfect card for me," writes Montreal artist flora fauna. "A lot of the work I do is intuitive rather than intellectual. [...] I simplified a lot of the traditional elements the card is usually composed of, if not completely got rid of them. The figure represented is morphing into and inhabited by the moon and this is something I relate to. I feel like the moon carries a deep sense of melancholy, floating by itself in the shadow of earth. My body sometimes feels haunted, maybe it's the influence of the distant mood hovering in the sky or maybe it's the feeling of not quite belonging anywhere." (Courtesy of the artist)

The Justice Card, Secret Branch

A collaboration between UK-based artists Hannah Le Feuvre and Carmen Hubbard, Le Feuvre wrote CBC Arts about how they approached their card. "We used this chance to do something we had been daydreaming of and took a sort of pilgrimage out of London to the seaside town of Margate. We wanted to try and make a cyanotype on the beach using the seawater and sunlight, which is an organic process of photography. We were interested in the in-between moment, half way between exposure and development. It felt like a magical ritual in the same way the way tarot reading works…maybe the magic lies in the process and interaction and not the physical card. (Courtesy of the artist)

8 of Wands, Amrit Brar

“The 8 of Wands represents the act of things manifesting quickly, speed, a sense of your life transitioning and changing in an abrupt fashion. I chose to illustrate a hare, but it’s stationary, its third eye looking long into a future that changes and fractures more quickly than we can physically keep up with," writes Toronto artist Amrit Brar. (Courtesy of the artist)

7 of Pentacles, Amanda Nicole Craig

“I hadn’t tried tarot before this but have always found symbolic imagery in art really interesting and I have used it a lot in my work," writes Montreal artist Amanda Nicole Craig. "I really love the initiative of the project to create a modern tarot deck that works for a broader group of individuals. Instead of depicting a figure I created an abstract interpretation of what the card represents, focusing on the earth and the sense of movement and time." (Courtesy of the artist)

What Does Our Future Hold? Featuring Laurence Philomene, Hobbes Ginsberg, Maisie Cousins, Ambivalently Yours, Wishcandy, Eleanor Hardwick, Panteha Abareshi, Chloe Sheppard, Liv Thurley, Lu Williams, Brie Moreno, Kendra Yee, Lora Mathis, Lauren Crow, Grace Miceli, Tayler Smith, Bridget Meyne, Ashley Armitage, Lucky Los Santos, Jasmin Risk, Flora Fauna, Starchild Stela, Louise Reimer, Marlena Synchyshyn, Ian, Simon Fortin, Simone Blain, Amanda Craig, Clio Peppiatt, Ayesha Tan Jones, Nina Goodyer, Matthew Pettit, Georgia Haire, Ellie Hoskins, Ryan Humphrey, Joe Watson Price, Dessy Baeva, Wendy Wong, Saffa Khan, Sahar Gilani, Caitlin Hazell, Ava Asaadi, Hatti Rex, Samantha Conlon, Grace Mirindi, Jessica Dyer, Nicolette Iles, Emily Franklin, Amy Gough, Secret Branch (Hannah Le Feuvre + Carmen Hubbard), Niall Gormley, Rachel Povey, Becky McLoughlin , Sinae Lee, Linn Sundqivist, Isabella Podpadec, Alice Go, Charline Bataille, Bao Ngo, Maggie Brennan, Emily Belanger, Clara Talajik, Zuzu Knew, Jon Estwards, Hugo Lloyd Winder, Kiki Nicole, Denzel Wauchope, Mars Hobrecker, Sonia Choi, Amrit Brar, Swarm, Joy Miessi. Saturday, Jan. 7. Dye House 451, London.


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