As explained by local artist Florence Rockwell “The traditional tarot deck imagery is super heteronormative, of only white people and not inclusive of any one outside of the gender binary. There’s very little representation in existing decks for a queer person to relate to. The queer tarot decks that do exist are mostly out of print or very hard to find. Starting with just the Major Arcana, this project aims to create community and tell queer stories through tarot.” This making for a body work that pushes against and successfully breaks from the patriarchy, by placing both person and lived experiences in the place of more recognised iconography. On the project Florence Rockwell spoke with The Melbourne Critique.
What significance does the Tarot hold on your life, and what has it come to more broadly represent to you?
Tarot is significant to me because I was brought up in a super Christian family. When I ran away from the church and felt rejected for my homosexuality, I wanted to have something to turn to for guidance. Tarot has given me that: it offered guidance and a sense of spirituality. It allowed me to become accountable to myself without the over imposing sense of guilt, fear or inadequacy that some religions teach. I became a Tarot apprentice a few years ago and at that time, wasn’t aware of many Tarot decks that specifically spoke to me as a Queer person. This led me to the idea of creating a deck that others in the Queer community can relate to, regardless of their religious, familial or upbringing-related experiences.
What is the importance of the project? Let’s talk about the queering of such an archetype- is this of importance to you and society more generally, and why?
Tarot is a medium that has been around for decades. Even before the associations with the Christian Church, many of us turn to this medium for guidance. For someone like me, seeing universal conceptions and expressions of love, death, change and transition portrayed in a white, Christian, hetero-normative way dulls the impact and the guidance that is accessible through the Tarot understanding and experience.
This project gives voice to the Queer community to express their personal understanding and perception of each archetype.
Love is portrayed in a Queer way with its variations, diversity and acceptance. Death is explored through its relationship with various turbulences, transformations and traumas: starting a new life and letting go of the old one. Someone who’s really experienced massive life shifts as a Queer person tells change, chaos and transitionary periods here. I hope this work is more relatable and powerful through its specific, real-life insight into the Queer life than some vague texts that to me don’t really speak to real life experiences.
What has been involved in the creative process: what have been some of the themes that have coursed through the work and that emerge through due course?
The creative process started in the shower: I believe that a magickal inspiration visited me and I’ve been fortunate enough to have the means, time and resources to bring it to life in this way. When I prepare for a shoot, it’s all about talking to the person I’m shooting: I want to find out what they resonate with, what archetype speaks to them and what their experiences are. We decide how they want to bring it to life in a way or place that they feel comfortable in, and to a level they feel comfortable sharing. It’s been quite a healing but very vulnerable journey for me and for the wonderful people I’ve photographed so far.
Every time I create a new Tarot card it feels as tho I’ve been given a gift by that person: I get to unpack the lessons of each archetype in my life as we do each card. It’s widened my understanding of what Tarot can mean and how these stories can be shared to help others and create community.
There is a ritual or ceremony that will take place on opening night, introduce us to this concept and what this act hopes or will achieve?
I have a Ritual planned for both the Melbourne and Sydney opening nights – fingers crossed it will come together for Daylesford, too. The Ritual will aim to set an intention for the exhibition, thanking the ancestors, the Elders of this land and the country, and call in the corners as we set a circle for the Magick that is the exhibition of these Tarot Cards. I want to show the power of pagan rituals that really connect people and explore how this ceremony is more than “that thing you say at the beginning of an event because it’s politically correct”. This is a Queer take on traditional pagan practices. It honours the elements: the earth and the land we stand and live on, those ancestors who have gone before us, all and every Deity that someone might work with, as well as, the combined energy and power we as a community can create when we have a unified intention and purpose. It comes from the Heart with Love.
What do you hope people walk away from this exhibition having felt, witnessed or experienced?
I hope people will feel like they can share this journey of storytelling. Maybe they have a “me too” moment, or they find a greater connection with these Queer Tarot archetypes that can then guide them when they need support where other practices may have let them down. Most of all, I want to create a feeling of community and connection to something bigger. I want to share different ideas around spirituality or just personal guidance that someone can take or leave as suits or connects them. I want to create a sense of belonging, and show that craft, Tarot and pagan traditions are accessible to all, inclusive and show connection, love and self empowerment in a world that is closed off, emotionally repressive, and discouraging to anyone outside of the social hetero-normative paradigm.