In Alexandro Jodorowsky’s apartment in Paris, very close to the bistro where he does a tarot reading once a week. It is a large, old-fashioned apartment full of books.

On one wall, there are many figures of widely differing origins, keepsakes, posters of his films. Antje points at a blue Hindu figure with numerous arms.


A: That one there is incredible.

J: Thanks. Which one, the blue one?

A: Yes, the blue one.


On the shelf is a photo of Jodorowsky and his wife Marianne Kosta. Beside it there are three earthenware blocks that look like gold bars. I pick one of them up.


A: What is it?

J: My son paid me for everything I did for him. With fakes, made of fake gold. There were an awful lot of them, but there were so many I only kept four. It’s a payment for everything I did for him.


I lay out my objects on a table. The tin with the black ball, the meteorite, the clay hand that is a teapot, the shell. I forgot the Buddha hand and left it behind in Berlin. The Osage Orange exists only virtually. The white stone gets added only two months later. I ask him about the meaning of the objects. Jodorowsky writes the answers on small post-its. When I notice he is ready to answer other questions as well, I ask permission to record the conversation.


J: Where’s the mike?

A; The mike’s here.

J: OK. So look. You’re showing me objects made by nature, like a shell or a meteorite, and other objects made by human hand, like the hand, that is a teapot or the box with a black ball in it. But at any rate, whoever the creators of these objects were, they all have a language of their own. It is the language of objects. But it’s not a language you can speak. You can feel it. But you can translate it into words, into our language, you can make a translation. That’s possible. They provoke an artistic reaction in us, if you like… The reaction can be an emotional reaction, emotion doesn’t have words, or an intellectual reaction reaction reaction – with words. Poetic words. OK – it’s an encounter. But personally, I think that you who are talking to me and have come to see me, you’re yourself like an object. I can’t talk that language, the language of your objects. I might think there’s a degree of madness in your relationship with your objects. I might think that. But I can’t know why you do that, but I can interpret it, and I can give a reply in my own idiom. So I can be a translator of what I see. I cannot say what I sense here because all you sense are not words. Words are not the thing. Words aren’t the thing.

OK, so you have a gift for choosing objects that reflect you—a reflection of your mysterious unconscious self that even you yourself don’t know. So it’s your unconscious self that prompts you to speak via objects you find. It’s your inner beauty you are looking for. Right? Inner beauty that you don’t get to express in other ways apart from finding objects in the world and the cosmos that will represent you. So, in the end, you’ve showed me parts of yourself. There. OK? Parts of yourself.


A: Yes.


J: So that allows me to believe that your parents haven’t seen you. Your father and your mother haven’t seen you. And that you desperately want to be seen. But you don’t get to express yourself. But the way to express yourself is a choice. I, I have chosen certain objects. Right? And these objects here, they’re me. In the world.

A: And if for example you were to come across those objects in another context, without me, in a shop, for example…

J: That depends, it depends—for example the shells, they’re so lovely and natural, they’re good enough for museums as far as I’m concerned. But the little box with the ball, I wouldn’t come across that. On the other hand, the hand that’s a teapot, I like that a lot.

A: Hmmm.

J: I like that a lot, it is talking to me.

A: Yes.

J: That teapot hand.

A: In fact, I made a connection between you and the hand.

J: That talks to me.

A: In the end, it’s the hand I came with. That’s why I even forgot two objects because the hand was on my mind so much.

J: One might think that the hand clenched in a fist contains a little bit of something. But the open hand—the whole world can pass through an open hand. So that hand, which as a teapot is half-open, it’s the hand that gives. And what I give, I give it to myself. To receive the world is to give to the world.

A: Hmmm.

J: It says something to me, that little hand. It’s a generous hand. I like it. You see.— The shells on the other hand, I see death in the shells. That’s a dead being for me. And the meteorite as well. But they have a power, the meteorite, awareness, because all matter contains awareness. And the shells contain memories. It’s memory. All the memory of the world, the creation of the world, is in that shell. It’s a memory. So that’s interesting.

A: Yes.

J: And the other thing, the little box with the black ball, that’s magic. Because you open it, and inside it there’s a mystery. The black ball, that’s mystery. It’s a display of mystery. And inside the black ball, there’s—for me, it’s the symbol of all the Buddhisms, the mental void. Mental emptiness. So that’s good. That’s interesting.

A: Yes, with this ball, I’ve done performances. I played on the ground. Here in Paris too.

J: You have to know there was a living creature in these shells!

A: Yes.

J: It should be said, it’s a skeleton. It’s the memory of someone. You’re saying that the meteorite, we don’t know whether they are pieces of planets, or they are stones from space. Which travel from one system to another, so they are messengers. Of life. That’s not a dead being for me, a meteorite. It’s a condensate of life. A meteorite.

The shell, on the other hand, is a beautiful shape that used to contain a living creature. An organism. But which possessed a memory, that’s why I say it’s is a memory. It’s like a petrified universe. Yes.

A: And the open hand, that’s perhaps—I hope you don’t think I’m crazy. I haven’t really presented myself, but I’m a serious artist, I don’t think I’m mad—

J: I don’t judge you.

A: OK.

J: I don’t judge people. For me, you’re like one of your objects. You come, you tell me, you tell me: interpret me, interpret my objects, I’m doing it, that’s all!

A: Yes.—And for my part, I made a connection between the hand and you. That’s because, when I was here for the tarot a year ago, I wasn’t chosen, I didn’t speak to you, but I saw you in conversation, and my impression was exactly that, that you’re really like this open hand that gives a lot to people…

J: When I do tarot readings. Not all the time.

A: Yes. Perhaps I came just to—find out how to do it—to become more like that—to open my hand.

J: (laughs) I didn’t become like that. I was like that. I was born like that. You see, I’ve been like that since I was born. It was a principle that was in me. You don’t become—you are born like that.

A: My question wasn’t a good one.

J: I’ve developed it into an art. The art of Tarot, for me that’s an art. So it’s the tarots that brought me to it. I developed it. And that’s how I came that far. Without trying. It does it all by itself.

I always wondered what sanctity is. There are champions, heroes, geniuses, saints! No. So, I wanted to know what sanctity is. OK, for me, sanctity goes with churches. There’s Catholic sanctity, Muslim sanctity, Buddhist sanctity, OK? And the just man of the Jews. They all have different ideas, because they’re part of the prejudices of the churches. So I wondered what civil sanctity is. How a being that does not belong to any moral law of a religion can perform acts of sanctity without belonging to any sect—simply out of love for humanity. Or perhaps not even for that—simply out of love for art. You understand?

A: Yes.

J: So I began to imitate sanctity. Every Wednesday I imitate sanctity. Sanctity is being at other people’s service. Without judging them. Except of course, seeing the inner treasure everyone has. And trying to awaken it. Without any desire for profit, because I do it for nothing. Not even a word of thanks. Without deriving any benefit. No benefits. Simply doing it for the pleasure of doing it. OK. And that’s why I do that. I imitate sanctity.

A: And why ‘imitate’?

J: I put it on, I’m not saintly by nature. I imitate.

A: For me, you ….

J: I imitate, I imitate. I do that when I think I should be a good person. And I do it.

A: And why you do doubt?

J: I don’t doubt.

A: But why do you say you imitate?

J: What? Why do I say what?

A: For me, you are like that. It’s not imitation.

J: Not all the time. Not all the time. For example, when I’m going to read or in my conferences, everything that’s for others, I suffer a lot in advance. I don’t want to do it. I really suffer, it’s terrible. And then I’m in a bad mood. And once I get there, I change, and afterwards, once it’s over, I’m euphoric and pleased. I pledge myself to go on with it.

A: Yes.

J: And afterwards I ask myself why I pledge myself to do that. I’m mad. It’s years, thirty or so, thirty years I’ve been doing that, and every time, I suffer. And afterwards I do the thing again. So it’s not a state of sanctity. You understand? I imitate.

A: (laughs)

J: I imitate. But it’s a good imitation, because there are people who imitate being an assassin. In reality, I think everyone imitates something. Authenticity is difficult to find. You yourself look for authenticity. To see what you really sense in objects, it’s a quest —a modest one—about objects, isn’t it? But from the moment we’re in our mothers’ wombs, we begin to imitate our families, parents, we have a nationality. Nationality is imitation, it’s not a reality. To be German, or Chilean or French is imitation. Because we’re much more than that. Being a man or women is imitation. Because we’re everything. In reality, we have sexual desires, but that’s not what we are. We’re something else. Age is an imitation. Because spiritual age doesn’t exist. And so on. We imitate thinking, we imitate feeling, we imitate desire. But the real being we don’t see. So to get near it, we have to imitate. And from imitation to imitation, sometimes you get there for a moment. Really, there are moments when you get there. Yes indeed, there are moments you get there. (laughs)

But every act of kindness I do, I force myself. It’s not natural, I force myself to do it.

A: So even now, when you’re talking to me?

J: Yes, indeed, I’m forcing myself. Because I’m very busy, you know. You interrupted me there, I worked on something. And I force myself because—because I don’t know—there’s something to look for, isn’t there? And if you think you can find something with me, OK … OK, let’s see if all that will be beneficial for you. But, just the same as I’m doing with you, a month ago, I did it with a whole country. I was in Argentina, and I did an act of social psychomagic, in ESMA {Escuela de Mecánica de la Armada, Buenos Aires}, where people had been tortured and killed and made to disappear, I proposed setting up a metaphorical cemetery—I got 200 tombs constructed where people came to cry. So I forced myself to do an act of kindness towards a country. Yes. Yes.—But I think it’s good to force yourself. Because if you don’t force yourself, the world is heading for destruction.

So what’s art for? When you look at history, what’s left of civilizations is their art. Without art, you wouldn’t know Egypt, nor Greece—with the poems, the books and the sculptures there—what’s left is art. So a country that doesn‘t have art is condemned to disappear. And the loss of beauty is the loss of the world. We lose the world. So you’ll say: what beauty? Well, beauty, it’s a subjective thing. Beauty in itself doesn’t exist, what does exist is a desire for beauty. Doesn’t it? So, everyone will express his desire for beauty one way or another, it doesn’t matter , what matters is someone having a desire for beauty, in his way. And what is terrible is the absence of a desire for beauty. Isn’t it? Now that’s terrible.

A: Yes.

J: That’s the most terrible thing there is, that’s the end of being human. The absence of a desire for beauty. And that’s what’s happened to our society, or, as a mystic philosopher, René Guénon, said, we’ve passed from quality to the reign of quantity. Haven’t we? When things are done in quantity, like today, you lose a sense of beauty. So the world is in danger.

A: Do you think that if you do a tarot reading or you do something for a whole country or if you make a film. It has all the same importance?

J: Yes. Yes. Everything has the same importance. One person, a thousand people, ten thousand people—

A: Yes, it’s the same thing.

J: It’s the same thing as far as the action is concerned. The same artistic action that needs no labor nor much else. I’ve just come from a conference in Chile attended by 6,000 people. And I talked to them the way I’m talking to you. That’s a way of being. It’s the circumstances. But everything you do is a seed that will sprout.

A: Yes.

J: So it’s good to do it. I think, personally, the art that interests me is art that can cure the maladies of our time. That’s the only art that interests me now.   Neurotic art that talks about itself, its personal problems, I find that so dated. It’s not interesting any more. It’s dated. Destructive critical art is dated. And art that profits from pressing social occurences is a disguised form of prostitution. Isn’t it? Why talk of problems or topics that TV and the press bang on about all the time, every day? What use is that to me? That’s what’s wrong with museums. These days, museums are like bawdy houses. Museums. Museums used to be something respectable. Nowadays, museums are like music hall. Commercial shows. They do business. So the concept of free of charge does not exist. Ever since Picasso and Dalí, art has become a kind of stock market. It’s been the death of art.

A: Yes, that’s my problem too, a bit. I’m normally a painter, but now I’ve almost stopped painting, even if I like doing it—normally I’m someone who produces pictures. I have some very strong images in my head I can get down in the end and make into a sellable object, and now I feel more like—how can I say—work with something living rather than have at the end a dead object I sell to someone I don’t know, without any connection except for the money, and I don’t know how to get out of that problem. Because on the other hand, I like painting.

J: That’s reality, that’s how it is now. You have to go on painting and selling.

A: Oh yeah?

I laugh, suprised.

J; Yes, that’s reality. But now what you sell, you must do something that could change the person who buys it, whoever it is.

A: Aha.

J: That can give him something. Not do an empty object that the trade will sell you that can be used to decorate a wall. No, do objects that say something.

A: Yes.

J:So, try to really touch the person that buys it, and really something will come out of it.

A: OK. Thanks.

J: You can’t not sell now. It’s a reality.

A: Thanks. OK. I’ll do that.—Agreed.

J: You have ten minutes, because at six a poet is coming to see me.

A: But I think those were the most important questions for me.

J: Do you want to eat a thing with chocolate?

A: Eh?

J: How about a little thingummy with chocolate? – I’ll show you.


He goes to look for chocolates.


J: It’s Italian.

A: Ah, thanks. – I brought that for you.


I hand him a box of candied fruit.


J: To show me?

A: No, as a present.

J: Oh, good. Ah, so we’ll have that. You want that?

A: And I also wanted to give you the candle.


It’s a wax candle in which the wax has been grooved so it looks like a pine cone.


J: If you like. But it’s so beautiful, it’s good for your collection.

A: No, but I brought it for you.

J: Yes? Ah, now that is nice. –This one was also given to me as present yesterday. A dancer gave it to me.


A plastic wheel with a lamp that goes on and off, so that the room is lit up for brief intervals. A little cat gambols round the room and miaows.


A: Sweet little thing.

J: Yes, still just a kitten.


He opens the box of candied fruit.


J: That’s good! Here, you have one.

A: Thanks.

J: I like that very much.


The little cat miaows.