HR Giger

Giger, a Swiss artist who first gained worldwide fame and influence with his design work on Ridley ScottsAlien(up to and including the terrifying alien itself), united the biological and the mechanical in a distinctive and disturbing fashion.

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The first tarot cards appeared in Europe in the mid-fifteenth century, and those who used them used to play simple card games. But as the art of the tarot deck developed to incorporate a host of historical, philosophical, and astronomical symbols, their imagery took on more weight, and a couple hundred years later the cards had become popular instruments of divination. From the late eighteenth century on, one could obtain tarot decks specifically designed for occult purposes, and their artistic variety has only expanded in the 250 or so years since. In the 1990s, the imaginative world of tarot collided with an equally rich set of visions: those ofH.R. Giger.

When Akron approached Giger proposing to collaborate on a deck,according to i09s Lauren Davis, Giger felt that he didnt have the time to create new works that would do the deck justice. So he selected 22 of his existing, previously unpublished pieces for the cards faces. In a later interview, Giger says that he never studied Tarot cards and in fact, had no interest in having his fortune told with them. (Giger claimed he was too superstitious, though he describes Akrons descriptions of the individual cards as sometimes crazy, but funny but not probably very serious.) His mix of occult iconography, demonic organisms, and his trademark biomechanical aesthetic make for apt, if unusually dark Tarot illustrations.

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You can see more of Giger and Akrons tarot deck,available in both English and German, ati09andDangerous Minds. Or better yet,pick up your own deck of cards. While browsing, do keep in mind two things: first, that Gigers visions, even those selected to represent age-old tarot arcana, can certainly get NSFW. Second, even though the artist specialized in nightmarish imagery (hence his popularity on the grimmer side of science fiction) we should resist interpreting them too literally as representations of the future. After all, the cards,as a much more lighthearted production once joked, are vague and mysterious.

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Open Culture editorDan Colmanscours the web for the best educational media. He finds the free courses and audio books you need, the language lessons & movies you want, and plenty of enlightenment in between.

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After seeing Gigers art in his first book of paintingsNecronomicon, a Swiss occultist by the name of Akron understood its potential as tarot imagery. The collections title picture, Akron writes, showed a fascinating monster called Baphomet, the symbol of the connection between the rational and irrational world, the same function performed by the occult tarot deck itself.

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Based in Seoul,Colin Marshallwrites and broadcasts on cities and culture. Hes at work on the bookThe Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, the video seriesThe City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism projectWhere Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of BooksKorea Blog. Follow him on Twitter .

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