Alejandro Jodorowsky - Conversation taken from TTA8 - AW 2014
Interview Gabriela Jauregui
Photos Pascale Montandon-Jodorowsky
In addition to being a polyvalent artist, Alejandro Jodorowsky is perhaps one of the most well-traveled people on this earth: his voyages span multiple continents not to mention the sunny and shady spots on the astral plane. This theme is present in his many comic books and most vividly in the films that have made him famous and which invite us to join him on the trip, as does his latest The Dance of Reality (2013). He is an avis rara but, as this conversation reveals, this does not mean he flies solo.
I'd like to use the minor arcana Tarot card of The Traveler to open this conversation, or as a metaphor to frame it. Could you tell us what this card has meant to you in particular?
When I was 20 years old and I was trapped between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean in Santiago de Chile, an old lady gave me a Tarot reading. I got the minor arcana of The Traveler. She told me: "You will travel endlessly across the planet." I had no money saved up, I only spoke Spanish and felt that the rest of the world was a million miles away, so I didn't believe her. Nevertheless an inkling of a doubt remained, which led me to ask my father to lend me some money to travel to France with the pretext that I would study under Gaston Bachelard, join Breton's surrealist group and work in Marcel Marceau's mime troupe. My father paid for a ticket in a third class boat and gave me a check for one hundred dollars. That's how I got to Paris and worked with those three mythical masters, and began a series of journeys that still hasn't ended.
You’ve travelled extensively, from your native village of Tocopilla to Paris, through Mexico with several intermediate stops. How has this impacted your life and work?
To travel, wherever and however, is to open up the limits of our spirit from those instilled by our family, society and national culture. When I was planning to shoot The Holy Mountain I knew I had to depict a spiritual master, a sort of guru and magician, so I needed the help of a real one. For 17,000 dollars I hired Oscar Ichazo, the interesting founder of the Arica method, in order that he would enlighten me within a week. He came to Mexico and we locked ourselves in a room. His essential lesson consisted in making me drink an orange powder dissolved in water. It was LSD. I was delirious for 8 hours, guided by him. That changed my perspective both on art and life.
I completed my studies by eating mushrooms with María Sabina, an old Indian sage and saint. I was surprised to find I’d turned into a lion. Afterwards I turned back to my human form, ejected spiritual filaments from my navel, and through each one I was linked to a different star. My senses became more acute. I could feel the delight of our planet turning and purring like a happy cat that offers her surface to the sun’s heat. I knew then that life was happiness.
In The Holy Mountain, as well as in your other masterpiece El Topo, you portray spiritual quests or trips. Do you think that the traveler is always a seeker?
The spiritual traveler isn’t an empty seeker waiting for something to fill him. He is someone with a full heart who goes forth from one encounter to another, tying together links that will end up building a sort of ladder, which will lead him to the most essential of discoveries – the encounter with himself. I define travel as going from myself to myself. To arrive from everyone's past, to the individual present, and head towards everyone's future.
So what do you think is the difference between a traveler and a tourist?
The traveler follows a vertical path, moving simultaneously towards the bottom of the earth and the bottom of the sky. The tourist follows a horizontal path, remaining on the surface of everything.
Is there a trip you haven't yet made, yet have always wanted to make?
I would like to reach that frontier that we call death, and to observe with full awareness how I dissolve in the divine void.
It's not that I move between worlds that are alien to my spirit. Rather, it is my spirit that spreads onto different paths. Imagine a pond full of crystalline water: the world. Then imagine that a portion of oil falls in that pond. The ripples in the water disaggregate the oil into droplets. When the water calms, the drops start to come together until they form a single unit. That is my creative activity.
Similarly, your work has been and continues to be an important influence among different generations who trip out on your imagery, your words, your philosophy. Why do you think your work is so timeless and travels so well between such different kinds of people?
I think it's because I do not have any interior definitions: I do not identify with my name, my age, mi nationality or race, nor with a sexual identity – I am an artist without labels. I have this motto: "What I give, I give to myself. What I do not give, I take away from myself. I do not want anything for myself that isn't for everyone."
The Huichol Indians carry a woven sack or basket, called Takwatsi, where they keep their objects of power and magical paraphernalia for trips and pilgrimages. If you had a Takwatsi, what would you carry in it?
A Marseille Tarot (the one I have restored with the editor Camoin).
If you could go on a trip with anyone, who would be your ideal companion?
I would go with my wife Pascale, my three sons, my deceased Zen master, Ejo Takata, my deceased Mexican healer, Pachita, and my deceased cat, Kazan.
Finally, what do you hope to find on your last trip?
The God I have spent my life creating.
For information on Alejandro Jodorowsky's latest projects click here.