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Are tricks magic or part of magic?

Jul 16, 2022
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I always cringe when I see magicians call themselves 'slieght of hand artists', and openly say to everyone they just do tricks.
I also have seen mentalists 'explain' what they do with pseudo explanations. My question is why?
In my act I tell people exactly what I am doing ( non verbal suggestions, verbal suggestions and intuition), and I just don't get why we have to use tricks, misdirection and deception.
For me this is something that was created with reductionist and 'logical' society. Even though they are wrong, it's easy to come with explanations for what they have seen.
I live in a country where most people are superstitious and believe in paranormal, and I am probably the most sceptic person here. After my act I meet people who believe I have some kind of power.
My last questions are, can we present magic that is genuine without false explanations and tricks? If we can why don't we?
 

JoshL8

Elite Member
Aug 5, 2017
349
351
WA state USA
My 2cents, take with salt!
There’s often a chapter or at least a paragraph or two in many magic books that discusses elevating your performance from mere tricks to magic. Lots of magicians try to cultivate a “Magical Atmosphere” where magic is possible and likely around them (moderator Michael O’Brien on here does a good job of this).…but yeah this can be destroyed by giving sleight of hand as the reason things are happening. ”OMG that’s impossible” can be brought down to “you must have done something tricky”. A magical atmosphere leaves no possible explanation AND none needed because the audience is along for the ride. This is generally the rule but of course there are exceptions…

Gregory Wilson is more a con man character, Chef Anton too…Either of them being the reason for the magic still works for the audiences. I think this is because their characters satisfy the audiences need for an explanation and not their methods. Gregory Wilson doesn’t merely do sneaky things..he IS sneaky.

This leans a bit into gambling acts, they might give both pseudo and real explanations. They want you to watch and for you to still not be able to catch them. I know some gambling acts are basically demonstrations of skill but others like Antons are certainly in the realm of magic. Jason Ladanye’s too, he uploaded his castle act to YouTube and it’s a really fun set.

While these examples don’t really have a “magical“ atmosphere they certainly have their own atmosphere and clearly are not performing mere “tricks”. It takes lots of skill to be the exception to the rules…many magicians try to break rules but fall short partly because you have to understand the rules really well to understand how to break them. The people I listed are great performers!

With mentalism though I think the explanations being the performers skills gets tricky depending on your powers and the atmosphere you are cultivating. Someone’s whose supposed skill is reading minds is different from someone who reads body language. Like how do they read minds… Do they see shapes colors, hear sounds?….now how do they read body language….self explanatory. A tongue in cheek atmosphere will have an easier time reading minds than a serious one, reading body language sounds quite plausible though to many people and no suspension of disbelieve or wink and nod are needed for most audiences to accept the idea.
 

JoshL8

Elite Member
Aug 5, 2017
349
351
WA state USA
My previous post is a bit rambling around and not as explicit as it could be. The tldr version of it is ….some methods just don’t lend themselves to a genuine explanation without ruining the atmosphere. And Character/persona matters.
 

WitchDocIsIn

Elite Member
Sep 13, 2008
5,808
2,908
It's kind of a complicated situation that starts out a long time ago.

Back in the late 1800s I believe, it wasn't uncommon for magicians to claim what they did was real. Folks like Houdini, claiming to be "skeptics" (but really, they're mostly just cynics) would expose those magicians as frauds. And because Houdini was the biggest name around at the time, it became "cool" to also expose spiritualists and magicians.

That trend continued and was boosted by folks like The Amazing Randi who used the "skeptic" angle to bolster their own careers.

With high profile people making it their personal mission to "save" people from fraudulent claims, it was just easier for some time to be up front about just doing tricks - that way you weren't making any false claims that could be exposed.

Then it just became what people did. Unfortunately in magic, as with many performance or creative pursuits, copying is very common. So for the past several decades when people would learn magic, they would just copy whoever was teaching them. That meant a lot of people were just copying the scripts of the folks before them, and those scripts often consisted of basically saying, "this is all tricks, sleight of hand, I'm just so skilled you can't catch me".

Personally I find this approach to be very boring. And it also creates the issue of audiences thinking the goal of the show is catch the performing doing something sneaky. So I avoid both the issue of "false claims" and the issue of challenging the audience by putting the emphasis on the experience the audience is having rather than how I'm doing any of the things they are experiencing.
 
Jul 18, 2022
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There is nothing paranormal or supernatural about magic tricks. Magicians achieve illusions through practiced deception. It is a form of acting in which the artist presents one reality to the audience member, hiding another reality—actions that only they are aware of.
 

WitchDocIsIn

Elite Member
Sep 13, 2008
5,808
2,908
There is nothing paranormal or supernatural about magic tricks. Magicians achieve illusions through practiced deception. It is a form of acting in which the artist presents one reality to the audience member, hiding another reality—actions that only they are aware of.

While you are not wrong, this is a very reductionist view of the performance of magic. Furthermore it is an approach to the performance of magic that will rarely if ever provide a truly magical experience for an audience. Generally speaking if a performer gives an explanation along the lines of, "this is all tricks," or "I achieve everything you see via sleight of hand" the audience will at best walk away impressed by the skills, maybe perplexed by how they could have missed the methods. This is not a magical experience.

I believe the key to creating a magical experience is to allow the audience to buy into an alternate reality presented by the performer. This reality can be very similar to our subjective reality, or it can be wildly different. Examples could be a gambling demo for the first, and a spookshow for the latter.

Now personally a lot of what I do on stage is honest - I use as little deception in my performances as I can, instead relying on the power of narrative and atmosphere, suggestion, and other story telling skills while are simply illustrated by the "tricks". The point of the performance is the experience of the stories, not the "ta da" moments of the tricks.

To my knowledge, very few performers do this, but it has always been very well received in my experience.
 
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