Is magic art?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Sherlock, Nov 22, 2009.


Is Magic art?

  1. Yes

    41 vote(s)
  2. No

    4 vote(s)
  3. It can be

    30 vote(s)
  1. I realize there are other threads trying to talk about this subject, but let's see what can become of this.

    So about the above question, my thoughts are simply this. I see it from most people as just tricks, however a few people I really see magic as true art.

    Do you really feel that you perform art? In my eyes, and by many definitions from several different dictionaries that it involves some sort of emotion. Some sort of trigger to make it amazing, different, something beautiful.

    Still think you perform magic as art? Many of you don't, I know I'm still working on making every real performance not only memorable but trigger something that isn't just astonishing but something more.

    So lets talk about some great magicians who really have the performances to pull this off. Copperfield as crazy as he is is amazing and has certainly invoked some thought amongst his crowds. My second is Derren Brown, Evening of Wonders is as close to a real psychic you will ever get. As close to mindreading, psychokinesis, all the stuff psychics could do he pretty much did.

    Watch some of the faces of the people, they second guess themselves. They honestly think that this guy could be real, this could be a real psychic. That's what we need to strive for is something that amazing.
  2. It can be. Just like anything. It depends on the performer.

  3. art is forcing an emotional response from someone. magic does that. therefore to me, if i can control the emotions it is art.
  4. Yea but not every magicains does that, only the good ones.
  5. I’ve been seeing too many topics lately discussing “The Art of Magic” or “Advancing Magic as an Art”. These topics take for granted that magic is an art. I don’t agree with that opinion and I’m going to explain why. Along the way I’ll offer some viewpoints on magic as an art. The goal of this essay is to draw comparisons between “magic” and “art”.

    I’ll compare magic to the art I’m most familiar with, contemporary visual art. If you ask art historians or theorists to define art you will probably get a different answer from each one. I think the most common definition of art used by the public at large is that art is a form of “self expression”. I think this is far too simplistic. You can express yourself by the clothes you wear or the stuff you buy. That doesn’t make fashion or consumerism art.

    I don’t have anywhere near the conceptual or educational background needed to attempt to define contemporary art. I’ll limit this to two key points that I think play a part in defining art, and particularly contemporary art. I’ll compare magic to these two main points.

    I’d just like to point out that comparing contemporary art to magic is a stupid thing to do. Contemporary art plays an important intellectual and cultural role in society. For the most part magic is a bunch of people doing tricks. This is really my point. Calling magic an art places it in the same category as literature, sculpture, dance, theatre or film. Magic can be a wonderfully enriching form of entertainment and amazement. It can reconnect audiences with a childlike sense of wonder, but I think talking about “the Art of Magic” is pretentious. A card trick isn’t a shark in formaldehyde. A coin trick isn’t an unmade bed. Being able to simulate reading someone’s mind isn’t an upturned urinal.

    The first defining element of art is the way that art engages in dialogue with society, culture and philosophy. Art is involved in a give and take with the society it exists within. Contemporary (or Avant Garde) art evolves and shifts in reaction to the changes that society undergoes. Dada had its roots in the First World War, which presented death and destruction on a scale never seen before in Western Society. Dada was a way of making sense of the absurdity of life and making life, and art, absurd. Surrealism had its basis in Freud’s theories of the unconscious. Art can be a reflection of a particular society or time.

    Does magic do this? If you were to watch a magician in the 1940s compared to now, would there be a noticeable difference? Magic seems to be stuck in a fixed mode that makes no reference to the world in which we live. To paraphrase Eric Mead’s wonderful essay “Say Anything” in his book Tangled Web, being a performer gives a platform for communication. What are we using this platform to say? For the most part it’s magic for the blind. Magic doesn’t evolve or shift in relation to the outside world. Sure, magic does change at times. Take street magic. Although arguable, I think this shift was purely on the basis of commerce. Street Magic targeted a particular audience and shifted magic to make it appealing to the target consumer. Magic remains fixed, unchanged, unyielding. We make no attempt to be relevant, culturally up to date. We could we transplanted back fifty years and our scripts would still be perfectly relevant.

    The second key point that I think defines contemporary art is controversy. There have been some spectacular controversies which left the art world and were picked up by the world at large. My personal favourite is the work of Piero Manzoni. Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin are two other artists whose work has generated controversy. The incredible shift in art that Picasso and Braques brought about was controversial. Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending the Staircase” was harshly savaged and mocked by some critics at the time. The constant progression of art within a society means some ideas are too new or daring for the public to accept. The ideas and concepts being put forth by artists are challenged by those both within and without the art world. It ignites debate. The punter in the street asks “Is this s**t art?” Looking back with hindsight we realise that artists were often responsible for making incredible leaps forward in terms of aesthetic or conceptual ideas.

    When was the last time a magic act or performer ignited controversy outside of the magic world? If we’re really conveying some type of viewpoint some people won’t agree with what we’re saying. This could lead to controversy. If we’re bland and tasteless everyone will be just fine with us. We’ll be entertainers, not artists. No one has ever complained about a Ken Done painting. Actually, I’m sure people have complained about Ken Done paintings but I don’t think it was on the basis of it’s conceptual value. “Is this s***t art?”

    In his book Designing Miracles Darwin Ortiz observes that magicians seem to be the only group who prattle on about art. Other people talk about CRAFT. I’ve found this to be very true. Other creative people I know like artists talk about the aesthetics of their works, the materials used, the conceptual framework involved in the work or the theoretical underpinnings. They don’t spend time discussing “the art” or how to further “the art”, they spend time discussing specific aspects of their work or the work of others. They work on their technical skills. They organise exhibitions. They clarify and research the conceptual ideas and philosophies that underpin their art practice.

    Just because you think something is an art doesn’t make it one. If you ask a layperson if they think magic is art, what will their viewpoint be? Entertaining with magic isn’t an art because of the profoundly low level of craft in magic. Entertaining with magic isn’t an art because it offers no reflections to the world we live in. Magic doesn’t evolve and shift with changes in society. Magic doesn’t ignite controversy. Before we start discussing how can advance the “Art of Magic” let’s think about how we can improve as performers. Let’s discuss with each other how we can enhance the design of our effects. Let’s work at creating better emotional hooks for our scripts. Let’s work at being more memorable as performers. Let’s work at expressing some of our viewpoints to the people we’re performing for. Perhaps then we can start calling ourselves artists.

  6. How can you think fashion is not an art?
  7. You sir are someone I could really talk to. Even though I agreed with much of your post I disagree on some key points throughout it.

    First of all I do not believe you take your magic to a very good point, or at least don't perform at the level I have seen some people at. This is fine, I have not reached this level yet either but I am working on the craft to make it art. Also quickly saying, I am not trying to advance the art of magic, I would try advance the craft, and it seems others are trying to advance something they cannot. The simple reason is their craft is highly disturbed and is something they don't work on in entirety, just one or two key points.

    The problem with art today is that it doesn't make any sense to those outside of the art circle. What's easier to understand contemporary art or someone showing you a little "miracle?" That's the difference in this and what you were trying to convey in your post. I don't, no, I shouldn't need the degree or the understanding or the years to comprehend something truly awe inspiring when I see it.

    The controversy you speak of is unnecessary in magic. Why do you need controversy to make art? I understand it could make it more powerful perhaps, but to need it to be called art is an overstatement. I barely heard of the world controversy of these pieces, and I do watch the news and go over the paper. So if I missed something about someone nude going down a staircase I must have been sick or blind.

    The beauty about magic and a huge flaw is of course the relevant state of what is said in a routine. It's a timeless piece that still entertains crowds of people everyday. The problem is the scripts and performances you see where indeed the presentation is utter garbage and does not relate to the anything in the outside world. I have no real presentational pieces delving outside of the magic world, but do you?

    Not a challenge or saying if you can't do it why are you saying it. This is a legitimate question for you and would like to know what you have come up with. What on earth would you talk about in your magic piece that would trigger the emotional state, the recent army shootings, or perhaps go back on 9/11. You just hear about bad stuff around the world so it's hard to connect with something that people would disagree with you on, or just make it to emotional.

    Most of your post made very good sense, however part of this last paragraph is just rubbish to be honest. Ask someone outside of contemporary art if an upturned urinal is art and what do you think their answer will be. What happens if you explain the meaning, show an example and perhaps something astonishing of the example the upturned urinal is explaining? They will probably still feel it's quite stupid but they will understand a bit more and have more appreciation I would hope. Same thing with magic, if you performed something that really astonished them, made sense in whatever presentational piece you had, and then obviously had the example in the effect then I'm certain they would see things a bit differently.

    The ending of your post is good, and if you want I would gladly talk to you and maybe gather some other serious people and talk about advancing the craft. If you would be game I'm sure I can set some things up with people and see what we can get going.

    Again I agree with much of your posts but I think you haven't reached a time in your performance where you made your audience gasp, cry, be completely astonished in the ways you only dreamed about. That's what the art is whether contemporary, modern, fashion,magic or w/e it is that's something we strive for in all categories.
  8. Wow

    Wow dude/dudet, thats such a jerk thing to say, all magicians once suck, I bet you did too, but without magicians sucking then when you think about there would be no good effects. It takes the people that aren't magicians or not that good to come up with effects. Most effects are dirrived, as people said, from emotions and as a magican you aren't going to obtain the feeling of wonderment from magic as much as someone who has little or no idea how magic works. When you have no idea how magic works you think that anything is possible, and if you hold on to those thoughts than the effect can later become possible with experience and knowlage. So just because someone isn't very good does not mean that they can show magic as an artform.

    Personal I fully think that magic is an art, it would take a very good argument to sway me form my decision and I doubt that anyone can.
  9. HAHA upside down urinal, holy crap that made my day, well spoken!

  10. IF this guy did not hit it on the nose I don't know what will..... damn that was just an awsome example
  11. I believe you are missing the point.

    not everyone is a good actor, a lot of what ive seen having to do with magic in my opinion as an art revolves around ones ability to control feelings. To force an emotional response.

    take for example the trick Frozen by Adam Grace, if you dont know it, it involves visually freezing a quarter with your breath.

    Now, this is a VERY visual trick, i mean, there is forced frost that looks as if its coming from inside the magician and VISUALLY freezing the quarter. Ive watched the dvd a few times, and although the trick isnt my cup of tea, he is a very good actor and gets some AMAZING results (yeah yeah, i know they're edited to be the best of the bunch) but even if they werent all amazing, its the tension, the story line, the patter that makes it just memorable.

    I saw the same trick on youtube, and this guy was just ruining the trick, he took the coin, froze it and said look, its frozen, isnt that cool. The spec was like, oh thats neat, and there were 3 specs at the table.

    Just pathetic!

    Magic and sleight of hand isnt just about skill, practice and talent, its about the ability to act, and USING sleights and what not produce something that BECOMES magical.

    And to the reply to my first post, youre right, only the good ones do it because they've made it that far using their acting skill to make themselves known. the rest who cant act, or do dont understand the importance of acting dont make it past working in a shop.

    (not knocking those who work in shops mind you, i dont plan on becoming famous, not my goal and i sure wouldnt mind working in a shop, but not if i wanted to become famous.)

    I hope that makes sense to someone other than myself.
  12. I'm not going to post a long winded intelectual reply. I will say this. Magic is a performance and performance is an art. Therefore Magic is a Performance art.

    'snuff said.
  13. #14 Sherlock, Nov 23, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 23, 2009
    Don't call someone dude if you want to be taken serious on something. Did he ever say that he never sucked or anything or about people sucking? Your post makes no sense, anywhere, and maybe it's the grammar but some of it is just plain incomprehensible. You unfortunately still have the little kid magic in you not the more "mature" understanding of magic.

    Now to clarify the post you are complaining about. He, which I suppose is a he, talks about that many people do not have the skills to pull off the real magic that magicians want. I still haven't reached that potential, my guess is nobody that has posted in this thread has reached it. It's not something easily obtainable and it's very rare.

    I see to many magicians showing cool tricks and not attempting to show magic effects. These people need to be shown what's being done wrong, it's not about showing something that makes the audience look stupid or you like some sort of trickster. All about astonishment and what message you can convey to your specs that actually hits some sort of emotion, some sort of feeling.

    You need to open your eyes more, and I can tell you are young since you took his non bashing post and whined about it. He made a legitimate post about the art in magic.
  14. I understand as this has been over before. I know your thoughts on this and it's cool you don't post on them again.

    The reason behind me asking about this is like Maud had wrote, about advancing the craft not the art. I do not see any way to advance something so difficult when we haven't even worked on some of the easier subjects.

    So whoever reads this please do not post about advancing art of magic. Don't care to see it and is not on point of the discussion.
  15. I was going to say the exact same thing. The definition doesn't get any more basic than that.
  16. Art does not exist. Artists do. Sometimes Music is just music, film is just film, brick laying is just brick laying, and magic is sometimes just trickery. It's up to the artist to turn these things into what we call art. It's not art just because you do it, it's art because of what you make it.
  17. #19 Mat La Vore, Nov 23, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 23, 2009
    "Is magic art?"
    Straight up answer? As a whole? No. Now...

    Darwin Ortiz has some good stuff on this subject in his last book.

    For one, he very accurately states that magicians spend too much time running around worrying about whether what they are doing is art or not. More so than any other artists and performers, magicians, for some reason, love to throw around the word 'art.'

    I also agree with Ortiz's take on it. He says magic, in itself, is not an art, but a craft. It can be art, at times, depending on the performer, the spectators, the effect, and whether or not the moons are aligned. It's not unlike something like tightrope walking. It is a craft. But then someone like Philippe Petit comes along and takes to another level, where it becomes art. Or Cirque du Soleil, for example--they take people who have mastered different crafts and, through production, present it as something more.

    So, in short, obsessing over whether your craft is art or not is moot. When your magic rises above craft and becomes art, enjoy it. Strive to make it so. But realize that more ofen than not what you are presenting is a craft. Accept it and stop obsessing over the word 'art,' and you'll do yourself a favor.
  18. It's not arrogant, it's more so of an opinion but in my mind a very correct one. What in that performance is good at all really? Other webcam on youtube and the same old effect with the same meaningless patter.

    Do you think it was art Rmana? If you say yes then please stop lying.

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