Is magic art?

Is Magic art?

  • Yes

    Votes: 43 55.8%
  • No

    Votes: 4 5.2%
  • It can be

    Votes: 30 39.0%

  • Total voters
    77
Oct 2, 2008
336
0
UK
Jinai.deviantart.com
What is the difference between a man who plays the Blues, compared to a true Blues man? That is the essence of art. To live your magic, just as the Blues man lives his Blues. That is where the line is drawn. Simple as that.

Til then. Magic is no Art. Forget about the techniques, forget about being seasoned, forget about performing as a whole. Its much deeper than that. Something which has always been there. Art is made by man, and the essence should be grapsed.
 
Nov 20, 2007
4,410
6
Sydney, Australia
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.

Although I don't agree with you, I will highlight the post as a very interesting one to discuss. I'm about to fall asleep in front of my computer, but before I do, two quick things about your two points.

Firstly, engagement with society. I would offer the opinion that magic engages with the people who together form society. I understand your point that magic may not challenge social oppression, or any form of "society" per se, or offer anything to say about it... But then again, it may well do so. Eric Mead's performance on TED is an interesting example of engaging with the mentality of modern day audiences towards magic and mystery.

I would also submit that, upon reading Erdnase's presentation for The Exclusive Coterie, that its relevance is very much questionable. Barring Ricky Jay, who is simply a freak of nature, that patter is indubitably outdated.

To your second point, controversy, well, it's an interesting way to look at art. Still, it's important to remember that for every piece of contemporary art that shocked the public, a dozen pieces followed it that did not. From time to time, things create controversy, but it doesn't mean that every piece has to be controversial to be art, obviously.

With that said, one needs only look so far as someone like Derren Brown; given, he's not exactly the stereotypical magician, but his performances certainly create controversy. Performers like Uri Geller create controversy. Not every performer does create controversy, but neither does every piece of art.

In any case, whilst I don't necessarily agree, I like your post, and particularly the suggestions you make at the end - which are relevant regardless of which side one may take.
 
Nov 23, 2009
6
0
Thanks for your thoughts.

I don’t think that magic should be overtly political or attempt to promote some type of subversive message, although it can. I just think it needs to be relevant. This can be as simple as the performer drawing on the large reservoir of popular culture. I’ve seen part of Eric Mead’s performance on TED, and he’s certainly one of magic’s deepest thinkers, with the performing experience and skills to back it up. Someone like Eric Mead is an encouragement and a fantastic example.

I don’t necessarily think that every piece of art should be controversial, but it is an indication that art is constantly moving forward. The example of Derren Brown and Uri Geller are good examples of performers who have generated controversy (outside the magic world) who I hadn’t considered. They are both examples of performers who have pushed beyond what is considered acceptable or commonplace for a magician / mentalist, or whatever label is applied to them.

I just find it bizarre that so many magicians discuss furthering the art of magic as though it’s some lofty nebulous goal. Surely if we improve (our effects, our scripts, working on our characters) then magic will improve too?
 
But is the performance of an effect wheather magic is being based as an art, or is it by the effect itself. If someone with no experience performs an effect as opposed to a profesional who performs the same effect. I am assuming most people would say the latter is an artist though based only on performance. This is determining if the performer is an artist, not if magic is an art which this is what the thread is on right? So you can't base magic as an art through one persons performance, that is judging if they are an artist.
 
Then so be it canada, you can not base an effect alone on whether or not it is art. That's silly, I could take Derren Brown's Q & A routine and give it to some magicians and they would make horrible. Now you get Brown to use it, then you have something that is more than just magic.

If a 12 year old and a world renowned magician both gave the same performance of the effect, and was actually great, then I could call them both artists. Aside from the fact that if there truly was such a thing it wouldn't be called art I guess because of the lack of originality.

That's a different part though, if someone is making art then they are an artist. You actually can base it off someone performance, because if someone makes art then they are obviously an artist. That goes for anything, I don't see how you could see this part any different unless you just disagreed that magic could be an art at all in the right hands.
 
Nov 15, 2007
1,106
2
34
Raleigh, NC
Magicians can be artists, but apparently someone with enough skill to finger paint random waves of colors is also an artist in these modern times.

My drafting teacher in high school, also an accomplished local artist (nothing overwhelming, but you can tell what the hell she was looking at when she was painting it) has a friend whose living room contains a 16 x 20 canvas that was painted using three primary colors, painted by her 3 year old son.

She entered it into a very serious modern art competition. The painting won first place, but upon her recognition towards her son for painting the masterpiece, her first prize was stripped since she entered work that she did not paint. (I think they felt rather silly picking a 3 year old's finger painting over 'serious' artists...)

With that said, I'm not sure if the standards for being art are high enough for me to care whether or not if it's an art. It's what I enjoy doing, and will continue to do so. Calling dog **** art doesn't make it so, but putting into a museum under a glass viewing box very well could make people think that it is.

Art is such a vague term, I'd honestly rather call magic an entertainment skill. At least skills take practice, art has all but lost its meaning in the last however many years.



For the record, I wish I could have been there to see the judges faces drop when she said " I'd like to think my three year old son, without him this wouldn't have been possible, since he's the one who painted this award winning piece."
 
Then so be it canada, you can not base an effect alone on whether or not it is art. That's silly, I could take Derren Brown's Q & A routine and give it to some magicians and they would make horrible. Now you get Brown to use it, then you have something that is more than just magic.

If a 12 year old and a world renowned magician both gave the same performance of the effect, and was actually great, then I could call them both artists. Aside from the fact that if there truly was such a thing it wouldn't be called art I guess because of the lack of originality.

That's a different part though, if someone is making art then they are an artist. You actually can base it off someone performance, because if someone makes art then they are obviously an artist. That goes for anything, I don't see how you could see this part any different unless you just disagreed that magic could be an art at all in the right hands.

I understand what your saying and I agree with you. But that determines weather a person is an artist or not based through the performance of an effect as you said here.

But this isn't saying if this is an artform or not. People have said it on here many times and I have even been asking around at people who are not even magic orientated and they agree, because magic is a performance art it is considered art. Not through a persons performance, that would consider them being and artsit through use of magic.
 
Feb 27, 2008
2,342
1
31
Grand prairie TX
because magic is a performance art i

And thats all there is to the question of "is magic an art". As others and I have stated before its not debatable. Its textbook definition.
Now,some people here are going off and asking whether or not everyone who performs magic is an artist. The answer is simply no.
Examples.
Charlie kaufman is an artist. Michael bay is not. But they use the same medium which IS an art in itself.
David blaines magic transcends mere tricks into the realm of art.
Liam walsh is pure style,at times bland, over substance and not an artist.
But they use the same medium(magic) which in of itself is an ART.

Savvy?
 
And thats all there is to the question of "is magic an art". As others and I have stated before its not debatable. Its textbook definition.
Now,some people here are going off and asking whether or not everyone who performs magic is an artist. The answer is simply no.
Examples.
Charlie kaufman is an artist. Michael bay is not. But they use the same medium which IS an art in itself.
David blaines magic transcends mere tricks into the realm of art.
Liam walsh is pure style,at times bland, over substance and not an artist.
But they use the same medium(magic) which in of itself is an ART.

Savvy?

I figure that everyone here is trying to argue opinion, rather than fact. So I suggest everyone just be quiet and believe what you want. I'm not changing my opinion, especially since I've managed to convince a few others to change theirs, so please, let's just let this thread die.............
 
Jul 8, 2008
144
1
33
Tintagel
"n.

1. Human effort to imitate, supplement, alter, or counteract the work of nature.
2.
1. The conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms, movements, or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty, specifically the production of the beautiful in a graphic or plastic medium.
2. The study of these activities.
3. The product of these activities; human works of beauty considered as a group.
3. High quality of conception or execution, as found in works of beauty; aesthetic value.
4. A field or category of art, such as music, ballet, or literature.
5. A nonscientific branch of learning; one of the liberal arts.
6.
1. A system of principles and methods employed in the performance of a set of activities: the art of building.
2. A trade or craft that applies such a system of principles and methods: the art of the lexicographer.
7.
1. Skill that is attained by study, practice, or observation: the art of the baker; the blacksmith's art.
2. Skill arising from the exercise of intuitive faculties: "Self-criticism is an art not many are qualified to practice" (Joyce Carol Oates).
8.
1. arts Artful devices, stratagems, and tricks.
2. Artful contrivance; cunning.
9. Printing. Illustrative material."


answers.com. Definition of Art: http://www.answers.com/topic/art [accessed 2/12/09]

This is a very subjective subject in the end everyone here fits this description somehow. For instance extreme ironing may be considered an art but that is very stupid. Like Tumble said everyone has their different opinions on this subject and as interesting as these posts are there will be no definitive end result.

Matt
 
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