Sleight of hand isn't magic

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Bliff, Jul 19, 2018.

  1. From our point of view, we need sleight of hand to be a magician. From the laymen's perspective, it doesn't matter because the magician does the sleight of hand alone. Only the magician knows how it's done and when the magician finishes his performance and the audience is very impressed with the performance, then the magician may feel 'guilty' and tries to sell what he is doing by saying "it's just a sleight of hand". It's very sad when a magician tries to diminish the effect of the magic by saying " it's just a magic trick". So I looked at Oxford dictionary and the definition of magic is as follows:-
    "The power of apparently influencing events by using mysterious or supernatural forces."
    Sleight of hand doesn't sound like mysterious to me. This expression actually reinforces the idea, " I will do something when you are not looking.All I am doing and magic is all about deception."
    This mentality is one of the reasons why magic isn't taken seriously as an art like acting and music. Remeber whenever you say, " it's just a sleight of hand.", you aren't doing magic. You are just doing 'something', when they aren't watching.
    010rusty and Al e Cat Dabra like this.
  2. I agree. The whole point of magic (at least one of the biggest points) is to make people doubt, even just for a second, whether it's possible or not. The mystery is a big part of what makes magic entertaining in the first place. By saying "it's just this" or "it's just that" a lot of that mystery is taken away. Magic should not be a question of "how", but a question of "if".

    Though, I gotta say, while I normally enjoy having people think of my effects as psychic powers, or at least some insane amout of psychological suggestion, I sometimes feel guilty when some people start saying "OMG you are SOOOOOO goood" and putting a lot on emphasis on it ("you have only been doing magic for 2 months and you are already this good?") when really, what I am doing is quite simple.
    Al e Cat Dabra likes this.
  3. No, it isn't. But I'm just being pedantic there.

    I think the point you guys are making revolves around magician's guilt. Methods are often simple. Even stupid, at times. But they work. And when they work it's hard to accept the praise of someone who enjoyed the performance, knowing that 'tricked' them with something so silly.

    But again, method doesn't matter. The audience's experience is all that matters. And once you have that perspective, you don't feel the need to adjust their reactions with statements like, "It's all sleight of hand" or "It's all a trick, folks!" (Man I hate hearing that).

    But magic isn't taken seriously for many reasons, and this is only a small part of that. I think the biggest reason magic isn't taken seriously by audiences is because magic isn't taken seriously by most magicians, either.
  4. @Bliff , it seems that most of your posts are opinions on what is wrong with other people’s magic. I get the sense that parts of those opinions come from things you have read elsewhere rather than things you have seen and observed base primarily on the general and generic nature of your statements and the lack of specific examples or context.

    Nonetheless, I agree with much of what you are saying about the performance of magic and mentalism. However, my question is how should someone perform so that they don’t run into the same pitfalls that you identify? I’ve always thought that saying what NOT to do is good but saying what someone should do is better. So, how do we not trivialize our magic?
  5. I think some excellent points have been made in response to the OP's post. @RealityOne has raised the intriguing question: "So, how do we not trivialize our magic?" I have pointed this out before, but I do not believe it can be overemphasized. As Robert-Houdin wrote almost 200 years ago, "A magician is an actor playing the part of a magician." If we act like magicians, playing the part of one who has magical powers, and do so with the same conviction that a great actor brings to the role he/she is playing, then we captivate and enchant and engage the emotions of our audience. Then we elevate our art, and that, in my humble opinion is how we avoid trivializing our magic.
    The VIP Gentleman likes this.
  6. Let me tell you about myself. I have been performing for the three years and my routines are mostly mixture of magic, mentalism and suggestion. What created an impression of someone who doesn't perform is where I live. You see, people here believe that magic is 'real' and to present it as a trick is an insult to the audience. When I post a thread about something wrong with in magic, remember that I have done it before. I am also the first performer in my town. Before me there was no one who performed. So when I perform, I am sure that the person who is watching is witnessing magic for the first time alive. This thread is about giving magic respect it deserves by presenting it as 'real'. As Al e Cat Dabra pointed out, we are actors and we need to present what we do convincingly, not diminish it by saying "it's just a trick".
  7. I agree that we shouldn't trivialize our magic by saying it is just a trick or explaining that it is sleight of hand. However, I think in most places claiming you have some supernatural power would not be believable in performing magic (mentalism is a completely different discussion).

    The main problem is that much of magic is itself trivial. A card trick is just that. Most audiences understand that there is a method, even if they don't know what it is. Most big box illusions give the impression that the box is what is magical (and that impression typically is not wrong). So to claim otherwise (e.g. that you have special abilities) would reduce your credibility in the eyes of the audience.

    Most performances feature a presentation which narrates the adventures of the props in the magician's hand - essentially explaining the "what" and leaving the audience no option but to think of the "how." So even though most magician's don't say it is only a trick, our presentations give that impression.

    I think that the solution is to have the audience suspend belief -- that is suspend the belief that you know something is a trick and believe in the illusion they see. The way to do that is to provide a context for the magic -- a story, a premise, a hook that makes the magic meaningful to the audience. Of course, that is easier said than done. But when you engage the audience in the context, they begin to hope that the magic will happen, hope to see what they think to be impossible and hope to believe in something unbelievable.
  8. Hmmm...what you've said is legit food for thought...
    I feel that while what you're saying makes sense (a lot), it is also true, from an ethical point of view of course, to not lie. And when I say I choose ethics over reactions, I am not trying to put up my image as a virtuous human being and all that stuff...nope...I have committed enough sins and surely lying to people that a coin has really been absorbed by my skin won't hurt my averages...

    HOWEVER...Sometimes friends become curious. I am not talking after or before a performance, but in general. After all, you're prolly the only magician they know...
    My friends often ask me if magic IS real. And I reply mine is sleight of hand.
    Of course I am not so blunt about's not as if the conversation goes like,

    F:- So, is magic re-
    Me:- I do sleight of hand.
    F:-No but is other ma-
    Me:-Sleight of hand.
    F:-Oh...I just wanna actually ask if m-
  9. My response to that question is "the illusion of magic is sometimes more real than reality" or "it is as real as you want it to be." Both answers are a bit more contemplative and, in my opinion, enhance the reactions to your magic rather then telling them it was all a trick.
    Antonio Diavolo likes this.
  10. Learn to take praise for your magic, but don't perform magic for praise.

    The magician who cannot speak intelligently of his art risks trivializing it. Dismissing praise or inquisitive questions with "It's just a trick." doesn't build an appreciation in our audience. Now, I don't write this to scold, rather, to point out the importance of practicing conversations with our audiences about magic. High caliber magic is very esoteric and secretive, and it is no surprise that certain questions may arrise. So why not have a few thought-out, intelligent answers waiting for them?

    To the above example:
    A- Is magic real?
    M- Well . . . my magic is real, but it's not supernatural. In other words, I'm using various tools and skills, refined over the years, to create the illusion of impossibility.
    A- What do you mean, "Illusion of Impossibility?"
    M- Think of it as a painting. The brush, canvas and paints all come together to create a masterpiece. The painting is greater than the sum of its parts. Now, you and I know it's just paint on a canvas, but it's still breath taking. With my magic, you and I both know there is a way it can be done, but it's still impossible.
    A- I think I understand . . .
    M- It's a fun thing to think about.
    A- But wait . . . If there is "a way it can be done," then it's not truly impossible!
    M- That's the beauty of it! The Art of Magic is the only time you can witness the impossible and have it remain impossible. Put it this way, if anyone else does the impossible, then it's no longer impossible. That's part of the definition of impossibility. Yet, when I perform my magic, the impossible remains impossible because it is an illusion. That's what I mean when I say, "Illusion of Impossibility." Does that make sense?
    A- I think so. So when you say your magic is real, but not supernatural, you're saying that it's an illusion, like a painting.
    M- Yes! Or any other art! I just happen to be expressing an impossibility instead of flowers in a vase or some other scenery.

    Keep in mind, we are entertainers first. But after the show we may need to answer more challenging questions from the more curious of an audience. After all, they are most likely asking these questions to get to know and understand you better! So let's have fun and put our best foot forward :)

    Please let me know if any part of this was unclear or didn't read well.

    Respectfully yours,

    Cameron J. Braxton

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