The Next Question

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by robotsunshine, Jun 22, 2008.

  1. Magic is not inherently art. You can make it art, but in order to do so, you have to have very, very, very, VERY good presentational skills. You've got to be creative, original, and deceptive. Call your Tivo Transpo art, and people close your Youtube video. Show off your classic pass, and everyone shrugs and keeps going.

    But, actually present something - display something creative - put in the time and effort to look at this card trick and say, "Can this REALLY be art? Can I do that with this?" and you may have something.

    Paul Harris has Ladybug (or Paul Vigil had it originally, right? Whatever, you know what trick I mean) where you stab yourself and squeeze out blood. You then change that blood into a ladybug. You have shed blood to create life. One way to look at this, is it's a nice, visual trick, something to put in towards your closer. But you can also look at it as a metaphor. I repeat, "You have shed blood to create life." How can you not have a feeling about that? Pretend it wasn't a trick, pretend it was an actual ACTION. You literally sacrificed something of yourself to create life. Can you invest emotional, philosophical, and physical gut reaction into that? Of course! Such an effect has the easy workings of becoming art.

    Daniel Garcia, another brilliant magician (though I know you all know that) has Satisfaction Guaranteed. Basically, an all-backs routine in reverse - start out with a trick deck of double backers and change it into a regular deck. It's simple, and a great trick too, gets good reactions - but can we invest something emotional, philosophical, or physical into that? Maybe if we really stretch it. But, for the most part, no. It's just a trick. It's something you put in a routine with other tricks.

    This isn't a discussion about, Is magic art? Whatever you believe, just listen. Instead, we're asking, How do you present magic as art? We're assuming all of us participating agree that magic is so artsy you have to wear black and drink at a coffeehouse to perform it. So let's, please, go to the next step - How?

    Some tricks just aren't meant to be artistic. Some are just there to entertain. Magicians can display their craft as an impossible, bizarre display of art, or they can put a show together and give you a really great time. Good magicians - no, the best magicians - weave both together. Penn and Teller entertain the hell out of you, but Teller's got this one thing called Shadows, where he clips the shadow of a plant and the actual plant reacts, losing leaves and blood. He pricks himself on the shadow's thorn, then smears a long trail of blood across the screen that the shadow lives on. All without saying a single word. It's visual poetry, and it's beautiful. You might call that art. Doesn't matter. The point is, the show, all of it - artsy tricks, fun tricks, amazing tricks - all speaks to different parts of the audience, entertains THOROUGHLY rather than just entertains. Shows them that magic can be a really fun time, but can also be deep and soul-wrenching.

    Magicians are performance artists the way actors or singers are. We can present legitimate art - any emotional, well-acted performance, or any powerful, moving musical piece - but it's also got to be, you know. Good. If your movie sucks, or your album is crap, well, no one really cares. I'm saying, you've got to do both at the same time. Neither one is more important than the other.

    Daniel's Satisfaction Guaranteed, his all-backer trick? Not much artistic merit. But as stated before, it's not all about art. It's about entertaining. Your trick needs to either be entertaining or beautiful, and it can be good.

    Again, this isn't IF magic is art. This is HOW magic is art. How do we present something if we want it to be art? How are we on par with what painters do, or musicians? What's our device, our image?

    Instead, show off your Tivo Transpo as part of a routine. Routines are how magic was meant to be performed - a string of tricks in logical progression, each one either entertaining or beautiful. Reel the audience in so you can deliver your message. Know that, as a performer, you need to have something deep in order to have substance and not just be a hired attraction - but, at the same time, you need to be enjoyable, because it's not all about that self-indulgent "art" - you're, overall, there to give everyone a good time, challenging them mentally, emotionally, and by just doing cool stuff. Know that you NEED both to be unique, and that neither one is more important than the other. They are exactly 50 / 50. The transpo - which looks so good it's like video editing in real-life - falls under entertainment, and does a great job of it. Use that to your advantage.

    Philosophers don't just go to peoples' houses and scream what they believe. They present it. They reel you in with an idea or a thought, then saturate you with their outlook. A painter can't just throw paint on a canvas and be the best (well, actually, with today's outlook on painting...), he's got to show a theme or idea in what he makes, and also make it look good. Picasso is so identifiably Picasso, and Van Gogh, Van Gogh. But it's not just a fun color-by-number - there's something there to it.

    So what can you do to give the world this "art" you fight so hard to defend? This performance integrity, how do you make it manifest? How, how, how? How do you show the world art?
  2. Tricks are about objects. Magic is about life. - Max Maven

    (something to think about)
  3. Thanks

    hey, thanks for taking the time out of your day to write this. I enjoyed it, and PH's Ladybug... :)
  4. The thing that really makes magic an art form for me is the performers verbal and physical actions. It helps if the trick has some sort of emotional connection but fluidity is what takes it over the top for me. Words have to be smooth out of the performers mouth. It's hard to describe. Words can be substituted and/or facilitated with this "smooth" physical motion as well. This to me is art and so is this. They both are just beautiful to watch.
  5. Take a moment to read Suzanne Langer's Philosophy in a New Key, a Study in the Symbolism of Reason, Rite, and Art.

    It will help you come to terms with what "is" art, and how is it made.

    A VERY important book.
  6. By actually having something to say.

    You can cloister yourself and practice for days on end to perfect your technical skills. But that won't do you an ounce of good if you have nothing interesting to say with those skills.

    The point where I started concentrating more on my singing than my guitar playing was perhaps not so coincidentally around the same time that I started really hating guitarists. Most of the ones I met worshipped at the altar of Steve Vai, but their own original tunes were boring wank-fests that all sounded exactly the same. It was almost impossible for me to tell apart one of these guys from another in terms of style, tone, and composition. They spent so long trying to be the best, that they deprived themselves of the life experiences that would have given them the personality to stand out.

    It isn't just musicians either. Many creators sabotaged themselves in similar ways. As Robert Greene once said, "Do not build fortresses to protect yourself. Isolation is dangerous."
  7. I think you're putting a lot of merit into the term "art" and what it means to be artistic. The idea of high art and low art are just so blurry that it shouldn't matter.

    I think something you maybe touching on in your words is the idea of "artist" vs. "performer". While someone who has the ability to do a great Tivo Transpo may be good technically, that person might not be able to come up with his or own trick very well... This person could be a very good performer, but not a good artist.

    But at the same time, not everyone can come up with great effects... Look at music for example. How many Mozarts and Beethovens have there been? There are a few greats, but the other artists still strived and created beautiful things.

    The funny thing is, to me at least, is that art is so subjective. Shakespeare was considered to be a very low form of art during his time. His plays were written for the masses, but now we look at him as a master of writing.

    I'm kind of losing track here... Anyways, not everyone in magic (or in any art form) is a real artist. I hate watching people do Sam The Bellhop just like Bill Malone, but at the same time, maybe that's all they strive to be. Not everyone is out to be creative, and just have fun putting on the guise of someone else's character.
  8. You dont have to be very skilled for magic to be an "art" but it is how you use it and how it affects people emotionally and physically. It also reflects on how much you enjoy it and also what style you use and the words you use.

  9. when i was in my final year of high school (6 years ago! SIX!) my art teacher defined the word art as relating to a skill for which you have dedicated large amounts of study, effort and discipline. she defined the actual practice of the art as 'whatever you make of it'. i do consider magic an art, in its basic form. i have dedicated the past nine years of my life to learning, studying, performing and creating, and writing up my magic. it has bounced from hard to easy, the most important thing in my life to the last thing on my mind, cards to coins to whatever i can find, but it has always been there, that desire to progress in every way concerning magic. but i think, in practice, art is such a personal, implicit thing, that a generalised answer on HOW it is an art is just not possible. there are so many different ways to look at it, different ways to approach the problem from... i certainly am in no position to attack such a question. i think, at my age, with my experience in magic, it would be quite arrogant of me to assume the role of judge in regards to such a biq issue, so for now, i think i'll keep my entire opinion to myself.

  10. I was just re-reading the main post and find it a bit of slight at Satisfaction Guaranteed to not call it very artistic. I know you didn't mean to, but I think it's kind of putting the trick down by saying that. The way it seems in your writing, you are trying to make art something of value and of meaning, when really it does not.

    When looking at a visual art such as paintings, can you really say that most of it has a deeper meaning or makes much of a emotional connection? For example, the Mona Lisa is regarded by most people within the general public as a piece of fine art. But to actually look at the piece itself, it's actually quite bland, boring, and doubt makes a connection to anyone. Similarly, comic strips for example, say Garfield, when people read it and enjoy it, it creates a big piece of enjoyment and possibly reaction of laughter to the reader, but for a lot of the general population, comics are not considered art (though this thought has begun to change over the last 20 years or so).

    It's easy to see the metaphor for art in Paul Harris' Ladybuy - The artist bleeds and gives a piece of himself to create life in his art - however, does their really need to be some sort of metaphor or deeper meaning of expression to classify something as art?

    Often, artists take themselves too seriously and lose sight of their audiences. Take for example, musicians. Sometimes a musical artist or band will have a big hit that gets played on the radio and makes them a lot of money, but is panned by critics. And when trying to make a follow up to their hit, they make an attempt at being artistic to please the wrong people. It happens all the time in music, Lenny Kravitz being a great example. He had a lot of big hits that made him a lot of fans, but he always worried himself with pleasing his critics when trying to make follow-ups. Similarly, as magicians, I think some might lose sight of who they are performing for and what their goal is. Wayne Houchin says something similar on his roundtable interview here on Theory 11 where he says something like "Magicians often do tricks with harder movements just to show they can do these difficult moves." With these more difficult moves, the people who are most impressed are magicians, while a laymen would not think much of it.

    Your example of Tivo is a great example of this as well. On Mathieu Bich's profile, he talks about his astonishment when seeing the trick for the first time. I cannot say what made him like the trick so much. It could be its difficulty or perhaps the tricks great twist with the middle card. However, I have seen the trick performed many times by people I know and many spectators were not able to make a connection to the trick. Perhaps that is the fault of the performer, but none the less, it has very rarely made a spectator I've seen react in a great way. While, on the other hand, a simple trick like card to mouth has often gotten huge reactions from spectators and it is quite an easy trick to perform (if you can manage to get the card in you mouth on the first try lol).

    How magic is art is simple. It's not within the difficulty or method or even the performance. It's within the spectator. While something like Satisfaction Garuanteed may not some sort of artistic deep meaning, as you say, it creates a bewildering experience for a spectator. You can combat that the spectator believes in the experience because of the performance, but that same performance may not work on two separate people or may have different effects on different people. It is a spectator's reaction within the experience of magic does a trick or a performance or a routine become art. And unlike other art forms such as music, film, and literature, magic often lets the audience be a part of the performance (ie picking a card, signing a card, examining coins) which makes their reactions and experience different from other forms or art where the audience has to look for paralels and connections and metaphors to their own life and experience, while in magic they become a part of the experience.

    Joel Paschall says on Believe, "It is the job of the artist to get the world to believe his lie." That's what magic is - a lie. And it is our job as magicians to get people to believe that magic is real.
  11. I base magic on this fact:

    Magic is: 10% skill and 90% presentation. I could be the worst magician in the world but if I have a story that draws people in and misdirects them then my trick will most likely be a success.

    Dylan P.
  12. Except you're not, and neither is an good magician.

    Without skill, there IS NO MAGIC.

    If you want to tell a story, be a writer or a storyteller- don't be a magician.
  13. You've never talked to a bizarrist in your life, have you?

    And I'm willing to be you've never seen Copperfield.
  14. Gene Simmons once said, "When vacuum salesman comes to your house, you're not buying the vacuum, you're buying the salesman".

    I think this relates to magic and what you're saying... If you can present yourself or your routines or your tricks in such a way that people are so intrigued that they will buy whatever they see.

    It's like comparing ACRs... some people can draw people in with their ACRs, while I've seen some that really don't make much sense.

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