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lumberjohn
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In discussing Phenomenon with someone recently, I was called upon to discuss the difference between "mentalism" and "mental magic." While I have long thought of these as two related, but different, concepts, I had never before been asked to define them or clearly articulate what makes them distinct.

My answer was along the following lines: Mentalism is about connection. The mentalist connects with his spectators in an intimate way. The mentalist uses either no props or only those that are entirely ordinary, so as to draw no attention, since all the attention should be on the relationship between the specator(s) and the mentalist. Often, personal information is revealed by the mentalist about the spectator. Often, storytelling is involved. Mentalists attempt to create emotional anchors to draw people into their performances. While mentalism may, and probably should, be theatrical, in that the mentalist creates a distinct mood and transports the spectator to a different place, the mentalist does not distance himself from the audience as a skilled professional. Instead, he or she attempts to link himself to the audience so they forget or ignore his skill, and simply get lost in the mystery.

Mental magic is performing magic tricks dealing with the mind. While the description of what is taking place in a mentalism effect and an mental magic effect may be the same ("he read my mind" "he successfully predicted what I would choose," etc.), the way you get there is different. The mental magician has no problem using props or things normally associated with magic, such as playing cards, which mentalists might find to be distracting. Mental magic often follows standard magic conventions such as the rule of three, while mentalism is looser in structure and more free flowing. A mental magic effect is often shorter than a mentalism effect, with little or no attempt to connect with the audience. The focus is on the effect itself rather than the performer or, more to the point, the relationship between the performer and the specatator. The mental magician is often content with creating an inexplicable magic moment, while the mentalist wants something more. Finally, the mental magician is more likely to present his effects as standing alone, while the mentalist is more likely to attempt to connect his effects to a larger theme.

Obviously, these are not definitions per se, and are certainly not verbatim what I told my friend. They are rough approximations of what I told him in explaining one of the reasons I thought Phenomenon was not going to find a greater audience, which is that the show format forces the performers into peformances of mental magic rather than mentalism.

I would be interested in knowing what others think about these two concepts. I recognize that the line is fuzzy, and that many do not believe there even is a line between the two. But I suspect others feel differently.
KARCH
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My definition: A "magician" will do a piece of mental magic during a magic show while a "mentalist" does a show comprised of nothing but mental-type effects. The purpose is to convey some type of paranormal mental ability as opposed to the magician who trys to imply "magical" ability (a much wider concept.)There are gigatons of magic tricks (cards, coins, hanks, ropes, boxes, etc.) but relatively few mental ones (read your mind, predict a future event.)
Vincent.Lynch
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My definition is; if he says he's a mentalist, 19 times out of 20 he's a mental magician.
Chris K
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Quote:
On 2007-11-12 18:43, KARCH wrote:
There are gigatons of magic tricks (cards, coins, hanks, ropes, boxes, etc.) but relatively few mental ones (read your mind, predict a future event.)


Cool definition. Might be one of those that can help clarify things for people who aren't really sure.

I don't buy split of magic and mental tricks though. The problem is you are defining magic by PROPS (cards, coins, hanks) and mentalism by EFFECT (reading minds). There are only a few actual magic effects (I always forget one or more, so I will let the magic historians break it down). There are only a few actual mentalism effects.

For example, let's just look at your first three magic tricks (?): cards, coins, hanks. Let us look no further than Max Maven or Banachek. Are they mentalists? Do they perform "magic"? They use cards, coins, hanks, etc.
Turk
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The differenece between mentalism and mental magic? Is there really one and, if so, what layman really cares? Laymen are not interested in these pi**ing contests between various "labelled" types of magicians. What the lay audiences really want (and desparately cry out for) is to be entertained.

Some of the great mentalists of all times had no compunction whatsoever about mixing and incorporating straight magic into their mentalist show. If they can mix in straight magic in with their mentalism, and if the audience is entertained, there is no need to label nor to decry something as mental magic in the perjorative sense. If the laymen do not care, why should we care? Why try to adopt an elitist attitude in the hope that by your self-labelling, you can think (and feel) yourself superior to a person whom you have defined as "outside" your circle of elitism?

Just, IMHO.

Mike
Magic is a vanishing Art.

This must not be Kansas anymore, Toto.

Eschew obfuscation.
Dr Spektor
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Dunninger?
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lumberjohn
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Quote:
On 2007-11-12 23:57, Turk wrote:
The differenece between mentalism and mental magic? Is there really one and, if so, what layman really cares? Laymen are not interested in these pi**ing contests between various "labelled" types of magicians. What the lay audiences really want (and desparately cry out for) is to be entertained.

Some of the great mentalists of all times had no compunction whatsoever about mixing and incorporating straight magic into their mentalist show. If they can mix in straight magic in with their mentalism, and if the audience is entertained, there is no need to label nor to decry something as mental magic in the perjorative sense. If the laymen do not care, why should we care? Why try to adopt an elitist attitude in the hope that by your self-labelling, you can think (and feel) yourself superior to a person whom you have defined as "outside" your circle of elitism?

Mike


Of course laymen neither know nor care about this distinction. To the extent it is of any value, it is only to those of us who are attempting to determine what types of effects go into our own acts by subclassifying different performance styles. There is nothing wrong with "magic" or "mental magic." There is no reason to believe that "mentalism," to the extent we can agree on a definition, is any more entertaining per se than "mental magic." Your audience, your personality, and the circumstances in which you perform will dictate what works best.

So I would disagree that the only reason to use these labels is to "adopt and elitist attitude" or "feel superior" to others. Nor is labeling something as "mental magic" necessarily perjorative. Those terms are used quite frequently on these boards to describe different effects and different styles, and so I thought it would be useful to agree on some definitions.
NeilS
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It could be just me but I shy away from using the term magic. Mentalism should leave your audience wondering ...
but if you mention magic, then they know there's a trick.
Jon_Thompson
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Quote:
On 2007-11-12 23:57, Turk wrote:
The differenece between mentalism and mental magic? Is there really one and, if so, what layman really cares? Laymen are not interested in these pi**ing contests between various "labelled" types of magicians. What the lay audiences really want (and desparately cry out for) is to be entertained.

I agree. Mentalism is an industry term.

The fact that everyone has a different definition just tells me that we should probably be looking at a higher level and defining things in terms of what we say we're doing rather than trying to shoehorn everything under one umbrella (how's that for a mixed metaphor?!). I say I'm using a blend of psychological and other techniques to create the illusion of mind reading and control, and of psychic phenomena.

Maybe, if there has to be a blanket definition, "mystery entertainer" is a good one.

I'm not fond of the term "psychological illusionist", but at least people can get a grip on what it might mean better than "mentalist".
chuckm
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Okay...it's obvious that you can certainly perform magic with no mentalism, but can you perform mentalism with absolutely no "magic"?? Hmmmmm.....

Chuck
Chuck L. Miller
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www.chucklmiller.com
Jon_Thompson
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Quote:
On 2007-11-13 12:14, chuckm wrote:
Okay...it's obvious that you can certainly perform magic with no mentalism, but can you perform mentalism with absolutely no "magic"?? Hmmmmm.....

Chuck

Without sleights etc.? Yes.
Chris K
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Quote:
On 2007-11-12 23:57, Turk wrote:
Some of the great mentalists of all times had no compunction whatsoever about mixing and incorporating straight magic into their mentalist show. If they can mix in straight magic in with their mentalism, and if the audience is entertained, there is no need to label nor to decry something as mental magic in the perjorative sense. If the laymen do not care, why should we care? Why try to adopt an elitist attitude in the hope that by your self-labelling, you can think (and feel) yourself superior to a person whom you have defined as "outside" your circle of elitism?


You answered your own question, Mike. Some of the "great" mentalists can. The problem is that, in magic or mentalism, there should be some sort of theme. Read the works of Darwin Ortiz or Derren Brown if you don't understand what I mean. And if you do understand, then I don't know why you would write what you did except to try to be clever or something. <--- Not an insult, I just don't get what you wrote and am trying to make sense of it.
Necromancer
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Here's the difference. Mental magic, to an audience, is clearly a type of magic-trick performance; because of the props, the procedure, the effect itself, or the performer's persona, audience members have no actual belief invested in it, and simply enjoy it as a clever approximation of psychic ability. Mentalism, on the other hand, cannot be dismissed so readily; it is performed and perceived as a demonstration of psychic ability that just might be real. This ambiguity is what can make mentalism a distinctively thought-provoking theatre form.

Best,
Neil
Creator of The Xpert (20 PAGES of reviews!), Cut & Color, Hands-Off Multiple ESP (HOME) System, Rider-Waite Readers book, Zoom Pendulum ebook ...
entity
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Would a memory demonstration or a Knight's Tour then not be considered Mentalism?

I don't agree that one must be perceived as Psychic in order to be considered a Mentalist. Chan Canasta... Derren Brown... certainly they were specific in their announcements that they were NOT psychic, yet I'd say they fall under the heading of Mentalists.

- entity
Necromancer
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Modify the word psychic to read "mental ability," and I think we're on the same page, entity. It still comes down to whether the audience perceives that the demonstrations might be real. With mental magic, there's never a question.

Best,
Neil
Creator of The Xpert (20 PAGES of reviews!), Cut & Color, Hands-Off Multiple ESP (HOME) System, Rider-Waite Readers book, Zoom Pendulum ebook ...
lumberjohn
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Neil,

If I understand you correctly, you are saying that the difference between mentalism and mental magic is that in the former, the audience thinks the performer might indeed possess extraordinary mental abilities while in the latter, they know he is only performing magic tricks. So it appears to come down to whether the performer portrays himself to be for real or not. Effects themselves would not be classified as mentalism or mental magic, but performers would be classified as mentalists or mental magicians based on how they characterize what they do. Do you believe that any mindreading or prediction effect could be performed as mentalism or mental magic?
Necromancer
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Hi John,

I think you understand me correctly, but have drawn a conclusion that is incomplete. The performer's persona is certainly an important part of what makes his performance believable, but it's not the only one. Other factors include the believability of the props, procedures, and effects themselves, all of which can make some performance pieces more likely to be perceived as real than others.

Use a fishily convoluted procedure, employ props that scream to an audience that they're straight off a magician's shelf, and display alleged abilities that are too far beyond the psychically acceptable -- and the question of how you portray yourself becomes a non-issue. Your believability as a Mentalist will fly out the window as Mental Magic slips under your door.

Best,
Neil
Creator of The Xpert (20 PAGES of reviews!), Cut & Color, Hands-Off Multiple ESP (HOME) System, Rider-Waite Readers book, Zoom Pendulum ebook ...
IAIN
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Mentalistic work - is an internal process, it all happens inside that person's mind..

magic work - is more of a visual process, a story is told, something visual happens...

sometimes you can mix the two...

avoid all labels really, and just chant these three names, David Berglas, Chan Canasta, Derren Brown...over and over until you feel better...

real normal people, if presented with something sound, just on the knife's edge of believability, will, on their own terms, accept it...even though, in shock, they'll deny it...they want to suspend that disbelief for that moment in time..

if they like you, if you have rapport, if you are "you"...
I've asked to be banned
Necromancer
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Apologies, Abraxus, but I don't agree with your distinctions.

PK work is mentalism (if done believably) yet it's visual, and mentalism can absolutely be presented believably within a storytelling framework (which I do in every performance). Further, just because your audience of "real normal people" accepts and likes you doesn't mean it has invested belief in your performance.

Best,
Neil
Creator of The Xpert (20 PAGES of reviews!), Cut & Color, Hands-Off Multiple ESP (HOME) System, Rider-Waite Readers book, Zoom Pendulum ebook ...
titus590
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Metalism mind reads!
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