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So I decided to see if the Ellusionist forums had anything to offer me (not surprisingly, no). But while I was browsing I came across this post:


I’m not sure if this has been brought up before – and if it has, whether or not it had this ‘slant’ on in. It just occurred to me today – it’s the notion that magic is somehow an Art. We hear it all the time - 'our Art, your Art, this Art'.

Even, Brad in one of his DVD appearances – Ninja maybe - says something about the cards ‘being your Art’ – so, as a result, we all gotta handle them with a bit of sensitive tender loving care and flair.

But is magic really an Art? I don’t want to get all flowery about what art is or isn’t or might be or should be – but if we look at what we do as magicians – it’s all about trickery. It’s a con. Magic doesn’t exist. It’s a little white lie to create a moment of entertainment. The spec might describe magic as some kind of miracle – but we know better.

On a base level isn’t all magic a cheap con? Clever. Effective, when it works – but nothing more that a series of deceptive moves? So where’s the Art in that? There’s an element of personal involvement and skill – but involvement and skill exist in even the most mundane activities

I don’t mean to undervalue magic – and in some ways, I’m trying to give it much more value, by not idly classifying it as something it isn’t – Some kind of almighty Art.

Magic is a con. A sales pitch delivery with some fancy moves of the fingers thrown in or a gimmick doing the hard work for you. And that’s about it. Nothing artistic there. And if people say there is - then selling cell phones is an Art. Asking customers if they want to ‘go large’ on their next Burger King meal is an Art.

And this is my point - Is the big, clever deception – the fact that many magicians call magic an Art? We describe what we do in these might terms in the hope that it somehow drifts towards the public’s perception of what we do – and consequently places magic and our abilities on the higher ground? A ground well out of reach of the common people

What I’m trying to say, I suppose – is that when I tell my friends about magic – I might call it an Art, to boost the notion of its unique standing – but between magicians I wouldn’t call it Art. I’d feel like a pretentious fool. And well done to the magic community for creating this lie that subtly pervades into the conscience of the public. Clever stuff – and all in the spirit of furthering the deception.

But, when we are all chewing the fat as magicians - surely we can drop the arrogance and pomposity and call what we do – tricks. Our Tricks. Not our Art.

Calling it an art reminds me of those internet sites where you can buy instant qualifications like PhD’s and MA’s and BA’s. It’s a self-appointed title which holds no real merit. It only fools the ignorant public and attempts to 'up' your status.

As a bit of a footnote, I got my delivery today of Trilogy and Loops dvds. Impressive stuff. Talented and skillful tricksters at work.

This is my first post for a while. I've been in a magic wilderness for about 6 months. Confused but I still practiced my tricks everyday. Loving and hating every moment of it.

Second footnote - in four days time I've got a glorious eight week vacation coming my way - so the good times will start to roll again and hopefully I can submit many more pointless threads. I've just had a bit of a deja vu - I thought that I'd already posted this kind of thought before. Maybe I should use the search feature.


What do you think of that?
“There is not a physicist in the world who can perceive when a parlor magician palms off playing-cards.”

-Charles Fort

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I would think that the person is really just looking for attention, taking such a position that he knows will draw a strong response.

I would also question if Art even exist, by his standards. I wouldn't think film, sculpture, music or painting would qualify for an art by his standards.... He would just say music is playing a bunch of notes from a sheet of paper, or that painting is just throwing different colors and shapes onto a stretched sheet of canvas.

If he can't see art in the performances of top magicians, then he is intentionally not looking hard enough, just to get people to respond to his internet threads.

I would rather work on my magic than worry about some random person out there with a bad opinion.....
Ben Train
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I think the key portion was here:

On a base level isn’t all magic a cheap con? Clever. Effective, when it works – but nothing more that a series of deceptive moves? So where’s the Art in that? There’s an element of personal involvement and skill – but involvement and skill exist in even the most mundane activities

Sure, on a base level it isn't art, it's a craft. Just like painting, dance, drama, music, sculpting, or any of the other fine arts.

There are other factors that come into play, such as intent, expression, etc, that make it art. Can it be art- sure. Just like anything can be. Is it art? Not usually.

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Sword of the Soldier
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This is an interesting topic.

If we are looking at the analytical definition of "Art" we find this according to Princeton University Dictionary:
-the products of human creativity
-the creation of beautiful or significant things
-a superior skill that you can learn by study and practice and observation

Is not all of these things integral aspects of Magic. Do we not utilize our human creativity to create an effect? Are some effects, if not all, beautiful and extravagant things? Are not our sleights and subtleties the result of study and practice? Is not, the films we watch to learn, the images we view (such as Neo's Vernan Erdnase image on the board) artwork relating to magic?

By definition Magic is Art, and Art is magic?

My question to you is what, do you think art is?

I am a musician. I play 5 instruments. I am a magician. I have seen both sides, clearly, and first hand. I know without a doubt of any kind that the skills and knowledge that make a violin sound beautiful, or a Double Concerto perfectly written, are the same skills good magicians use daily in their work?

Without these skills, a violin would be played with terrible tone, a concerto would not harmonize, and a DL or a change would look like crap.

Ben is right. If you strip everything down, its nothing more than deception. But strip dance down and its nothing more than timed movement. Strip music down and it's nothing more that dry notes... this leads me back to what art is.

Art is not a thing in itself. Nothing is art in and of itself. Art is the essence of man, the creativity of man, the emotion of man put into something.

It's like my quote says, "Magic becomes art when it has nothing left to hide" for me this means that when Magic has been given everything by a person, the moves, the deception disappear because they are undetectable and natural. That's when magic becomes art, that's when anything becomes an art.


Josh Smile
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But a great con is a beautiful thing...
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Haha, a great con is a beautiful thing!

But in my point of view, magic to me is a performance art. It contains acting, rythm, proper speaking skills, etc. It is an art by my standards but I don't think many laymen and magicians alike treat it like one.

On another note, hearing that magic is an art from Brad Christian is, to me, a sales pitch. He is a good salesman and has a very modern and catchy website. He has inspired a lot of people to get into magic. But, that is Brad Christian. There are a lot of other well respected magicians to consider magic an art and have good arguments to back it up.
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Every craft can be an art, but not every craftsman is an artist.

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A vanishing art?.. Smile ...
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The Art in magic is what makes magic an Art. Where there is no Art in magic there magic is no Art.

Painting is not an Art unless there is Art in it. Put a lick of paint on your house and it is painting but not Art, as there is no Art in that. The performance of magic is not an Art unless there is Art in it.
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With all due respect to the original E poster, I read that he performs once a week or even less. I'm sure he's a good guy, but with this performing experience, I can't take his opinions, especially if strong ones, seriously.

Either way, Tommy and Ben Train nailed it.

~ Feras
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I only see great magic as art, sure it can be used as a con and as said above, a great con can be a work of art.

But in reality I do not see this as being a con I see it as art

or this

And for sure this one

Ok maybe not that last one, but you get my point.
I just see so much beauty in magic, not to mention the hope it inspires, the way that it can take you to a different place, and the nostalgia it gives you watching a great performer, that feeling of being a kid again.

Thank you all
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The Ellusionist poster fails to consider the deception of the actor. Of COURSE the audience knows that Al Pacino is not a powerful Mafia Don, and yet for three hours, the audience suspends its disbelief and becomes engrossed in the cold, calculating machinations of Michael Corleone. The audience knows that Jeff McBride is not a shaman, and yet the audience is enthralled by the shaman he plays and the wonders he produces.

What do they have in common? They are artists!

What you bring to a performance it what transforms it from mere technique to ART.

As for Magic being a "con", the comparison is inaccurate as well. The audience KNOWS that the magician IS going to fool them. The mark however, is never told by the grifter that he is being setup; Big difference.

Like Josh, I too am a musician and a magician. I am also a formally trained stage actor. All of the elements that comprise the performance of music or the portrayal of any given character in a play are present in the performance of a magic act - provided the performer infuses stagecraft into her/his performance.

The Ellusionist poster has admitted to a lack of performing experience. I would suggest to that person to revisit his/her assertion after gaining a few more years of performing. I wager that she/he will find his assertion completely inaccurate.

There is much more I could write, but I think other posters here have said it well enough.

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This is one of those discussions that suffers from a lack of definition. One could ask is there a difference between art and technique? Is art simply a term of praise?

But fundamentally what the question here is: is magic a good thing? The answer is simply yes.

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From the all definitions of art you can create it from the most mundane of tasks. I think that is a valid point. I also think to 'idly' call it an art is meant to boost the perception of magic which I think is a good thing, but many times unwarranted.

When I go to Subway I witness the skill, and personality of 'sandwhich artists'. Do I really think that they are artists? No. But as Sword of the Soldier said,
the dictionary defines art as follows:

-the products of human creativity
-the creation of beautiful or significant things
-a superior skill that you can learn by study and practice and observation

I suppose a sandwich artist could meet these criteria if they had a flare for the trade.

Yet when one sees performances by the likes of Tommy Wonder there is no other word to describe it but ART
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On a base level isn’t all magic a cheap con? Clever. Effective, when it works – but nothing more that a series of deceptive moves? So where’s the Art in that? There’s an element of personal involvement and skill – but involvement and skill exist in even the most mundane activities

So stupid it's hard to know where to start...

Response to the first rhetorical question: No, not all magic is a cheap con. I imagine David Copperfield's magic is a very expensive con. Sarcasm aside, "cheap" and "con" are mere invective aimed at making the conclusion more plausible without actually arguing for it.

Effective, when it works...

Redundant much?

nothing more that a series of deceptive moves?

Proof positive this clown doesn't even know what magic is, let alone art. The deception is the method. The magic is the effect. But that's what you get in a craft that constantly conflates method and effect in the term "trick".

So where’s the Art in that?

Most, if not all, art is illusion. Sam Sharpe: "When people enter a theater, they enter a house of illusion." So why is magic not a theatrical art, but merely a "cheap con"?

Here is a person who, perhaps, knows too many scribblers of stick figures, concluding that all illustration is worthless.
There are many tricks, and many effects, but rarely a Grand Effect. There are many entertainers, but few real magicians. Many technicians, but few artists who use their art to explore their vision. - Derren Brown, Absolute Magic
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If he thinks magicians are con artists, it is art anyway.

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Michael jordan was an artist with the ball
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On 2008-10-18 04:10, uhrenschmied wrote:
Every craft can be an art, but not every craftsman is an artist.

This is really all that needs to be said.
Very well put...
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Well, to offer a contrary view, there is one thing of value that he points out, which is that many people take for granted that magic is an art form, and the reason that it's valuable is because too many people use that premise as an excuse for poor decisions. They violate principles "because art has no rules", they think what they do should be accepted by default on the terms that they want, they mistake style for content, etc. Generally, they use the claim as a means to avoid really thinking about what they're doing.

Of course, that's a no-win situation, because that suggests that the only people who deserve to designate what they do as art are those who really study it, but if you've ever tried studying art and determining what art is, you start having Joycean discussions about coughing onto a block of wood and end up more confused than ever.

In conclusion, banana pancakes are tasty.
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Jonathan Townsend
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Perhaps better to leave this to folks with a background in art history and some awareness of the other performing arts and their history.

To say that our craft involves the mechanics of guile is pretty safe.

To suggest our art is somehow distinct from the other performing arts is also safe.

From there... not so sure - as banana pancakes are a matter of taste. all the coins I've dropped here
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