The Magic Café
Username:
Password:
[ Lost Password ]
  [ Forgot Username ]
The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » An Ellusionist Post (1 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

 Go to page [Previous]  1~2
Matthew Wright
View Profile
Elite user
414 Posts

Profile of Matthew Wright
This was something I wrote as part of my entrance exam to drama scholl and I think it fits nicely into this topic- if you have the patience to read it!

My interest in magic began in 1981 when my father amazed me with a coin trick. Since then I have studied magic with some of the most forward thinking magicians of my day. Throughout my magic studies, I have read, and been told that magic is an Art and that it should be respected as such. There are hundreds of magic e-forums where magicians pat themselves on the back and take great pleasure in their status as artists. In ”Performing Arts - a guide to practice and appreciation” it says, ‘Of all the performing arts, magic is the one which crosses both borders and cultures most easily. The language of tricks and illusion is universal.” In 1911 Nevil Maskelyne wrote one of the most important books in magic. It was called “Our Magic”. In it he said, “ … justify the claim of magic to be classed among the Arts-not, of course, the mechanical arts, but among the Fine Arts-the Arts with a capital A”. His justification was based on the model for artistic status at the time. He wrote, “all agree the basis of art is imitation –either the imitation of something that actually exists, or of something that might exist in circumstances imagined by the artist……we have no need to be led out of our depth by trying to define that will-o’-the wisp, abstract art”. Well, abstract art has evolved somewhat since 1911, and because of this I believe that Maskelynes’ views need reviewing.
The more that I look at magic, the less I am convinced that it is art. Most magicians, in performance, seem happy to ridicule the history and art of magic if it means them getting a cheap laugh. Originality in magic is rare and most magicians use the presentations supplied with the latest trick they have bought. As I look through the latest magic magazines I see advertisement after advertisement saying that the magic trick they are selling is, “easy to master” or “learnt in minutes”. My favourite is the “self worker” where no practice or experience is needed! Surely this is not Art? If it is then any child’s’ painting by numbers picture must also qualify as art. When someone first learns the piano he does not go out and perform concerts, yet it seems to me, that all a magician needs are a couple of tricks, bought from the magic store, and a nicely printed business card, and they are elevated to the status of artist. My investigation is to try to determine at what point does a piece of magic become a work of art. Does the Art exist in the trick itself? Is it in the performance of the trick or does it lie in a deeper meaning? Is the Art in the creation of wonder? Does it only exist for that one brief moment of astonishment? S.H. Sharp writes “Magic is what happens to a person’s mind when a mystery is experienced. Magic is an inner experience, not an exterior, objective event.” Sharpe also writes in Good Conjuring, “It is by attention to detail that Fine Art is produced. Rough or clumsy work clashes with that terms etymology, which implies graceful, delicate and painstaking finish”. I believe this to be true but as this was written in the early twentieth century it needs a little revision. Sharp uses the words “rough and clumsy” to exclude works from the Fine Art bracket. Many artworks are now created with the purpose of being rough or clumsy but I am sure that if the work were created with the same “painstaking finish”, then Sharpe would include it in his Fine Art folder.
It seems to me that before I can justify magic as Art, I must first be comfortable with what my understanding of the terms Magic and magician are. The father of modern magic, Robert Houdin said a magician is simply, “an actor playing the role of a magician.” Eugene Burger says, “nowadays, more often than not, a magician is, an actor playing the role of a fool playing a magician.” He goes on to explain what he claims a magician should be, “a man of power and confidence. It’s that simple”.



Magic claims to be the second oldest profession. Its myth and history have been documented for thousands of years and at its roots it is packed with symbolism. It lies at the heart of most religions, from the magicians of the ancient Pharaohs, through to modern Christianity. During mass, a Catholic priest claims to change bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. It is said with belief and conviction, yet I doubt many worshipers truly believe the transformation has taken place on a physical level. This is ceremonial magic as opposed to theatrical magic yet both come from the same roots. I am not claiming that your local priest is either a magician, or an artist, but this shows how unclear the lines are.
During my studies of magic I have been lucky enough to have been taken on as a student by one of the most important magicians in the world of magic today. Eugene Burger has twice been awarded the Magic Lecturer of the World award, has written many best selling books on the theory of magic and was also a lecturer of philosophy and religion at the University of Chicago. In his wonderful book, Magic and Meaning he writes, “…is conjuring performance simply entertainment, or does this ancient and venerable art involve some larger symbolic or metaphorical meaning. Why has the idea of magic exerted such a profound influence upon human beliefs and behaviour for a span of time that reaches from the present moment back into the encompassing darkness before written records?”
It would be very easy for me to fill this essay with quotes on the theory of magic but already I feel I know where my answer will come from. I do not believe that art exists in the tricks themselves but lives in the performer. In how he puts across his message; and it is here, I think, I can make the comparisons with more traditional artists. Eugene says, “learn to sing your own magical song and don’t let the words of others make you afraid to travel down your own magical path”. Magic in this sense is very much like art. It cannot be taught but it can be learned. Artistic magic comes from within and leaves a part of you with your audience. Magic is theatre and theatre requires drama and conflict, mere showmanship is not enough. A showman may be able to get great applause but it is the artist who can provoke deep silence.



Another problem I have if I am to include magic in Art is to define my understanding of art. Under the title “Content and Form in Art, Francis Klingender writes, “Like all other forms of social consciousness art is an expression of social existence….if we are to analyse art, we must thus commence by analysing the social group whose art it is. Art however, is more than a mere reflection of social reality. It is at the same time, a revolutionary agent for the transformation of that reality. Magic could hold true to this principle. Throughout history, the magician has had to change his act to keep in touch with the audience. Pharaohs used magicians to keep the population in check and confirm their status as Divine. Harry Houdini used his knowledge of magic to all but destroy the spiritualist movement that exploded after the First World War. The nineteenth century saw the introduction of large-scale illusion.



Imagine being in the audience the first time a woman was cut in half or the first time a person floated. These new tricks sent shockwaves through the world and made people question their understanding of how the world worked.
In the twentieth century, as people became more accustomed to large-scale illusion, close-up magic appeared. Now people were seeing miracles performed only inches from their faces and again the masses were forced to question their beliefs. David Blaine was made famous and has earned millions from his performance of very simple effects. Uri Gellar is a household name and to this day insists that his power has supernatural origins and that he has no knowledge of magical practice. His 35-year act is possibly one of the most successful in magical history and if art is judged on the reaction it creates, then Gellar is the greatest artist magic has seen. As we turn into the twenty-first century a new form of magic is evolving. A man called Derren Brown has revolutionized the way we look at mentalism. His studies of psychology, hypnotism, sleight of hand and traditional mentalist techniques have made even the most knowledgeable magicians sit up and take note. In his critically acclaimed book, “Absolute Magic” he says, “If magic is to stand as art it must provoke the audience member to consider some things differently after the performance. That may consist of him seeing potential in everyday things, or even to develop an awareness of aspects of his own perceptual apparatus and psychological make-up..…..if not, then I can’t imagine it is doing the job that art should.”
As I move towards 1500 words I think it is time to make some kind of assessment. There were three reasons I doubted as to whether magic is Art or not. The first was the number of magicians who simply buy commercially available magic and perform it as it tells in the instructions. I realize that these people are not even attempting to be artists and are happy simply to be copyists. As magicians, they do not now enter into my discussion. The second reason, were the magicians who do strive for originality and genuinely attempt to be creative with their magic yet fall flatly on their faces. I now realize, that if magic is to be included in Art, then these people are artists; they are just not very good. The third reason I doubted that magic was Art was the attitude that the other Arts took to magic. From my experience 99% of the people who thought of magic as an art form were magicians. I imagine that most of the art world care very little about magic as art, but as Dali said of artists, “each will find the personal quest of the other incomplete or daft.” Having read “the Arts and the Mass Media” I think that the Art World would be happy to accept magic into its ranks on the basis of its’ appeal to the masses. It would accept magic although, to use Clement Greenburgs’ term, it may well be classed as “Kitsch”.



I have come to realize that an artist is an artist whatever field he chooses to express himself. Individual magic tricks are just the tools of the artists trade and should be thought of in much the same way as an artists brush. The invention of a new magic trick is not art; only in performance can it become art. The original invention of the trick is not in itself art, even though it has been designed with the intention of becoming art. The magic is simply an expression in the same way that a painting is.
With my three main reasons dispelled, I am happy to put the terms magic and artist together. If a magician sets out with the intention of making Art, if he encompasses the principles of theatre to create whatever emotion he chooses and if he pushes his own boundaries to a painstaking finish, then the product must be Art. However, as I have already stated, some artists are better than others and generally only the very best artists are remembered. There are very few magicians remembered outside of magic history. Those that are become the subject of myth and legend. Merlin? Rasputin? Jesus Christ?
Lawrence O
View Profile
Inner circle
Greenwich (CT)
6799 Posts

Profile of Lawrence O
Your problem is more a semantic problem than philosophical one. Since art is such a vague word, one can discard or integrate about anything under the "art" umbrella, just like "love" can refer to the professional on the curb all the way up to Romeo and Juliet
I agree on many things you say but would disagree with your dismay of modern magicians (with arguments I hear repeated days after days as a dark incantation which is not sufficient to give it ground). Actually magic (I mean our art, not sorcellery) has done more progress since World War II than in the previous 5000 years, whether on cards, coins, close up, stage... Thus let's stop complaining like old normative lawyers about the small number of creative magicians, and rather focus on what the creative ones have brought. Believe me this can keep you pretty busy, more than any narcissic reflection on art and magic... and I'm a fanatic about character building, showmanship, entertainment, misdirection...

Think positively and proactively: magic will reward you thousands of times.
Magic is the art of proving impossible things in parallel dimensions that can't be reached
tommy
View Profile
Eternal Order
Devil’s Island
15746 Posts

Profile of tommy
The piece of art we offer to the audience is the performance. It’s that 30 minutes or so when we perform.

It is an Ephemeral piece of art. Ephemeral means short-lived, transient, fleeting, passing, brief, momentary and temporary. Thus, ephemeral art could be characterized as a form of art that has a finite “life span.” It exists for a certain amount of time, perhaps to fulfil a specific purpose, and then either gradually fades away or is destroyed.

Its not like a painting that we can put in a museum and preserve.

Doing the same act tonight and tomorrow night, is not the same piece of art. They are two pieces of Ephemeral Art.

Once one sees the piece that way it becomes far easier to see it as a piece of Art.

How fine a piece of Art it is, like other Art, it depends on many things.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
Ben Train
View Profile
Inner circle
Erdnase never had
4632 Posts

Profile of Ben Train
If you are truly interested in learning more about this, you need to be willing to do a little reading.

Start with Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Hume. All four have very important pieces on art (defining it and creating objective standards in which to asses it)- and if you read P/A together and K/H together they address similar issues and the issues each other present.

Enjoy!

Ben
If you're reading this you're my favorite magician.
tommy
View Profile
Eternal Order
Devil’s Island
15746 Posts

Profile of tommy
Quote:
HERE we come into contact with a difficulty which has taxed the powers of
many great minds to the utmost. Before we can talk sensibly about "Art" of any kind, we must first define the true meaning of that term. We must decide what, in our opinion, art really is. Fortunately in this instance, we are not in danger of encountering the obstacle that so many able intellects have failed to overcome.
We are not called upon to define the meaning of art in the abstract. We have only to define what is meant by "Art in Magic." To that end, we may evoke the aid of both authority and common sense.

NM


But you can read Plato if you like.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
gaddy
View Profile
Inner circle
Agent of Chaos
3149 Posts

Profile of gaddy
It's an art and a craft. "That's A Good Thing..."
*due to The Magic Cafe's editorial policies, words on this site attributed to me cannot necessarily be held to be my own.*
tommy
View Profile
Eternal Order
Devil’s Island
15746 Posts

Profile of tommy
One thing that has occurred to me is that a piece of Art is only such when it is being shown to people. If a painter painted a picture and then destroyed it, then he would not have created a piece of Art. A picture in a museum is only Art when people are viewing it. At night when no one is looking at it then it is just an object. Likewise the Art of magic is only the Art of magic when it is being shown to people. I don’t think a painter can paint a picture for himself or a singer sing himself a song or writer write himself a book or magician perform magic for himself and call it Art. Art must have an audience. All Art is ephemeral in that respect, it seems to me. When people see magicians perform it is exactly like when they go to see any work of Art, some magic happens in their mind. Different kinds of Art create different kinds of magic in their minds.

All Art is magic!
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
gaffed
View Profile
Inner circle
So far I've managed to gimmick
1818 Posts

Profile of gaffed
Quote:
On 2008-10-18 04:10, uhrenschmied wrote:
Every craft can be an art, but not every craftsman is an artist.


Hmm...I'll have to use uhrenschmied's quote here also.

Doing magic tricks and performing magic tricks are entirely two different things. Take a few minutes watching YouTube and you'll certainly surmise that within about three minutes...or less!

When a magician/performer does his or her act flawlessly, fluidly and with presence he or she is definitely performing an "art".

When one simply does magic tricks he or she is simply painting by numbers as it were and this of course can in no possible way be conceived as "art".

Just about any moron can purchase a trick and with some practice learn how to do it but, can that same person then go out and perform it! Mind you, the keyword here is “perform” and not simply “do”.

The "art" does not lie within the magic itself but rather within the one who is performing it. Anything less than that and it is then merely nothing more than .......a trick.

~gaffed~
"Half this game is ninety percent mental."
~Yogi Berra~

"To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible." ~St. Thomas Aquinas~

Twitter"A means of proving how pathetic and lonely you are in 140 characters or less." ~Anonymous~
Jonathan Townsend
View Profile
Eternal Order
Ossining, NY
26972 Posts

Profile of Jonathan Townsend
What's with capitalizing the word art?
...to all the coins I've dropped here
tommy
View Profile
Eternal Order
Devil’s Island
15746 Posts

Profile of tommy
To distinguish from false art basically.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
Lawrence O
View Profile
Inner circle
Greenwich (CT)
6799 Posts

Profile of Lawrence O
If the performer is totally focused on his character's act, it is art (good or bad).

If the same one focuses on his (performer's) narcissistic concerns, it becomes skill (good or bad) but it's not art.

I repeat the Simon Aronson quote: "There is a world of difference in not knowing how something is done and knowing that it cannot be done." The first approach is skill, the second is art.

Art is like true love: when it touches you, you know it with absolute certainty.
Magic is the art of proving impossible things in parallel dimensions that can't be reached
john scot
View Profile
Special user
brighton, uk
585 Posts

Profile of john scot
Quote:
On 2008-10-17 23:45, daffelglass wrote:
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:

-------------------------
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.
-------------------------


"Art is the lie that helps us understand the truth." - Pablo Picasso
gaddy
View Profile
Inner circle
Agent of Chaos
3149 Posts

Profile of gaddy
Also, calling magic an "art" will create a never ending demand for books on the "Art of Magic, ETC" marketed to those who are eternally chasing this carrot on a string.

I know that I'm no Picasso of magic, but I can strive to, at least, be a C.M Coolidge of magic...
*due to The Magic Cafe's editorial policies, words on this site attributed to me cannot necessarily be held to be my own.*
john scot
View Profile
Special user
brighton, uk
585 Posts

Profile of john scot
To me, art is the product of the ability to honestly express oneself through a creative medium. Not an easy thing to do, so I can see why one might fail to see magic as an art. I would feel pretentious calling myself an 'artist' but would like to think that I approach magic artistically.

That is why it’s so important to have other interests besides magic, so you can draw inspiration from them.
Cardician99
View Profile
Regular user
Maryland
158 Posts

Profile of Cardician99
I don't perceive myself as an Artist and have never given it much thought. Just a guy who stands back and watches the awe and amazement on the faces and eyes of those observing what I do. So rewarding! That is basically what Magic is all about. Right? At least, for me.

Laymen recognize "skill." Make no mistake, if they remember you as a "really good magician" and discuss you a day or days afterwards, what more recognition could you ask for?

I have seen this "Magician as an 'ARTIST'", definition of an artist, etc., type thread for nearly 50 years. Hey, just enjoy yourself! Please the public and call yourself whatever....rather: A "Magician."
ghostpianist
View Profile
Loyal user
274 Posts

Profile of ghostpianist
Yep.
Jonathan Townsend
View Profile
Eternal Order
Ossining, NY
26972 Posts

Profile of Jonathan Townsend
Quote:
On Nov 12, 2008, gaddy wrote:
Also, calling magic an "art" will create a never ending demand for books on the "Art of Magic, ETC" marketed to those who are eternally chasing this carrot on a string.

I know that I'm no Picasso of magic, but I can strive to, at least, be a C.M Coolidge of magic...
Memorable images there, thanks Smile And Merry Christmas!
...to all the coins I've dropped here
magicianbrady
View Profile
Regular user
102 Posts

Profile of magicianbrady
What does it matter if it's an Art or not?
The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » An Ellusionist Post (1 Likes)
 Go to page [Previous]  1~2
[ Top of Page ]
All content & postings Copyright © 2001-2019 Steve Brooks. All Rights Reserved.
This page was created in 0.25 seconds requiring 5 database queries.
The views and comments expressed on The Magic Café
are not necessarily those of The Magic Café, Steve Brooks, or Steve Brooks Magic.
> Privacy Statement <

ROTFL Billions and billions served! ROTFL