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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Penny for your thoughts » » How to Stop the Trivialization of Mentalism (91 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Robb
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The "puzzle aspect" is of course necessary for the mystery aspect of magic or mentalism, but ideally the audience should not think it those terms. They should be too entertained or stunned for it to even occur to them to analyze how it was done. If we focus primarily on "fooling" audiences, then the question of exposure of methods might indeed be of concern. But if we instead focus on compelling presentations and showmanship, you can dazzle and amaze an audience with the simplest of methods.

Honestly, I cannot think of one single magic or mentalism method that is truly commonly known by "laymen" so I have no idea what the concern is.
jonnyboy
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Robb, with respect, I think there are quite a few magic methods (and maybe mentalism) that are well known. For example, marked cards, trick cards, double lifts, trick coins, palming cards, sleeving. Linking rings with a gap in them. They know about equivoque, one of our favorite mentalism methodologies. And now they think electronics are the method behind many mentalism effects, including earpieces and such. That may be why many professional performers I've seen go out of their way to disprove such methods in their presentations. Many spectators are too polite to mention them, but quite a few of them know in general about such methods. But, as you point out, it is the entertainment that should matter the most, but I think it is critically important to achieve this with the most bulletproof effects with logically disconnected methods. We're just deluding ourselves, in my opinion, if we think that people aren't aware of some common methodologies.

John
The Mysterious One
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Unfortunately Robb, jonnyboy is correct in reference to non-magicians knowing a few magic methods. However, a skilled mentalists or magician can use this so called surface knowledge and use it to further fool an audience by using alternative methods. I have used this when doing mental magic with a deck of cards. A spectator once claimed that I was going to fo*** a playing card. I simply told the spectator that he has free choice and asked him to place his finger on the playing card and keep it on there. I then proceeded with an altered version of the card effect. After the effect was over, he was more amazed than anyone. I played off this spectator's knowledge to further do the impossible in his mind.

Even though I am a magician, I always enjoy reading over the years the thoughts of many mentalism professionals (Mindpro, JanForster, David Thiel, Bob Cassidy, and others) in Penny. I respect their passion and knowledge. I do not want to see mentalism being reduced and disrespected like the art of magic. Mentalism is truly about performance and scripting. It is the last art form within mystery entertainment that people do not view the practitioners as tricksters. I have watched enough mentalism throughout my life to witness laypeople refusing to believe a mentalist claims of not being psychic.

There is hope out there for mentalists. A case in point, my Harvard lawyer sister is one of the biggest fans of mentalism that one would ever meet. She loves watching Derren Brown, Keith Barry, and have borrowed my recordings of these aforementioned artists along with Alain Nu and Gerry Mccambridge. She has also viewed your TV magicians doing mentalism (Dynamo, Justin Willman, David Blaine). She has spent time trying to find out how "X" does A,B and C? She has even stumbled upon our beloved Café and has perused the site briefly a number of years ago trying to find out information. She didn't find anything out, but just by visiting the site is a little too close to comfort for my taste. Unfortunately, there are some members that openly discuss methods in an open forum (not pointing any fingers). She spent time researching methods but got bored due to the amount of time to do this and trying to translate the jargon. She represents a very small number of people that will spend the time and effort to discover how something works.

People are aware of more common methodologies in magic than mentalism. Yet, in magic, one can use different methods to execute the effect and make changes to the presentation to create additional layers of deception. It is so important for the mentalists to give thought and effort to original presentations to mask the method or to play up the impossibility of the stated method. A cookie cutter approach in any branch of mystery entertainment only handicaps the performer from truly astonishing an audience in today's information age. I would like to see mentalism as well as its cousin magic last for hundreds of years beyond 2015.
mindpunisher
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All these posts may be true but the simple fact is the internet has made it easy to get info. In the past publishing methods was no problem at all because only those who were serious took the bother to find out. The more popular mentalism gets the more it will be searched online. There will always be a percentage who really can't be bothered to search and are happy watching the shows. But those that do search will only increase.
mindpunisher
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Derren Brown Kieth Barry all have luxury of a team and budget behind them. Something most performers don't have. Im surprised they have lasted so long. I personally got bored by them many years ago.
IAIN
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They say the same about you! Smile
JanForster
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Interest in how things are done would diminish a lot if more performers would transfer by their performances that knowing doesn't mean being able to do. That again melts down to the fact that we need extremely professional and entertaining performers. Unfortunately there are not many. Mind sets have to change, live what you do, think about and reflect about it all the time and I mean all the time. Get a feeling for when you should not perform. Turn each stone around, plan ALL and try always to set things the best way to support you. Of course you have to know your stuff inside and outside. Do not show tricks, mental magic tricks or whatever, the mind set has to be I am a mentalist, not I am a guy who shows mental tricks. Jan
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DynaMix
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Underscoring the above point, I bring up for the second time - mentalism's natural paradox.

We want people to respect an art form that is built on NOT knowing how it works.

Just stop being magicians and mentalists for a minute and think about what conclusions that leads one to. They can be dark places if you follow that logic out.

A an audience member in a play or concert rarely thinks "I can go up on stage and play that song or act that role just as well."

But many many audience members think they can do what we do "if only they knew the secret."

WHY IS THAT?

(rhetorical question)
Robb
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Exactly, Dynamix. But if your performance is superior, they don't bother with that question. And with all due respect to the guys who disagreed with me when I said that "laymen" don't know many magic or mentalism methods, I stand by that.

People have certainly heard of marked cards, but few have ever actually seen a marked deck or assume that one is being used.

A gap in one of the rings? That's just plain logic, that's not access to some secret method. It's what a rational person would assume without being convinced otherwise. Trick coins though? No, your average person has no awareness of that.

Sleeving? Just a magical cliche ("Nothing up my sleeves!"), but nobody (including most magicians!) has any real knowledge of the mechanics of sleeving. They would watch Rocco and have no idea what is happening (because he's a master or the technique).

Moving on to mentalism... Equivoque? NO, most people have zero knowledge of this technique. However, when done poorly any fool can spot what is going on. Done well and in the right context and it is invisible.

Electronics? Well, that is partially our own faults for becoming over reliant on mentalism technology but putting that aside, you need to create the logical disconnects and presentational touches that make it clear that you're not using tech even when you are.

In short, with all due respect, I think this worry about method exposure is unwarranted and focused on the wrong direction. What I fear will trivialize mentalism is not method exposure but poorly conceived and executed routines. If we want to prevent the trivialization of the mystery arts, then being the best writers and performers that we can be should be our focus, not worrying about what some kid is saying in the comments on YouTube.
mindpunisher
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Quote:
On Dec 15, 2015, IAIN wrote:
They say the same about you! Smile


I don't have a budget or a team no matter what they say Iain!

I haven't lasted that well either lol
DynaMix
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Quote:
On Dec 15, 2015, Robb wrote:
Exactly, Dynamix. But if your performance is superior, they don't bother with that question.



I agree with you 1000%

I also think that someone can't impress a crowd with a shoddy stand up performance or an amateur guitar solo.

But someone CAN impress a crowd with a poorly performed card trick. Cuz, guess what - some card tricks ARE very easy. And very fooling. And quite impressive.

That's why the majority of us probably got bit in the first place by the magic bug.

Not to sound defeatist, but when you really analyze what we do AT ITS CORE - I think you have to come to the conclusion that although magic or mentalism CAN be as skillful as music/comedy/dancing/acting - perhaps for the most part, it isn't. Or at least we have collectively let it be a lot less skillful. Or perhaps it is inherently less "needy" of skill than we like to admit. I don't know, just spitballing here.

I think the point is - don't overthink this stuff and focus on being the best you can be in terms of entertaining. Be the skillful performer who represents the artform well.

At the end of the day, a rock guitar player actually is up there doing that. A comedian really is funny.

A mindreader is not really reading minds. Something to think about.
The Jack
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And what if we try to be artists? what if on stage we have something to say, something to share? I think that way people do not care about methods or youtube or else... when an artist enters stage they can notice that and from then on everything it s about the unique thing he has to show them.
Robb
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Yes! The Jack nailed it in just a few words.
Mindpro
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You're kidding yourself if you believe this. Just by our nature we immediately, by default, want to know and understand how it's done or "how he's able to do that."
Robb
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Mindpro, no doubt people wonder that to some degree. My point is that they're not so motivated to find out that they're going to bother much. And especially so with a good performance. When people are entertained and delighted, they are less focused on the how. Seriously, you think after seeing David Copperfield or Derren Brown folks are running home to search the web for explanations of how they did what they did? I think that is absurd.
IAIN
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I've sat in theatres watching derren, there's always people around me putting up their best guess, some telling others how he does it "its that nlp stuff, innit", and also googling for answers... and that's just in the intermission...
The Jack
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There s always people that can t stop thinking about the method. But most of the time when they see an artist they confess they do not want to know and appreciate what they have experienced. To mention an artist and a great example, Rene Lavand. After 5 minutes audiences (real ones) didn t care about methods. And I think there are more examples but this one can be supported by anyone who has seen him performing for real audiences.
IAIN
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...yeah, but that's magic and poetry...people are kinda less bothered by that...(huge, huge fan of the late, great Rene Lavand btw)...they can sit back and enjoy it without wanting to delve deeper...

with mentalism, because of the plausibility and general belief structures (for good and for ill) - people wanna know far, far more...

when the persona transcends the subject matter, that's when people care less and are just 'in the moment'...
The Jack
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I agree with you Iain!!! but I think that s the path to avoid trivialization!!! it worth the try at least from my point of view.
David Thiel
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I think you can only trivialize something that is already trivial -- made so either by the treatment of the performer or the presentation of the effect. There will always be easy access to secrets. It's a fact of life in this new world. But concentrate on presentation...concentrate on entertaining them and being memorable...concentrate on connecting with your audience.

Do what you can to protect the secrets of the art. Of course. But don't spend precious energy looking over your shoulder to see what the rest of the world is doing. You're only going to create your own "art" when your eyes are firmly pointed forward.

There's nothing we can do about lowlife jerks on the internet. So get over it. Ignore them...brush them off the bottom of your shoe. In the broad picture, they just don't matter. Fretting about something you can't change will only make you nuts.

But understand that the REAL touch of "magic" in mentalism is hidden away in the connection a performer makes with an audience. Internet bottom feeders simply can't copy that.

David
Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Except bears. Bears will kill you.


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