Home / General Magic / Is Magic Art? – Part 2

The following is an exert from my book BREATH. You can find the first half of the essay here.

Magic is inherently boring, it lacks no narrative. “But laymen enjoy my ambitious card” some will say. That is because they do not know what good magic truly looks like. Yes, many will have seen magic on television, but that is not the same as seeing a well-crafted piece in person that is not just about creating a moment of wonder, but about making them feel and think. Much to the dismay of many magicians Dynamo’s appeal is not his actual magic, but the story he weaves that draws people in, and then often knocks them back with what is a powerful piece of prestidigitation. I implore those reading this to try and employ this technique  in your performance. Rather than shoehorning a boring narrative into your performance, think of an interesting story or concept you wish to tell and how you could better express that through a simple piece of magic. If you struggle to find inspiration you should focus on everything around you. I will take an example from my time dabbling with Street Art as an example for you. I had a realisation that every day we pass by people that, if we to get to know them, could become our best friends, our confidantes, our lovers, or our worst enemies. All we needed for this relationship to occur would be one moment to get to know each other. How does an inanimate 2D painting break the ice between two people and introduce them to each other? I found a long underground walkway with two entrances which I would paint footsteps along the floor, up the walls, and back down to sets of footsteps facing a painting. It would have said something along the lines of:

Stand at these marks until someone stands next to you.

            Introduce yourselves.

            Falling in love is optional.

Whilst this has remarkable differences in deployment to a magic routine it has remarkable similarities in development to how magic should be manufactured. I started with a concept, worked on a way to draw attention, and finished with a piece that told a narrative and created a moment. The reason we miss this is because we are so inherently focused as an industry on how something is done rather than why. Our micro-industry is the guiltiest of this. It cannot sell the idea of why something is done often before people stop buying. But it can tell you how things are done[1] over and over. As an artisanal industry I imagine the magic-methods industry makes considerably more than most others.

We all need to focus on this part of our performances. We are all guilty of it and its why magic is not held in as high and esteem as many performance arts. Art should make you feel, make you laugh, cry, think, and so much more. That’s when art becomes real magic. It does the impossible and taps into your brain creating feelings and so much more. All art is magic, not all magic is art.

[1] Like the irony of Shepard Fairey, I’m aware that this essay containing a point on the negative impact of a method lead industry is in a book largely on methods. Thanks for purchasing!


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