Magic as an Art Form

Discuss the historical aspects of magic, including memories, or favorite stories.

Postby mop krayz » 10/25/02 06:48 AM

I am looking for references, articles or essays intended for lay people that present convincing arguments in favour of Magic as an Art Form. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
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Postby Guest » 10/25/02 09:55 AM

Well, I just finished reading Burger & Neal's book -Magic And Meaning- which is a absolutely fantastic read. I don't think it was written for laymen but I wouldn't have a problem recommending it to non-magi. It definitely has a lot to say about magic, it's place in society and it's cultural and artistic contributions to the world at large.

I would go so far as to say that it should be recommend reading for all magicians.
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Postby sleightly » 10/25/02 10:41 PM

Our Magic by Maskelyne and Devant. Maskelyne has much to say on this topic...

So do I, but I'm not jumping in at this time...

Water is too hot!

ajp
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 11/11/02 01:42 AM

Magic as an art form...
First and foremost, all of art and science are raw materials in the construction of magical effects and method. From storytelling to perception and from materials to mechanics all have been or may be used to create magical events. The subject of magic includes the arts, therefore one does need the language to discuss art to fully discuss magic.
Secondly, magic is something that happens in the mind of the audience triggered by cognitive and sensory stimuli. You can find citations on this in cognitve psychology.
As magic is a meta craft which provides meta experience it would be foolish to attempt to contain a deffinition to terms suitable to some limited subset of the craft's componants.
-sorry about the spelling.
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Postby Terry » 11/11/02 05:51 AM

I am currently about 2/3 the way through, but would highly recommend Jamy Ian Swiss' new book "Shattering Illusions."
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Postby Guest » 11/16/02 01:07 PM

There is some great info on this at
http://www.artofmagicseries.com

Also, you can refer to Doug Hennings work in getting a grant to demonstrate that magic was an art form.
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Postby Guest » 12/16/02 03:03 PM

Interestingly enough the Arts Council of Canada recently refused funding to a magic festival here on the grounds that they didn't consider magic to be an art.
Things have changed since the Doug Henning days.

Magic is definitely an art form.It should be easy to convince the public of this providing they do not have the chance of actually seeing any magicians perform.

The Arts Council of Canada did, I believe and this had an effect on their verdict.
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Postby Jon Racherbaumer » 12/16/02 03:26 PM

Obviously they did not see David Ben.
Also, they did not ask Margaret Atwood, who is a big fan of ARTFUL magic.

This is too bad.

Onward...
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Postby Guest » 12/16/02 03:40 PM

I don't know if they saw David Ben or not.
Let us hope they don't read the review of David's show in today's Globe and Mail. I have posted extracts of this article elsewhere on the Forum.

I do think that magic would be seen as an art form if we could possibly deter magicians from performing it.

I also think it is a theatre art provided the theatre could be kept out of it.

It is definitely an entertainment art. I won't say "provided the entertainment is kept out of it"

Most magicians have done a sterling job of the last sentence.
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Postby Guest » 12/16/02 03:45 PM

Fine Arts have in common that they communicate emotion. Painting, sculpture, architecture, drama (theater), literature, cinema, dance, and music all attempt to communicate emotions to the perceiver. The perceiver, through a lifetime of exposure to quality art, becomes more sensitive to the emotions coming from the art. Increased/improved sensitivity over a lifetime makes one more sensitive to the emotions coming from other people. Therefore the arts are not merely entertainment, nor societal frills, but an essential element for humans: an education in feeling, if you will.

Magic has much in common with opera: Both are amalgams of the fine arts, combining most of the fine arts into a giant art form. Yet, no expert of the fine arts lists either "opera" or "conjuring" as a fine art, but rather as the aforementioned amalgam. Magic, unfortunately, has not acquired the reputation that opera has in fine art circles, and so it is considered by many to be merely entertainment or even a puzzle to be solved by the analytical types of the world.

It is up to the professional magicians of the world to "raise the bar;" to make magic consistently have the same emotional impact as drama, dance, music, and, yes, opera. Only then will it receive its just inclusion into the fine arts.

My all-too-brief discussion has not addressed relative quality; i.e., there is good music and poor music, good painting and poor painting, etc. No doubt there is also good opera and poor opera, just like there is good magic and poor magic. The above discussion assumes high quality magic, just like it assumes high quality samples of the other fine arts.

There; I've opened the floodgates. Let the discussion begin!
:D

Jon
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Postby Guest » 12/16/02 04:00 PM

HIgh quality magic? Is there such a thing? I suppose there is. I do vaguely remember seeing it a few times.

I don't ever recall hearing a bad opera singer, though. In fact never. I suppose they exist, of course. They seem to be as rare as good magicians though.

The problem is that magicians focus on the wrong things. They focus on tricks and methods. The result is similar to eating an uncooked meal.

If they were to focus on the other things that are far, far, more important like presentation, showmanship, patter, psychology and other trifles then starving magicians in Ontario might be able to scam a few dollars out of the Ontario Arts Council.

Magicians don't think enough. They use their hands instead of using their minds. If they were to do the former rather than the latter then they would develop their craft into an art instead of their art into a mere craft.
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Postby Guest » 12/16/02 04:04 PM

MY senility is showing. I should have said "latter" instead of former and "former" instead of latter.

I was pontificating about magicians using their minds. I appear to be losing mine.

You had better squeeze the knowledge out now before there is no more left. My brain cells are rapidly dying off.
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Postby Guest » 12/16/02 10:12 PM

Forgive the long comment. I find the discussion of "magic as an art form" complicated because BOTH nouns are not well defined for most of us. It's easy to pursue the "art" until you are more in the rhealm of actors, comics, poets... rather than magicians.
What is the "art" of "magic"? There is the experience of the viewer... But there is also the creators whose actual thinking is artistic in its weaving of principles. There are creative craftsman in which the physical objects design can be artistic. Then there are performers.

Storytelling, acting, poetry, music, dance, can all "magical" yet art-forms to themselves outside "magic" and are often combined with magic to make it "more artisitic." This being so...the challenge is to define "magic" apart from them also as an art-form. What would we be talking about in this case? Does "magic" always need to "leech" from other arts to make itself artistic?

Because magic so often "borrows" on outside theatre arts, there is often this dual competition of interests between the "emotional drama" and the jolting experience of "magic." One engages the heart (the familiar) and the other other the mind (the foreign). Penn said, "magic is an intellectual art," and because it's very nature is "unnatural" in inevitably engages the mind with the "puzzle" aspect to some extent no matter how we down play it.

Not to sound crass, but...

I wonder if it is a valid analogy to compare Magic with Porn?
Love for magic is not unlike the adolescent fascination of f**king with people.
A "good" film may be recognized for it's romance and magic...
Both porn and magic are tricks in search of a plot.
A porn film may aspire to be considered a legit theatrical piece, but the closer it approaches art...the less it may be appreciated by those who love porn. The same may be for magic I think the fascination with the "trick" or "the power" may be "base" or "basic" nature (or even "adolescent nature"). I think we can choose to cater to it or not.

Fascination with sex and magic are not too different in they are both a fascination with power. And a show full of great "theatrics" doesn't necessarily make "good" (respected) theater. If the magic becomes incidental to the theatre, is it still a "magic" show? There are special effects shows and there are shows with special effects. I think the two tend to overpower each other and compete for attention. In some ways they depend on each other (sex & love, magic & art, F/X & theater), but they are also as independent as cats with a force of their own....and we want to "civilize" them. I think this tension can create a "glass" ceiling. By the nature of calling yourself a "porn star" or "magician" you draw an audience for that raw display of power...and disappoint your followers a bit if you get to "artsy." Theatre is a powerful mistress to "magic" and easily dominates creating different expectations.

"Is magic a leech or does it exist on it's own as an art form." I still don't have a clear answer, but I think with there is a gutteral response to seeing something incredible...something that shakes our belief systems a bit. I think nature offers the experience of awe that magicians try to recreate with tricks. It is the numinous experience that is both unsettling and appealing. Or as the dictionary puts it "appealing to the higher emotions or aesthetic sense." Magic may be considered the sub category of EVERY other art... meaning it never stands alone, but is the nugget we lay claim to in every other art that inspires the experience of "Magic."
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 12/16/02 11:34 PM

Originally posted by Bill Jackson:
...I wonder if it is a valid analogy to compare Magic with Porn?...
I will go along and be even more crass. Evidently few posters have read or understood the posts at the start of this thread. For the 'newbies': Magic is a meta craft which delivers an audience a meta experience.

That covered, let's get to the good stuff... porn.

I recall a friend in college who would watch an audience who had seen none of my material and enjoy their reactions. She summed up her perception of the experience as "spread your ears".

I am pleased to agree with Jen, and have only heard this kind of opinion expressed in another conversation on the topic of intimacy. For Jen, and perhaps us as we enjoy their reactions, it may well be somewhat pornographic. It certainly is intimate in a cognative way.

"spread your ears"
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Postby Guest » 12/17/02 11:15 AM

Both Jon and Bills comments are quite helpful to me in as much as they question and then establish the terms of the original post regarding art and magic. But to go back to the original question, how do we make people care that magic is a meta-craft that (hopefully) generates meta-experiences? Is that our job or do meta-crafts by virtue of how they work somehow sidestep issues of aesthetic proof and function on the boundaries between spectacle and miracle (that question might sound like an accusation, but its not supposed to be--Im just curious what people think)? Of course, art has a history within this boundary, but functions largely beyond it (although people still turn to metaphoric language within these boundaries to describe their visceral responses). I personally want people to have a different reaction from a piece of art than they do from my magic, but I personally am not certain as to which way I want to go.

I was thinking about this because of Bills wonderful porn metaphor--mainly because of the governments pseudo-definition of porn: You know it when you see it. Not that one should ever necessarily look to the government for definitions, but I was wondering if the same definition applies to magic--not in terms of how we the artists define it and/or justify it, but how audiences experience it? How do we theorize about generating meta-experiences in the face of the inherent subjectivity of that experience?

On a side note, I just recently had a conversation with a very talented young magician who described his own interaction with his audience through ideas of sexual tension and pleasure, and from watching the audiences reaction to his work on a number of occasions, I think the feeling was mutual.
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Postby Michael Kamen » 12/17/02 04:36 PM

I think Bill's porn analogy is the most brilliant piece of thought provoking comment I have heard in a long time.

I wonder if it is a valid analogy to compare Magic with Porn?
Love for magic is not unlike the adolescent fascination of f**king with people.
A "good" film may be recognized for it's romance and magic...
Both porn and magic are tricks in search of a plot.
A porn film may aspire to be considered a legit theatrical piece, but the closer it approaches art...the less it may be appreciated by those who love porn. The same may be for magic I think the fascination with the "trick" or "the power" may be "base" or "basic" nature (or even "adolescent nature"). I think we can choose to cater to it or not.

Fascination with sex and magic are not too different in they are both a fascination with power. And a show full of great "theatrics" doesn't necessarily make "good" (respected) theater. If the magic becomes incidental to the theatre, is it still a "magic" show? There are special effects shows and there are shows with special effects. I think the two tend to overpower each other and compete for attention. In some ways they depend on each other (sex & love, magic & art, F/X & theater), . . .
The comparison seems valid up to a point -- it seems to address something authentic about the spectator's perspective. However, on the performer's side I believe there is a world of difference between the "porn star" and the magician with respect to the potential "artistry" of their respective endeavors. The magician (as artist) must practice long, diligently, and imaginatively to create the "effect" on his or her audience. I do not believe there is any serious counterpart in the other context.

Perhaps the problem is not with magic as art, but that so few magic-enthusiasts are willing to do what is necessary to become artists. Art requires self-sacrifice, and in some cases more than a fair smattering of obsession. I know a girl who liked to paint, but she was no artist.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 12/18/02 09:56 AM

Originally posted by Kainoa Harbottle:
...
1) art has a history within this boundary, but functions largely beyond it (although people still turn to metaphoric language within these boundaries to describe their visceral responses

2) I personally want people to have a different reaction from a piece of art than they do from my magic, but I personally am not certain as to which way I want to go.

3) How do we theorize about generating meta-experiences in the face of the inherent subjectivity of that experience?

Those are three interesting statements. Since Magic makes use of the arts (performing and producing) and sciences we would be most wastful to ignore the resources.

1) The communicated aesthetics of a performed work depend upon the performer/director/venue having a clear intent and carrying through their vision. That done, the social and personal context of the performance may or may not alter the content of the recieved impressions from those intended.

2) Many artists have found benefit from exposure to work outside their domain and some familiarity with the larger history of art in society.

3) The semioticians and cognitive scientists have had some success describing the means of communicating experience and generating meaning from perceptions. My limited studies in both subjects left me with the impression that both schools are fully aware of the effect of context upon content.

The general issue here may be some well founded and natural unwillingness to examine the messages we are sending with our work. It is much easier to hold onto behaviors as "traditional" than to examine which of our behaviors are effective and in what contexts. Ritual is easy. It is our ritual. Most audiences are somewhat tolerant to ritual performances.

On the other hand, communication is a process and a challenge, very much like relationships. Such a process and study may be of little interst to those who truly wish only to "hit them on the head, tie them in a knot then get off". Each may have to find their own Dr. Ruth or Dr Phil.
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Postby Guest » 12/18/02 11:53 AM

I completely agree, Jonathan, in terms of the necessity of magicians' awareness in regards to other art forms and those who study those art forms. As someone who spends most of his time wading through a variety of semiotic (and some cognitive) theories in an attempt to apply them to the reception of literature--in this wonderful world of literary studies/cultural theory where they pay me (quite poorly) to read books--I find your statement of faith in these sciences a bit too hopeful.

What disturbs me the most about present day Reception study (aka Reader Response theories) is its applications to magic, especially its assumption that once the text (movie, poem, play, painting, interactive art piece, magic trick) is out of the author/auteur hands, its meaning is up for grabs for the audience. The meaning or narrative that audiences (dependent on their own historical and immediate contexts) instill into their sensory experience creates the experience in more influential ways than the artists attempt at creating meaning does (color, form, gestures all become injected or rather viewed through a lens of highly 0subjective meaning). The creator is alienated from his creation by virtue of the inherent difficulty of human communication and understanding you speak of. The question of intention--for these scholars at least--becomes interesting but, unfortunately, moot.

So you can see why this thread intrigues me. If the effect does not occur in the magicians hands, nor on the table, nor in the spectators hand, but in the spectators mind, how should we be thinking about creating magical experiences, experiences that go beyond the rituals of action and thought magicians have come to rely on? Fortunately, as you say, audience tolerance--or rather their training in various appreciative modes--has crossed over with our own through their various experiences (from David Blane TV shows to Uncle Fred's quarter from the ear trick), which is comforting. And I think a number of "popular" tricks have keyed into particularly receptive modes of thought or qualities of language by virtue of their performance histories. Yet I sincerely desire the ability to train and retrain my audiences for immediate and future magic appreciation in such a way that distinguishes me from other aesthetic experiences as well as assists them in being able to distinguish gradations of quality within the magical arts.

Ive been drawn lately to the work being done by those who have distilled Neuro Linguistic Programming techniques into more useful formats, mainly because of how they use the form and structures of language (rather than just visual or auditory content) in order to create magic. And having used and seen people use these techniques quite consistently (though I am inherently distrustful of them), I wonder if magicians dont need another volume of Tarbell on semiotic and cognitive studies.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 12/18/02 01:49 PM

Originally posted by Kainoa Harbottle:
... 1) its meaning is up for grabs for the audience. ...

2) Neuro Linguistic Programming techniques into more useful formats, mainly because of how they use the form and structures of language (rather than just visual or auditory content) in order to create magic

3) I wonder if magicians dont need another volume of Tarbell on semiotic and cognitive studies.
It would seem we are looking at the same issues, though may be using some unfamiliar language. The introduction to Umberto Eco's "Limits of Interpretation" offers even the facile reader a discussion of the artist/audience meaning issue. The seriousness of the issue would warrant attention from the serious student of the craft.

1) In good humor and simple terms, have you ever tried to fool a dog or cat with a card trick? Or even get them to watch a short performance without licking the props or wandering away? The assumptions we make about just what is behind those eyes in the audience might be worth writing out and discussing. In this case both dogs and cats seem to 'like' routines that end with productions of food. They will sit for the cups and balls once they 'learn' that when you step back, the final loads are edible.

2) NLP. Oh boy... Let's discuss the things a performer might learn to do for and with themself as opposed to the application of findings to the mechanics ( ie method) of a routine. The former may be a good guide to success as it encourages us to learn from audience reactions and evolve our presentations.

3) A modern Tarbell would be nice, collecting our current knowlege of what works and where and when into something pertinant to todays world. Doug Henning was on this road with 'mod' costume and timely language in the 1970's. David Copperfield was similarly working towards this by adopting and using modern music and stage design in his work. Surely nostalgia has its place, and with some work a Cardini type act should do well today. Likewise it would help the younger magician to keep in mind that most people do not wear tuxedos to parties, get drunk on alcohol or smoke cigarettes. Perhaps portraying a raver on their way home, still buzzed on "x" might work as well? A compendium of current props with meaning and some examples of what effects have sybolic meaning would be quite vaulable in our craft.

Not many magicians today know that at the time it was first done, pulling a rabbit from someones hat was a (not too) polite way of accusing them of having sexual thoughts.

... now to reframe my trip to the dentists office as a chance to practice flirting with the hygeniest. ;)
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Postby Guest » 12/18/02 04:42 PM

I want to say how grateful I am to find such stimulating conversation from so many on a subject that I am still sorting though...hopefully as profitable as the irritating grain of sand in the oyster. Thank you all for this discussion.

Jonathan Townsend Wrote" "meta craft which provides meta experience "

I'm sorry...I am not sure of the meaning of some of the terms being used here. No doubt I have holes in my education, but I missed this in my college theatre and art studies! Just from linguistics and context I assumed one of a couple of things were meant with reference to magic. In simplest terms "meta"...or going beyond the mere craft. This could mean the combination of crafts into something new. The term is often applied to other areas to refer to something in transition...evolving. In this case could mean we are on the cutting edge of defining and transforming magic into an accepted art. "Meta" psychology steps beyond itself into philosophy to question it's self and knowledge. Is a "meta experience" one where we step beyond our assumptions to question ourselves?

Jon A. Hand Wrote:
"Magic has much in common with opera: Both are amalgams of the fine arts, combining most of the fine arts into a giant art form. Yet, no expert of the fine arts lists either "opera" or "conjuring" as a fine art, but rather as the aforementioned amalgam. Magic, unfortunately, has not acquired the reputation that opera has in fine art circles, and so it is considered by many to be merely entertainment or even a puzzle to be solved by the analytical types of the world."

I hadn't heard this about Opera. The books I've read always reference Opera clearly as an art created by intellectuals to recreate the ancient Greek music experience. However, Theatre has only "recently" been considered an "art" and had to fight the same fight that magicians are today. It might be interesting to follow the work of Gordon Craig and books The Art of Theatre (1902), and On the Art of Theatre (1905) as well as others. He thought of theatre as an independent art. Before this, theatre was considered a text based craft working with other craftsmen. He sought to move beyond that.

Kainoa Harbottle Wrote:
"The creator is alienated from his creation by virtue of the inherent difficulty of human communication and understanding you speak of. The question of intention--for these scholars at least--becomes interesting but, unfortunately, moot."

I believe "art" should be more "evocative" rather than "provocative." This means that if you create in order to "make a statement" it is more in the line of self-serving propaganda and you need to be protective of "misinterpretation." Evocative art is a more direct experience...you create images (nonverbal or verbal) that have meaning for you and have a unity of form that evokes something from others. Everyone is free to interpret this as they wish for it stands as an experience of it's own merits...not just serving the author. What can be fun is to see how much of the same "pool" we all share in our common humanity and how art can call forth similar responses in so many of us...and that is what I believe art does...call forth our humanity, not try to indoctrinate us with another's world view. In other words, the artists says, "this is who I am...what do you see?"

As I understand it, Art is separated from mere entertainment by virtue that it has significance beyond the mere moment. It causes us to reflect on our lives in some significant ways and can merit scrutiny and sustained interest by it's evocative nature.

[Sorry I don't know how to make these quote buttons work!]
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 12/18/02 07:08 PM

Originally posted by Bill Jackson:
... Is a "meta experience" one where we step beyond our assumptions to question ourselves?...
Bill asks a great question here. What is a meta experience? He also comes so close to grasping and writing an answer that I hope the rest us can appreciate his asking.

First let's make the word 'meta' into a familiar resource. When we describe a thing in particular, we are in a way attaching words to our perceptions to make a model of a thing. The words are not the thing, though they may serve to describe the thing to someone else or remind you of how you felt about the thing at that moment.

If we look over our list of words or decriptions of a thing and try to attach some characteristics to the list as a whole, we can make a new kind of description. Was the list all about feelings or sensations or measurements perhaps? This new list of words would be a meta description, a characterization or model of your earlier description.

Let's try an exercise, just a bit of imagination and introspection to try and evoke a feeling like what we usualy want in our audiences. A nice example using familiar objects. Surely you will have no trouble imagining the following situation and may have memories of this kind of event to refer to. You meet a magician and after exchanging greetings, they ask for and borrow a quarter. They place the quarter in their left hand. They ask about your shoesize. They then smile and slowly open their left hand and you find the coin has vanished. Be aware of your feeling of surprise. In your imagination are you still looking at the magicians hand? Are you looking them in the face? Have you said anything to the magician? Yet? What do you feel now? Have you asked for your coin back yet? What do you feel now?

At every moment in this exercise we can agree that the magician and their hand stayed ordinary. We can agree the coin was ordinary and that even when the coin was no longer in the magicians hand, their hand stayed ordinary. Somewhere in your imagination is a magician who borrowed a quarter of yours and the quarter is no longer in evidence. Your quarter is gone. How do you feel now? Let's leave it that way as a marker or anchor for the feeling of magic. It's only a quarter. It's still in your imagination along with the magician. Goodnight.
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Postby Michael Kamen » 12/18/02 07:30 PM

Most of the (erudite) comment seems intent on defining art from the spectator's point of view. I think that first comes the artist, then the art. If a practitioner approaches conjuring as an art in the way an opera singer does, i.e., by practicing untold hours daily and putting heart and soul into mastering the foundations, then continues by imaginatively, artfully, and hopefully brilliantly developing the foundations into magical forms, I say that person is an artist -- and this is what defines the activity as art.

There are good/bad, successful/unsuccessful artists, depending on the audience's response and other factors. The work is still art. The best artist does the work for its own sake. Sometimes the greatest art is not appreciated until generations later (a good agent helps). Sometimes, it is never appreciated. The more magicians think and behave like artists, with the discipline and (eventually) imagination of artists, the more great magicians we will see.

My two cents worth.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 12/18/02 09:02 PM

Originally posted by Michael Kamen:
I think that first comes the artist, then the art. ... what defines the activity as art.
It is a foregone conclusion that accomplishment in the arts and sciences requires dedication and persistance. Likewise it is understood that craft is not art, nor action necessarily effective "performance art". Michael, how would you suggest one approach improving their work with an eye towards some means of knowing how or if they were improving?
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Postby Michael Kamen » 12/18/02 10:22 PM

Jonathan,

I was only addressing the idea of magic as art --your question takes the matter further. In art I think you are competing first and formost with yourself. I do not mean to beg your question (poorly qualified though I am to answer it in any case), but the following quote comes to mind from (I think) Plato's Symposium and quoted in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:

"And what is good, Phaedrus? And what is not good? Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?"

In magic, you've got your mirror, your teacher(s) and your audiences.

Regards,
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 12/19/02 12:51 AM

Originally posted by Michael Kamen:
...your mirror, your teacher(s) and your audiences.
After the insights of Duchamps and Pollack one might do well to ask if more 'ready mades' have been placed in museums or if time captured in paint is a basis for much significant new art. In both cases time has answered in the negative.

For this reason one can teach craft and history though not art. The importance of context to a work was well explored in the literary and visual arts last century. This produced the paradoxical and amazing works of Dali, Borges and Becket among many others. That ground has been covered. The semioticians have arrived and put post-its on the frame of reference, just as Kantor and Goedel provided insight into the completeness of a formal perspective. The valid question remains "how does one recognize art?". The valid answer remains "by how it affects one in context". For this reason an object and its artistic merrit are related by context. Whether the audience attends an exhibit hosted by the artist or they exhume the artifact in the role of historian the relationship of audience to artist remains primary and dependant upon context. When removed from context the work becomes craft. The 'ready made' becomes a misplaced fixture.

Interestingly, it is the human condition that remains almost unchanged over time. Insights provided by the bard to and through his actors is valid to this day. These words to his players and to the audience remain good advice on how to present content. It is fairly clear he used the play as a medium and his message was refined by the crucible of performance. While the players perform, the playwrite watches the audience. This crucible of performance sorts the artists internal logic from the audiences common sense, thus avoiding the solipsists trap. The singular vision of the artist may provide the lasting resonance with audiences thus avoiding the trap of common fare which is forgotten almost as quickly as experienced.

Do most magicians wish to be players? What of those those who wish to be playwrites?
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Postby Guest » 12/19/02 01:01 AM

It appears that Mop Krayz , who started this discussion, has left the room. The original post asked for "essays intended for lay people that present convincing arguments in favour of Magic as an Art Form." Obviously no matter how hard we work we will never arrive if no one know where we are going. It appears that many are interested in seeing magic recognized by the public as an art. This goes beyond criticizing the poor magicians we've seen and blaming them. Unless we know how to redefine ourselves we will only be "great craftsmen" and like the magic books in the library we will sit next to the "games and hobbies" in peoples minds. This is not just about being a good entertainer, nor increasing profits. It is also not about being popular. It just about having a set of standards that can justify the recognition of magic as an art despite how few are good at it. I'm sure we can all be happy with our own personal goals to reach for, but this kind of theoretical thinking is about establishing magic as a recognized art. With all our dedication and practice, has any magicians produced a work that evoked a genuine tear..not with an accompaning story, but with with the use of magic (no jokes please)? I know Copperfield tried a few times, but fell far short. What is the emotional vocabulary of magic to be an art?
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 12/19/02 01:29 AM

Originally posted by Bill Jackson:
...has any magicians produced a work that evoked a genuine tear..not with an accompaning story, but with with the use of magic
I too am sorry Mop did not benefit when reminded that by simple construction our craft makes use of all the arts and therfore inherits the right to the greatest range of their recognition. In mathematics this would be considered obvious by inspection and merit no discussion.

It's all about content and context affecting an audience. A LONG time ago... the guy who walked into the cave with a couple of rocks and some leaves and made fire for the gang got more than tears. He got a huge amount of respect.

More recently, about a hudred years ago, the guy who first pulled a rabbit out of a borrowed hat got quite a reaction at the party.

Getting a good reaction from a copper/silver transposition should be within the means of almost anyone on this forum.
Mundus vult decipi
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Postby Jon Racherbaumer » 12/19/02 12:03 PM

Great posts! These are worthy of starting a Blog. Keep it up.
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Postby mop krayz » 12/19/02 12:35 PM

I couldn't log in for some time due to work commitments. I am now trying to catch up with all posts. I am glad and thankful of the many intelligent posts.
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Postby Bob Coyne » 12/19/02 04:12 PM

With all our dedication and practice, has any magicians produced a work that evoked a genuine tear..not with an accompaning story, but with with the use of magic (no jokes please)? I know Copperfield tried a few times, but fell far short. What is the emotional vocabulary of magic to be an art?
This seems to imply/assume that it's the job of art to evoke emotion. I disagree and would say that art (in it's highest form) is conceptualized beauty. That is, it produces and depends on a conceptual reference frame in which the artistic artifact is perceived as beautiful.

I do think some magic performances are of very high artistic quality. An example from the past would be Cardini and more recently some of Penn and Teller. I also think expertly presented classic magic (as in John Carney's rendition of Leipzig's Cigars from Purse routine) to unquestionably be art.

Another angle to look at it is performance versus creation, which I think was hinted at earlier. Maybe some of the great artists in magic are the creators. For example, isn't Dai Vernon's cups and balls routine beautiful in its own right, independent of any particular performance?

btw, I find Copperfield's vignettes to be pretty sappy and barely watchable.
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Postby Brian Morton » 12/19/02 10:51 PM

Bill Jackson wrote:
With all our dedication and practice, has any magicians produced a work that evoked a genuine tear..not with an accompaning story, but with with the use of magic (no jokes please)?
I would argue the story that accompanies the trick is paramount, but since you asked:

Penn Jillette, "Balloon of Blood."
Jamy Ian Swiss, "Slydini Silks." (a tale about love gone bad)

brian :cool:
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Postby Guest » 12/20/02 02:00 PM

"...'What is the emotional vocabulary of magic to be an art?..'
Bob Coyne responded: "This seems to imply/assume that it's the job of art to evoke emotion. I disagree and would say that art (in it's highest form) is conceptualized beauty. That is, it produces and depends on a conceptual reference frame in which the artistic artifact is perceived as beautiful. "
___________________________________

I fully agree with respect to a particular work of art. It's just that when considering magic itself as an ART FORM it seems a valid question as to it's ability to express a large spectrum of the complexity of human experience (0 emotion on up).

So, it is also true what Jon Hand wrote:
"Fine Arts have in common that they communicate emotion. Painting, sculpture, architecture, drama (theater), literature, cinema, dance, and music all attempt to communicate emotions to the perceiver. The perceiver, through a lifetime of exposure to quality art, becomes more sensitive to the emotions coming from the art."

Art also must separated from mere entertainment by it's evocative nature. I believe that it is magic's unique ability to create the unsettling numinous experience that sets it apart from other arts. Magicians seek out those elements in every art to perfect. Scavengers in a way...but ultimately creating a new experience for others.

Again I mention we may find a bit of inspiration from Gordon Craig who strove to wrest theatre from commercial interests and gain it recognition as a legitimate art form apart from it's literary roots. Especially since most magicians take shelter under the umbrella of theatre to defend magic as an art. The problem is that magic gets little recognition as an art, for any magician who might be recognized as an artist...it is more as a theatrical artist rather than magical artist. For magic to be recognized as an art in itself, it needs to prove itself as strong as the arts it borrows from.

That means that if we use a story to frame our magic, the story and the magic must be dependant on each other. The magic must not just be a special effect added to the story, but rather an intrinsic part of the experience of the story.

Craig spoke of theatre in terms of a "master director" who brings all the elements of the other arts together into something uniquely unified. Conceptually, I believe this is what the individual magician does on a small and unique scale. What makes us unique is the peculiar focus on the numinous experience.

Theatre asks that you suspend disbelief...the magician doesn't ask at all, rather has you explore it. If it were not for Craig's drive and promotion of theory, theatre to this day may not have been recognized as an art. However, in fairness to those who find these discussions "constipated" or a diversion from the more important act of creating art I would point out that it was not until Craig's work was displayed in the Moscow theatre did it begin to change the tide of opinion. So we need both, for the production would have change little if he had not also pushed for such recognition and distinction.
I find Jonathan's fire analogy an interesting place to start and effective way to illustrate his point...yet I'm not sure the sharing of a legit scientific discovery is the same as producing an illusion. Nor am I sure of any of the other examples given to bring a tear, but no doubt they did produce a strong reaction (and I do consider these people artists). I am appreciative of any magician attempting to explore these areas no matter how "sappy" the outcome my currently be...it is still progress in a new direction and an artistic state of mind.
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Postby Guest » 12/20/02 03:11 PM

Bill Jackson alerted me to the topic being discused here, since he knew it's one in which I'm greatly interested. Thanks, Bill. What a great thread this conversation is... Lots of really thought provoking comments!

This is my first time posting to this forum, but let me add my 2 cents worth...

I think that it may not really matter whether magic itself is "inherently" an art form, since I believe that ANYTHING, any human activity, can BE an art form if it is approached artistically, expressively, and with an inspired vision.

So my intent is to approach magic in this way. To find my own inspiration, to share that inspiration through my magic, and to share that vision of an inspired approach to magic with other magicians in hopes that I may help to spark something similar for them.

So what is it that lights your fire as a performer? And are there methods for expressing oneself more fully and creatively through your performances? My experience is that there are in fact ways to explore this, and that that experience in itself can be one of the most fulfilling things that we lovers of magic can aspire to...

Have any of you found concrete methods or experiences of sharing inspiration (of one form or another) through your magic?

Mitch
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Postby Guest » 12/27/02 03:29 PM

When Card Trickster wrote that the Canadian Arts Council had refused funding to a magic Festival on the ground that magic was not an "Art" I wrote to the Council to see what they would say. My question was broad, as to how they choose to classify art (as you can see by my letter). But the response whats more infomation on the specific case. Your feedback on responding would be of interest.

I wrote:

Dear Carol,

Thanks in advance for a minute of your time.
I am trying to gain some information on the classifications of art by the
Council. The Canadians have an impressive group of magicians considered as
artists by many... I understand it was Doug Henning who gain recognition of magic as an
art with the council over 30 year ago.

It was brought to my attention that the Arts Council of Canada recently
refused funding to a magic festival on the grounds that they didn't
consider magic to be an art. I wonder if you could clarify the position.

In every art there is a range in the quality of performers, but even so, it
seems magic contains all the features of a performing art with the unique
focus on the numinous experience itself. The range of expression is also
broad requiring a focus of talent. This question is not essentially about
funding, but as to how magic is viewed and why and what can be done about
it. I understand that theater itself had this same problem of recognition
until Gordon Craig strove to wrest theatre from commercial interests and
gain it recognition as a legitimate art form in the early 1900s.

Your comments would be extremely helpful and gratefully received.

Thank you again for your time!

Bill Jackson
___________________

They responded:

Hello Bill:

Thank you for your email inquiry to Carol. As you are referring to a specific case, a proper answer requires the following details:

- the name of the unsuccessful magic festival
-(if possible)which grant they applied for within which discipline (Theatre?
Inter-Arts? etc)

Upon receiving the information, I will forward your inquiry to the
appropriate program officer.

Awaiting your response,

Danielle Sarault
Agente d'information / Information Officer
Services aux arts / Arts Services Unit
Le Conseil des Arts du Canada / The Canada Council for the Arts
350 Albert, P.O. Box 1047
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5V8
1-800-263-5588 x 4075
1-613-566-4414 x 4075
fax: 1-613-566-4390
danielle.sarault@conseildesarts.ca
danielle.sarault@canadacouncil.ca
www.canadacouncil.ca
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 12/27/02 09:10 PM

Originally posted by Bill Jackson:
I wrote to the Council to see what they would say... My question was broad
Discussions with such departments and staff need to be either more open as invitations to comment or very much more specific to (try to) avoid constructing ambiguity.

We recently learned this watching a few married elected officials quibbl/parse definitions of 'sex'. This went as far as our highest elected official making a public statement expressing difficulty with the word 'is'.

Perhaps those you addressed were puzzled as to the connection between magic and 'native american art'? Good luck getting a straight answer.
Mundus vult decipi
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Postby Guest » 01/14/03 09:15 PM

The Canada Council for the Arts was kind and responsive to my requests. I'm including their reply below for those who may be interested in such.

They have kindly provided various links and the following quote from one may be the closest to the kind of definition we are talking about here...
"The Canada Council for the Arts defines "professional" according to the following criteria:
*specialized training in the field (not necessarily in academic institutions);
*recognition by one's peers (artists who work in the same artistic tradition);
*a commitment to devoting more time to one's artistic activity, if financially feasible;
*a history of public presentation."

Here is the actual letter:
______________
Hello again,
I've forwarded our email correspondence to program officers within our
Theatre and Inter-Arts Sections. These are the comments I've collected:

In our "Grants to Theatre Artists Program" (individual grants), a magician
could apply for a grant as a performer. The Theatre Section doesn't get
many such applications, but once in a while there will be one. In theory, a
magician could put forward an application for a Production Project Grant to
assist with the development of a show that used magic, but the criteria for
assessing all applications, regardless of the program, are based on elements
of theatre practice (click on this link to access the program information:
http://www.canadacouncil.ca/grants/theatre/thsh03-e.asp
<http://www.canadacouncil.ca/grants/theatre/thsh03-e.asp> ). In other words,
magicians can have access to Theatre Section programs in terms of
eligibility criteria but with little likelihood of having success when it
comes to decisions recommended by peer assessment committees or juries.

Regarding the funding of magic festivals: Council does not provide
operational funding for festivals; that is handled by Arts Presentation
Canada, a program of the Department of Canadian Heritage. In Quebec, CALQ
(the provincial arts council) does have a category for "variety" artists
that would be more responsive to demands from magicians. We have never had
that category of specified artistic support here at Council.

For your information, I am providing you with links to Canadian Heritage (
http://www.canadianheritage.gc.ca/progs ... ndex_e.cfm
<http://www.canadianheritage.gc.ca/progs/pac-apc/index_e.cfm> ) and to CALQ
( http://www.calq.gouv.qc.ca/index_en.htm
<http://www.calq.gouv.qc.ca/index_en.htm> ).

I hope this is helpful to you.
Danielle Sarault
Agente d'information / Information Officer
Services aux arts / Arts Services Unit
Le Conseil des Arts du Canada / The Canada Council for the Arts
350 Albert, P.O. Box 1047
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5V8
1-800-263-5588 x 4075
1-613-566-4414 x 4075
fax: 1-613-566-4390
danielle.sarault@conseildesarts.ca
danielle.sarault@canadacouncil.ca
www.canadacouncil.ca
Guest
 

Postby Guest » 01/14/03 09:24 PM

The Canada Council for the Arts was kind and responsive to my requests. I'm including their reply below for those who may be interested in such.

They have kindly provided various links and the following quote from one may be the closest to the kind of definition we are talking about here...
"The Canada Council for the Arts defines "professional" according to the following criteria:
*specialized training in the field (not necessarily in academic institutions);
*recognition by one's peers (artists who work in the same artistic tradition);
*a commitment to devoting more time to one's artistic activity, if financially feasible;
*a history of public presentation."

Here is the actual letter:
______________
Hello again,
I've forwarded our email correspondence to program officers within our
Theatre and Inter-Arts Sections. These are the comments I've collected:

In our "Grants to Theatre Artists Program" (individual grants), a magician
could apply for a grant as a performer. The Theatre Section doesn't get
many such applications, but once in a while there will be one. In theory, a
magician could put forward an application for a Production Project Grant to
assist with the development of a show that used magic, but the criteria for
assessing all applications, regardless of the program, are based on elements
of theatre practice (click on this link to access the program information:
http://www.canadacouncil.ca/grants/theatre/thsh03-e.asp
<http://www.canadacouncil.ca/grants/theatre/thsh03-e.asp> ). In other words,
magicians can have access to Theatre Section programs in terms of
eligibility criteria but with little likelihood of having success when it
comes to decisions recommended by peer assessment committees or juries.

Regarding the funding of magic festivals: Council does not provide
operational funding for festivals; that is handled by Arts Presentation
Canada, a program of the Department of Canadian Heritage. In Quebec, CALQ
(the provincial arts council) does have a category for "variety" artists
that would be more responsive to demands from magicians. We have never had
that category of specified artistic support here at Council.

For your information, I am providing you with links to Canadian Heritage (
http://www.canadianheritage.gc.ca/progs ... ndex_e.cfm
<http://www.canadianheritage.gc.ca/progs/pac-apc/index_e.cfm> ) and to CALQ
( http://www.calq.gouv.qc.ca/index_en.htm
<http://www.calq.gouv.qc.ca/index_en.htm> ).

I hope this is helpful to you.
Danielle Sarault
Agente d'information / Information Officer
Guest
 

Postby Dale Shrimpton » 01/15/03 05:45 AM

Forgive me if others have said this.There are rather a lot of long postings to go through. I have to wonder why only Magicians seem to claim magic as an art form.

I dont recall any others doing it. Now this doesnt mean that i think that magic is not an art form. I do. Some performances i have seen over the year realy do touch the soul, and make the hair stand .
But as a magician saying it, i have to remember that , self praise is no praise.
Laymen often say that " since an early age i have liked watching magic", but i dont recal ever hearing a layman describing it in the same way they would describe the Mona Lisa, or The venus dimilo.
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Postby Pete McCabe » 01/15/03 03:48 PM

Magic is a performing art.

It is not only magicians who make this claim. Who would argue otherwise that knows that the terms mean?
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