When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

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Dustin Stinett
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When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Dustin Stinett » December 18th, 2003, 2:39 pm

Over the last several years I have become aware of the fact that I lead a bit of a double life and probably have been for most of it. I became politically aware at a fairly young age and, though the child of liberal democrats, I gravitated toward the center and when it came to capitalism, I kept moving further to the right. Yep--I am a capitalist pig.

But then theres that other half: For a very long time I had been told that I have an artists soul. Ive been very slow to believe it, considering I have recently completed my 44th year and its only been in the last few that I have come to understand that there just might be something to all those comments. (Couple that with the fact that my attempts at capitalism have proven to be failures may also have something to do with the realization that I may be better off pursuing my artistic goals, which Im still trying to sort out--remember, its only been a few years.) But I still believe in capitalism and entrepreneurism and I do believe that art can mix well with those. There are, after all, many such examples. But then something happens or someone does something that one can interpret as going too far: selling out the art--our art--just for the sake of the almighty dollar.

One of the lessons an entrepreneur must learn early is that he needs to continually work at expanding his customer base and/or provide something new and fresh for the existing one--especially in a niche market such as magic--in order to keep them. New tricks, books and videos are the lifeblood of the business (there are a few examples of consumables, but not enough to sustain a magic business). When competition for the limited magic dollar stiffens, the smart businessman/woman works at increasing not just the size of his/her slice of the pie, but the size of the pie itself--that means new customers.

But how do you get them? How do you get new people to come to you? Better yet, how can you get to the people without them having to look very hard? Coca-Cola figured out a way back in the 1950s when they started putting vending machines at every gas station that would allow one. This simple plan put Coke in the hands of those who wanted one (but didnt want to go to a store or fountain) and also into the hands of those who didnt realize they wanted one until they saw the opportunity--the impulse buy was born. But selling Coke on every corner doesnt threaten an art form.

The marketing of Coke is one of the great stories in all of business and it remains a tried and true business model today: The capitalist within me looks on in pure admiration. But when I turned to page 46 in the January 2004 issue of Genii, it was the artist within me that reacted, not the capitalist. And that reaction was Oh no! No, no, no! Magic has been further reduced to being sold out of vending machines?!?

Yes: vending machines. Complete with video demonstrations and machines emblazoned with the three words that, when used in this context, has (in my opinion) done more damage to the art of magic than any exposure: Easy to Do!

Its hard not to admire Geno Munari. After all, his capitalistic venture, Houdini Magic, has proven a dazzling success. But now I am forced to ask, At what price? Especially with this new venture.

I fully understand the forces at work here, but what is also at issue is the trivialization of what is supposed to be a performance art. I cannot recall ever seeing sheet music in a vending machine with the words Easy to Play printed on it.

The full-page ad announcing the vending machines, which contain gags and pranks as well as magic, gives no detail about where these machines might be found. That leaves my over-active and perhaps reactionary imagination room to wander--and wonder.

Imagine the scenario: you just watched a one-man show put on by Paul Gertner or Ricky Jay in which the Cups and Balls are performed. Available in the theater lobby--for just a few bucks in a vending machine--is a set of (albeit) plastic Cups and Balls with an offer for private instructions. And, of course, it also prompts the buyer to collect the entire series!

Oh goody.

Some would argue that illusionists sell magic kits at their shows. True enough, but I doubt they were selling the secret to the levitation just witnessed only moments before. And besides, the scenarios dont stop there. Imagine someone seeing the show I just mentioned and then the next night they are in 7-11 and happen upon the Houdini Magic vending machine. It had never occurred to them to seek out the secret to the Cups and the Balls, but there it is, in the last place they would have thought to look for it. I wonder, says the would be buyer, if the machine makes change for large bills? No worries, the guy behind the counter will break my twenty when I pay for my Twinkies.

The capitalist in me congratulates Geno. But the artist, what little there must be, lurking within my being is concerned--very concerned. Its an old one, this magic secrets are becoming too easy to get discussion. But up until recently it still took some thought and even a little effort to acquire them. They had to be sought out: the buyer had to go to the secrets. Now, the secrets are at our fingertips via keystrokes and mouse clicks and the equipment (and their accompanying private instructions) can be found--even if it had never occurred to the buyer to look for them--in the vending machines at movie theaters or grocery stores or perhaps even a gas station--right next to the Coke.

Dustin

There are two kinds of artists left: those who endorse Pepsi and those who simply wont.
--Annie Lennox

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Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Guest » December 18th, 2003, 2:53 pm

Picasso, who is considered a great artist by some, was motivated to create new art in order to pay the bills. (He was afraid that photography would hinder his portrait business.)

Here's an apocryphal tale regarding Picasso:
In his late years, (when he was 'established') Picasso paid for everything with cheques. His reasoning was that the seller would prefer to have Picasso's signature than the cash.

Was he a capitalist or an artist?

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Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Jeff Haas » December 18th, 2003, 3:26 pm

Slightly off-topic, but...

There was a sketch on Saturday Night Live with John Lovitz. He played Picasso, who was making an ass of himself and abusing the waitstaff at a cafe. When someone would object, he'd scribble on a napkin, give it to them and tell them to sell it. "I'm Picasso!"

Jeff

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Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Robert Allen » December 18th, 2003, 3:58 pm

The difference between a magician and painter is that the painter does not reply on 'secrets' to practice his art. A more apt comparison would be if the vending machine vended clear plastic cups & balls, and, you could entertain and mystify people with those items (assuming you practiced real hard). Penn & Teller have in fact entertained people doing precisely this, but I they back it up with other tricks, and of course their entertaining banter.

The apt comparison between a good magiaian and a good painter is that both require skill, and time-in-rank to become good. But there the paths diverge.

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Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Pete Biro » December 18th, 2003, 4:16 pm

Those that really know art, know that Picasso was a rip-off artist. When a style would become "hot" he would steal it and crank out a batch of like paintings, then the next creative guy would hit, and Picasso would switch to the new style... etc.

He was a great hustler, marketer, image maker.
Stay tooned.

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Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Guest » December 18th, 2003, 5:09 pm

Originally posted by Pete Biro:
Those that really know art, know that Picasso was a rip-off artist. When a style would become "hot" he would steal it and crank out a batch of like paintings, then the next creative guy would hit, and Picasso would switch to the new style... etc.

He was a great hustler, marketer, image maker.
Exactly. For example, he swiped the hole cubist thing from Juan Gris, whose work in that area was immeasurably better than Picasso's.

Best,

Geoff

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Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Wolfgang » December 18th, 2003, 5:25 pm

I have not seen the advertisement in question so I might get a little off topic here.
I have said it before: I applaud every attempt to generate interest in magic and bring more people to magic. Houdinis Magic Shops have probably generated more interest in magic than any other place. If Geno feels that there is a market then let him try it.
In Germany, Austria, Switzerland there was a group in the 80's trying to sell magic in supermarkets. They had a nice display, with "live" video demos on a loop. They spend lots of money and bought lots of magic. People watched the tape but nobody actually bought something. It was just missing the live person after the demo to close the sale. They went under after two months and there was a huge warehouse of cheap tricks to be bought.
On the other hand what would it take to make such a vending business succesfull? 1) Buying Power. If the merchandise can be bought cheap enough the profit margin might be such that the machines would be succesfull even with a relatively small number of sales. 2) Working Capital to spare. If the business would not have to rely heavily on outside (expensive) financing than it adds to the bottom line (again the number of sales could be smaller). 3) High traffic location.
If Geno plans to operate the machines as additional outlets to his stores than it will just provide additional sales and could be used to dr1ve customers into his stores or to his website. In my oppinion for him that is a smart promotion tool.
If however the intention is for athird party to buy (lease) and operate the machines than I would doubt that that individual has the buying power to make it work.
I believe that Geno has tested the "waters" extensively and wish him luck with this new venture. Remember the next Copperfield might just now be buying his first trick at a vending machine.....

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Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Jonathan Townsend » December 18th, 2003, 5:48 pm

Originally posted by DustinStinett:
...The capitalist in me congratulates Geno. But the artist, what little there must be, lurking within my being is concerned--very concerned. Its an old one, this magic secrets are becoming too easy to get discussion.
It might help to cite Ayn Rand here on capitalism, self interest and the freedom of the individual to risk their time and money to venture into the market seeking profit.

There is another side to this issue regarding the property being sold... that such may be the common property of magicians, though perhaps not the sort of property that one has the right to dispose of in some ways. It might be unethical to offer this property=secrets to the public. For that matter, it may be unethical to inform the public that these secrets exist. These bits of property are relatively safe on the bookshelf and in the magic shop. I don't know how well this property would keep its value on the floor of the shopping club warehouse.

Some of the secrets of performing are hardly understood by the magician population to the extend that these ideas and habits are readily communicated in print form. This is where so much discourse about theater and acting technique gets introduced. For better and worse those secrets remain safe if only for lack of product to sell at this time.

I have some doubts about buying hundred dollar Todd Lassen gaffs from a vending machine.
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

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Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Wolfgang » December 18th, 2003, 6:15 pm

Jonathan, i am sure that the machine will sell gags and beginners tricks, the same kind of which could be find in any magic set......
In my opinion the common property idea is very far fetched.I guess the KAMASUTRA should have never exposed those secrets either......

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Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Jonathan Townsend » December 18th, 2003, 6:43 pm

Originally posted by WolfgangWollet:
...I guess the KAMASUTRA should have never exposed those secrets either......
If you also guessed that in the society in which that book was written, most citizens were illiterate to begin with, and books were uncommon... i'd have to agree. There were no Amazon dot coms to click sample pages and leer in those days in that place.

Today, I would expect offering that book in elementary school libraries while expecting only adults would look at it would be somewhat unethical. Why are magic secrets any less awkward to put forth before an innocent public? I argue that in both modern cases ( magic secrets and the sexual techniques ) the intellectual property is not advertised outside it's intended audience. Somewhat determined adults in both cases.

Ancient books were safe as they were neither advertised, mass produced, publicly available AND the general public at the time was unable to read.

I'm not convinced the intellectual property put up for sale to the public at large, is being handled in an responsible way.
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

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Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Matthew Field » December 18th, 2003, 6:57 pm

I consider myself something of an "artsy" guy, having worked for 25 years in classical radio. But that's not classical music -- it's radio, and commercial radio at that.

So ... having said that, I'm reminded of the story of one of my friends, a man named Guenter Henssler, who was the head of a big classical record company in New York. His big success was in his native Germany putting displays of classical albums in . . . supermarkets.

The classical snobs hated it -- Beethoven next to the rutabagas. But Guenter sold a lot of records, and I mean a lot. People who would never have gone to the classical department of a record store saw the possibility of a romantic dinner, with candlelight, a lovely rutabaga, and Mozart.

Magic is, admittedly, different; we trade in secrets. But for magic to grow, we muct stimulate interest in the art, and I think what Geno is trying is a very interesting experiment.

Ultimately, as Jim Steinmeyer eloquently writes in his new book, laypeople must have some notion that there is more to magic than the "secrets." The art lies beyond the secrets. That doesn't mean I advocate exposure, but people have to pay money in a vending machione.

I might mention the parallel of Tenyo in Japan. Their tricks are not marketed in magic stores -- they're sold in regular department stores (or so I understand). Is anything lost if Uncle Yamamoto learns the secret of the Crystal Cleaver? I think not.

As I say -- it's an interesting experiment.

Matt Field

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Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Guest » December 18th, 2003, 7:28 pm

Similar questions could be asked about that Kincaid (artist)guy.
But also realize the Adams product line (and others) have been sold on display racks in non-magic venues, since each product is wrapped/sealed, so the customer can see the trick inside the package and read the wrapper.
Be interesting to see if these machines can(should?)move product in a non-magic venue.

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Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Wolfgang » December 18th, 2003, 7:30 pm

If a person is ready to invest the money for a trick then he shows the initial interest. He buys the trick learns the secret and will either move on or is interested more in the magic field and will explore further and in an ideal world become a devoted magician.
I feel that the entry level to our art should be low enough to actually allow the public to become interested. As long as the machines offer tricks that could otherwise be bought with any magic set out there than I feel OK. It would be different if those machines started selling professional material.
So if a person is interested enough to spend money to learn a beginners secret than I feel we magicians could give a little.
The concern I would have would however be the instructions that are supplied with this beginners material. Those should enable the interested person to actually learn the trick properly. A lot of the beginners material out there unfortunately falls short of that.

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Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby thumbslinger » December 18th, 2003, 10:07 pm

This may be a little off topic as it responds to the accusation of Picasso being a rip-off artist. But as that was brought up in this post I feel I can relate the matter back to magic.

Besides the typical response such as, double-standard, practice what you preach, two-mouthed and the such, how can any magician call someone like Picasso a rip-off artist when every magician, whether Dai Vernon, Robert Houdin, Cardini or any 'modern day' illusionist have spent much of their time simply, yes simply no matter the difficulty, making up new patter and changing moves to established effects?

Magicians rip-off each other daily. I don't care if you can call a 'routine' your own; the cute little story one devises to reveal a card inside an envelop is still a card in the envelop no matter the difference in how one gets there in relation to "fill in the blank's" version. (NOTE: I'm talking effects. If you add three or four other effects before revealing the final....bully for you..you've CHANGED a normal routine and added something but you haven't INVENTED a NEW EFFECT)

Picasso certainly followed trends as part of his journey, but he also redefined (like yet another Triumph routine or sponge ball or cut and restored rope ...) as well as defined other trends. My background is in Art History and that's what I studied while working on my BFA. I only mention that so you know I'm not an 'art lover by osmosis-' A dilitante who thinks that his/her coffee table books and the occasional after dinner drinks with actual art critics over the years have somehow given them an actual education and knowledgeable opinion rather than a personal opinion.

Personally, I don't care for most of Picasso's work....and that's a vast amount of work, but I do know good when I see it because I've been trained, I've studied and most importantly I've attempted many areas within the arts for first-hand experience so I've reached a point in my studies of art and music where I know the difference between what I think is good and what is good.

Picasso may have followed the crowd at times, but he always moved to the head of the pack and lead when he actually stayed in one area.

He wasn't any more a rip-off artist than the revered Kellar sitting in the audience taking notes during a show and presenting the SAME EFFECT as his own the next month.

Just a comment.

:)
Hey....hey.. it's just for fun, next lifetime you won't even remember who you were.

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Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Jim Riser » December 18th, 2003, 11:04 pm

Dustin;
It sounds like you are concerned about "the secrets" getting out to the public. I do not see much difference between Geno's vending machines selling beginner tricks to the public and the revolving racks of Adam's items found all over the country in tourist trap shops. I've even seen them in Hallmark stores. Actually, Geno's machines would provide better security for these valuable secrets because the goodies are locked up until the buyer forks over the cash. I've often seen the Nickel to Penny to Dime blister wrap (and other items) ripped open on the revolving racks. Here someone stole the secret, as well as, the actual apparatus.

I hardly think that "the secret" to the cups and balls effect is something a beginner is going to get from a vending machine. A good cups worker will still entertain and fool a buyer of such an item. It is a good place for the beginner to start, though.

I know many in magic are extremely (even overly) worried about all of the secrets getting out to the public. If this is such a big concern, how can books sold in Borders etc. be justified or even tolerated? The latest book by Jim Steinmeyer ( Hiding the Elephant ) certainly exposes many much more valuable secrets than Geno's machines ever could. All of these secrets are sitting in a stack of books where anyone can look through them and learn about the illusions for no cost at all. Is what Geno is proposing any worse than this?

Personally, I would find Geno's vending machines much less offensive and less revealing than the kiosk guys in Vegas all hawking D'Lites or cards hanging from a thread! There is no way I would ever buy a D'Lite. No audience would be surprised, mystified, nor entertained by this item any more. And thread work for levitating items is rather suspect.

Easy to do and Be the life of the party are the usual hooks for getting people to buy magic. Both are false advertising and certainly misleading!

BTW - an artist's cost of living is comparable to anyone else's. An artist had better be business savy. I see no contradiction nor do I feel an artist needs to apologize for asking a fare price for time and skill provided. If the art work is so trivial, try doing it yourself!

Just my thoughts...Jim

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Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Ian Kendall » December 19th, 2003, 3:00 am

I like the bit in the Tenyo ad in Magic where they say that the Dynamic Coins is a Tenyo effect and noone else has the rights to produce them.

I wonder what Marvin Berglas has to say about that...

Take care, Ian

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Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Terry » December 19th, 2003, 5:41 am

Speaking of D'Lite, the best use of it was on the Toby Keith video - I'm Just Talkin' About Tonight.

Terry Bradshaw was a "novelties" salesman trying to pick up a "punk" rocker type chick in a bar. It was hilarious.

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Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Guest » December 19th, 2003, 6:33 am

Re: Jim Risers opening sentence: It sounds like you are concerned about "the secrets" getting out to the public.

Yes, it seems like many magicians are concerned about the secrets getting out to the public.

But, arent those secrets getting out even when they are purchased from a magic dealer.

What makes it okay to buy a trick from a magic dealerand not from a vending machine or a kioskor a toy store?

You can buy Bill Simons Effective Card Magic from a magic dealeror your local book store. (Dover Publications now calls it Card Magic for Amateurs and Professionals). Does it make a difference where you buy it?

The secrets are on the shelves in public libraries.

Anyone can get the secrets. The question seems to be: Should they be limited to whom they are allowed to purchase from?

Sure, there may be an advantage to purchasing from a magic dealer (in person, not by mail)you may get some worthwhile tips on performing the trick, or using what you bought, more effectively.

By the way, after the Masked Magician did his thing on TV, how badly was David Copperfield and other top performers hurt?

Just thinking out loud,
Joe D

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Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Guest » December 19th, 2003, 7:57 am

When paint-by-numbers kits came out, no one was saying that it meant the end of painting as an artform. When karaoke came out, no one was saying that it meant the end of singing as an artform (The end of civilization, perhaps, but I digress...). That is because everyone knows painting as an artform is more that slathering paint on a canvas, and singing as an artform is more that belting out different notes.

And yet, when magic is sold anywhere besides the local magic shop, especially if it's targeted to laymen, some of us are quick to to grab our sandwich boards and proclaim the end of the world.

Painting is more than the paint. Singing is more than the notes. Ask any magician, and he or she will tell you magic is more than the secrets. But how many of us, in our hearts, truly believe it?

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Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby CHRIS » December 19th, 2003, 9:05 am

Originally posted by Brian J. Hatcher:
And yet, when magic is sold anywhere besides the local magic shop, especially if it's targeted to laymen, some of us are quick to to grab our sandwich boards and proclaim the end of the world.

Painting is more than the paint. Singing is more than the notes. Ask any magician, and he or she will tell you magic is more than the secrets. But how many of us, in our hearts, truly believe it?
The real difference of magic versus painting, singing and other art forms is the perception of the layperson. The perception of the layperson is that if he would know the secret to a magic trick he would be able to do it. That of course is a mis-perception, because we know that the secret alone is far from being able to do a trick well and entertaining. But that is the perception of the majority of laypeople.

Nobody thinks he can pick up a brush and be a painter in a few minutes. However many think that the knowledge or secret of a trick would make them a magician. Not that they want to become a magician or perform on stage, but they think that the secret is all it takes.

And that is why the disclosure of secrets can potentially be damaging. There is no real good analogy to other art forms. Having said that I am not really that much worried about disclosure of secrets. In any case, vending machines or not, it takes time, money, and committment to find out magic secrets, to understand them, to use them a.s.o. This is the real filter between magicians and laypeople.

What we as magicians should do is to educate the public that magic is much more than the secrets. It is not easy to change this perception, but we should try as best as we can and not be too worried about disclosure or sell-out of secrets.

Chris Wasshuber
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Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Jeff Haas » December 19th, 2003, 9:56 am

And the only way you can truly educate the public about it is by doing a good show.

A show that is fun and engaging to watch, has original ideas in it, and demonstrates more than just strutting around on stage acting like you're so incredible.

I still contend that the reason we got the Masked Magician specials is a direct result of people's reaction to The World's Greatest Magic specials. Those specials did the most damage to the perception of what a magician is...a bunch of look-alike guys demonstrating trick boxes. That's where most people today get the idea that the secret is the only thing that matters. This is feedback directly from the public.

The Masked Magician specials were successful because they reinforced what people were thinking about magicians.

Jeff

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Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Randy DiMarco » December 19th, 2003, 10:19 am

Chris said
The real difference of magic versus painting, singing and other art forms is the perception of the layperson. The perception of the layperson is that if he would know the secret to a magic trick he would be able to do it. That of course is a mis-perception, because we know that the secret alone is far from being able to do a trick well and entertaining. But that is the perception of the majority of laypeople.
If this is the case then we should welcome the exposure of secrets. The layman would then realize how trivial the actual secrets are and would then have a much greater appreciation for the effects we are able to create using just these small secrets.

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Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby CHRIS » December 19th, 2003, 7:50 pm

Originally posted by Randy DiMarco:
If this is the case then we should welcome the exposure of secrets. The layman would then realize how trivial the actual secrets are and would then have a much greater appreciation for the effects we are able to create using just these small secrets.
Randy, I think quite the contrary is happening. The Masked Magician series, I fear, has actually reinforced the perception that the secret is all you need. As far as I could gage, many people go away from these shows saying "that is really easy or simple" thinking they could do it themselve if they wanted to.

On the other hand some exposure is necessary to show laypeople that it is not the secret alone. And being too secretive also reinforces the notion that the secret is everything. If it wouldn't why are those magicians then so worried about their secrets?! In my opinion a balanced and well thought out path has to be taken. Divulging all secrets ala masked magician is not the way to go, and being totally locked up isn't the way either. A good balance is needed.

Chris Wasshuber
preserving magic one book at a time.

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Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Guest » December 20th, 2003, 8:13 am

Originally posted by Chris Wasshuber:

The real difference of magic versus painting, singing and other art forms is the perception of the layperson. The perception of the layperson is that if he would know the secret to a magic trick he would be able to do it. That of course is a mis-perception, because we know that the secret alone is far from being able to do a trick well and entertaining. But that is the perception of the majority of laypeople.

Nobody thinks he can pick up a brush and be a painter in a few minutes. However many think that the knowledge or secret of a trick would make them a magician.
Chris hit the nail on the head. The next question should be: Why do laypeople think about magic in the way that they do? My tentative answer is because they are not exposed to it enough. Most people discover at a relatively young age how difficult it is to sing well. They are constantly expected to sing in school, clubs and other groups and, as a result, they have some knowledge of the skills required to be a truly great singer. Similarly, our childhood exposure to art gives us the opportunity to appreciate the work of artists, if for nothing other than their technique. It is the kids that show the imp bottle on the playground and get fried by their friends that can appreciate the presentational skills that go into magic. The ones that don't try to perform tricks are the ones that grow up thinking that magic consists of the secrets alone.

It is true that exposure of the secrets of magic can lead to disappointment -- the feeling of "Oh, that's all there is to it". But if those same people had ever attempted to perform a card trick they would be able to recognize the difference between the "secret" and the performance. Remember the story about the guy who walks into the magic shop the day after Doug Henning has appeared? He asks if they have "The Secret of the Silver Rings" that Henning performed last night and is sold a set of Linking Rings. A few hours later he comes back and wants a refund because one of the rings has a gap in it.

I think magic needs to be more widely taught (not exposed). If it takes education of people in art, music and drama to create appreciative audiences for those art forms, why not for magic as well? Other posts have pointed out that exposure shows pander to the school yard bullies that grab the imp bottles. They also reinforce the idea that magic is just the "secrets". The more magic is sequestered from the public the more those ideas are likely to flourish -- to the detriment of our art.

Guest

Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Guest » December 20th, 2003, 10:43 am

My opinion - not many "magicians" are artists or performers. Just as many weekend watercolorists are not "artists." Even fewer are capitalists.

Maybe our language skills and semantics need as much honing as our "tricks." In a six hour discussion last night it became very clear to my grandson that magic and tricks ARE TWO DIFFERENT THINGS. Too many people confuse the two. Tricks are moves and effects. Magic happens ONLY when the mind of the spectator or audience is involved in more than "I wonder how he did that."

Maybe - going back to the thought of capitalism that opened this thread -- that is the difference between a capitalist and a socialist. Ayn Rand's ideal was an independent thinker true to his or her own inner thoughts regardless of personal cost -- as opposed to those who would follow the dictates of a "collective mind" (socialism) imposed on individuals with the belief that the majority was "right" when interpreted by an arbitor.

It seems the majority of magicians are overly concerned about exposing the secrets of tricks -- and not concerned enough with making MAGIC happen in the hearts and minds of the spectator. To me -- that is more of a dealer's issue. \

Exposure of our principles is little more than selling paint and brushes to people. It does not make them artists. Creative application of our principals to make magic happen with various tricks in real metal, wood and plastic is a challenge. There always is the broad market for cheap tricks that fall apart. ( Relate that to cars -- did anyone buy a Yugo????) Without that market, though, where would young magicians emerge into young performer/artists from? (Dangling particpal left deliberately>)

Jim Riser makes some of the best, classiest and smoothest working props in the world. He often wonders why top manufacturing skills are not being practiced broadly in the US -- and why so many magicians ghasp at the prices of a well done product as opposed to a cheap rip-off. Neither he, nor I can understand why pros would settle for a Yugo if they expect to use it regularly. Top pros do not buy Yugos.

BUT THEN -- consider the average magician -- he believes the myth that competition should drive prices down without any drop in quality. In my opinion mass production does not mean quality . It does mean wide availability of servicable and maybe not long lasting stuff -- in an affordable range to many people.

You can do cups and balls with plastic beer cups (and for a chop cup they are great with a PK.) But - most often spun metal cups --looking "magicy" sell day after day. Jim makes some of the best in the world -- well balanced - annealed against splitting, designed to sound and feel right -- with top quality metal spun in his shop to his satisfaction (and he is almost a perfectionist.) If one cup is not right -- he pitches it out as scrap. Then -- when he asks fair compensation for his time and materials from average "magicians" -- as well as compensation for his skill -- he often hears "well the magic shop has cups and balls for $30 a set" (and I am sure the shop also has plastic at $5 a set.) Jim's answer --as a capitalist -- is "so go buy them -- and let me know when you are ready for a good set."

Recently the magazine have shown engraved cups and balls for $2000 a set. Is the magic different????

A good capitalist knows what his product is -- and mine is the drama of having a spectator involved and emotionally entertained -- not just puzzeled. If a 4 minute routine takes a year to develop -- what is it worth???? The price of the prop -- or more??? If Jim's cups will last several lifetimes and do exactly what is needed for the routine -- without worry, what are they worth?

And how many magic dealers make us walk through practical jokes with dog poo and whoopy cushions to get to the mass produced MAC and imports at the back of the store on the pretense of keeping secrets -- as opposed to the real sales figures that plastic dog poo, relighting birthday candles and hand buzzers outsell and are moe profitable because many, many magicians are what a true capitalist would call "cheapskates."

Lisa Cousins
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Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Lisa Cousins » December 20th, 2003, 11:23 am

I believe that cheap, crappy magic serves a valuable purpose to the growing magician. It gives you a chance to play with and work out basic magic principles at a reasonable cost, and then "upgrade" the stuff that really feels like you. I have a chintzy plastic coin stand with chintzy plastic coins, and although I've enjoyed using it and thinking about it and exploring the various possibilities, I've never invested in a good one or presented the effect. Conversely, I began a study of the cups and balls using flowerpots that I got three-for-a-dollar at the Hobby Lobby, and I liked it so much that I got the Sherwood cups.

I learn from kiddie magic, in whatever form its vended to me.

Lisa Cousins
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Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Lisa Cousins » September 28th, 2004, 11:14 am

I wanted to say that I changed my mind about this. Not about cheap, crappy magic, which I still like, but about the vending machine concept. I saw one for the first time in the dealer room at Magic Live, and ... OUCH. So impersonal, so reminiscent of Doritos and Milk Duds. It just struck me as very degraded and all wrong.

Guest

Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Guest » September 28th, 2004, 11:44 am

So where's the line between serious instruction and sellout for personal gain in the magic video arena?

Jim Riser
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Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Jim Riser » September 28th, 2004, 11:50 am

Lisa;
I have a very different "take" on the new magic vending machines. Last spring on one of my regular Vegas trips, Geno was kind enough to personally show me his magic vending machine. I assume that this is what you saw.

There are many places where a personal magic salesperson and demonstrator are not always available, needed, nor wanted. Geno's vending machines are a triumph in design and do preserve the secrecy of the "methods" involved in the magic being sold.

With his unique machines the items are attractively displayed in their blister packs, the customer may see a short video demo, purchase the effect, and then (through a private viewing port) see a video of how the effect is done. There is no blatant exposure and the smaller magic is easily available. The quality of Geno's items is above average too.

This is merely an upgrade to the old spinning racks of EZ and Adams magic still seen in gift shops around the world. With Geno's cool machines, customers can not rip open the blister packs, steal the apparatus, nor learn the "secret" without payment. I feel that this helps to preserve the integrity of the magic transaction.

I do not find his vending machines to be any more impersonal than the old spinning racks. The short videos with his machines are a vast improvement over the old displays. Often purchasers do not need nor desire a personal touch when making a purchase. IMHO - The new magic vending machines developed by Geno are ideal for these situations.
Jim

Alexander Crawford
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Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Alexander Crawford » October 3rd, 2004, 7:03 am

Originally posted by Dale Hoyt:
Originally posted by Chris Wasshuber:
[b]
The real difference of magic versus painting, singing and other art forms is the perception of the layperson. The perception of the layperson is that if he would know the secret to a magic trick he would be able to do it.
Why do laypeople think about magic in the way that they do? My tentative answer is because they are not exposed to it enough. [/b]
Dale, I hope your conclusion is right. However, I fear that the layperson thinks like that because most magicians think like that.

The public is not going to consider our work art until we do ourselves.

I also think that when the lay public DOES see truly artistically great magic (Lavand, Tamariz, Berglas and others) they do recognise it as art.

Alexander Crawford
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Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Alexander Crawford » October 3rd, 2004, 7:16 am

We practice the only art where the dealers are criticised for being commercial and the artists consider themselves superior if they are working for money.

- Professional magicans look down on amateur magicans

- The word "hobbyist" is a pejorative term


There definitely are amateur magicians who buy every new trick and perform none of them well. However, there are a frightening number of professional magicians who perform the same hackneyed material night after night, often unwittingly exposing some of it - they rely on a good personality and humour to cover up the bad magic.

In any other art, including the other performing arts, artists are worried that commercialisation is comprimising their art. Magicians consider that their magic is second rate if it is not "commercial".

Let's stop asking whether a performer is a professional or an amateur.
Let's stop valuing magic depending on whether it's "commercial".

Let's reduce our value judgements to something simpler:

IS IT GOOD OR BAD?

Jonathan Townsend
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Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Jonathan Townsend » October 3rd, 2004, 7:54 am

Originally posted by Alexander Crawford:
...In any other art, including the other performing arts, artists are worried that commercialisation is comprimising their art. Magicians consider that their magic is second rate if it is not "commercial"...
Very easy to confound issues here, especially about "commerce". Here are a few possibilities for further discussion;

1) A routine that plays well to paying audiences and helps you get more bookings is commercial to YOUR business.

2) A trick/product that sells well to magicians when offered is commercial within the market of customer magicians.

3) A trick that improves the general public outlook on magic increases the potential for return on value in one or both markets.

Hope this helps
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

Guest

Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Guest » October 7th, 2004, 5:14 pm

[QUOTE]Originally posted by Alexander Crawford:
[QB] there are a frightening number of professional magicians who perform the same hackneyed material night after night, often unwittingly exposing some of it - the rely on a good personality and humour to cover up the bad magic.


Right on!
I was recently in New York and was disapointed by someone who is considered a well known magical artist.
My companion was at her very first professional magic show and enjoyed most of the show. However when asked later about the close-up card magican she was able to tell me how everything was done!
This is not the first time that I have seen this sort of thing. Sure mabey the guy was having a bad night, but goodness if one is being paid to create an artistic experience, if one claims to be an artist worthy of praise and large fees, shouldn't that person be at the top of his game?
If even our heros are bastardizing the art, how are we to elevate it in the eyes of the public?

Jonathan Townsend
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Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Jonathan Townsend » October 11th, 2004, 5:51 am

Originally posted by nola:
..., how are we to elevate it in the eyes of the public?
You can make this happen, one performance at a time.
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

Guest

Re: When Does “Capitalist” Equal “Artistic Sell-Out”?

Postby Guest » October 12th, 2004, 3:29 am

Originally posted by Jonathan Townsend:
Originally posted by nola:
[b] ..., how are we to elevate it in the eyes of the public?
You can make this happen, one performance at a time. [/b]
Couldn't have said it better myself.

Peace


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