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George Ledo
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I was going to post this in my column, but then it occurred to me that if I posted it here, we could maybe start a discussion.

I was chatting with the managing artistic director at a local theatre yesterday, and the issue of marketing came up... and it led to the question of how people in this area perceive this particular theatre. Originally the theatre started as an arts center, but over the past twenty-six years it has become a very successful venue with a six-show season and several sold-out choral concerts a year.

So is the theatre in the arts sector or in show business?

And of course that question led me to think about today's magic.

We've all seen and participated in long drawn-out discussions on magic as an art, and I think we can generally agree that it is. However, in the theatre world, the difference between "art" and "business" is totally in the perception and the goal -- whether you want to do theatre for art's sake or as a legitimate business. Theatre groups that see themselves as being in the arts are usually run by boards made up of "patrons of the arts" and depend on donations for a good chunk of their income; they tend to produce shows that appeal to a limited part of the public (the "arts patrons"), such as the classics and the old musicals. Theatre groups that see themselves in the entertainment business may be all for the "art," but their boards lean towards business people. They treat it like a business and will produce current shows that appeal to a larger part of the population.

Broadway is not about the arts; it's about business; even Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway are about business. The magic shows in Vegas are produced by business people. Magic shows on TV are sponsored by corporations that want people to buy their products -- and if they don't think enough people are going to watch the show to see their commercials, they won't sponsor the show. The movies are the same way: commercial films are intended for the general public's pocket money, while art films have very limited audiences.

This all leads to the issue of people who do theatre as a hobby. It's perfectly legitimate, but they're in it mostly for personal enjoyment, not for the money, and can afford to look at it differently from those who make a living at it.

I know I'm rambling here (sorry Smile ), but I'm curious as to how Café members perceive magic, and whether there's any visible dividing line between doing magic as an art and doing it as a business. Obviously, the goal is one difference, but is there anything else?
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Werner G. Seitz
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Magic: is it an art or is it show biz?
IMHO.... BOTH!!
Learn a few things well.....this life is not long enough to do everything.....

( Words of wisdom from Albert Goshman ...it paid off for him - it might
as well for YOU!!!- My own magic is styled after that motto... Smile )
Bill Palmer
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Here's a parallel in the field of graphics art.

Does the name Maxfield Parrish ring a bell? Look him up sometime. He was a commercial artist. His most famous ads were for Mazda lamp corp. He was an incredible artist, one of my favorites. His handling of sunsets and sunrises made Thomas Kinkade (barf!, gag! sacchharine overdose!) look childish and primitive.

Yet every ad he did was a work of Art.
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George Ledo
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Ah, yes, Maxfield Parrish... not to be confused with Peter Max. Some years back I though Maxfield would be rolling over in his grave at a music video Michael Jackson did based on one of his paintings. Major world-class GAG! P'tui!!!

Anyway, you both make a good point, which means maybe my ramblings weren't clear... Smile

Yes, magic is both art and show biz. But even performing artists, studio artists, and writers have business managers or agents to help them market their stuff so they can focus on their artwork. Traditionally, "starving artists" (some of whom are very good) have financial challenges because they don't market their stuff to the public. On the other hand, wealthy artists (some of whom are beyond awful) make money because they -- or someone -- is out there peddling their material. Sure these guys see their stuff as art, but it's commercial art: art to be bought, hopefully by the masses.

Someone who does any form of art for his or her own enjoyment doesn't need to be concerned with whether it's commercial, or with marketing it. I have a friend who plays jazz at a local bar now and then, and he couldn't care less whether the masses come over: he's perfectly happy with the usual crowd. No different from guys who do magic mostly at the local magic club.

My question -- my curiosity -- is really more focused on how Café members think about their magic in terms of it being "for" magicians or "for" the general public, and how they feel about it.

Again, thanks for making me clarify this... I hope I did.
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tommy
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Magic should be an art. It depends on the magician. If I merely copy a magician that to me is false art. Business, show or otherwise, is to do with making money. Making money can be a result of being a great artist but is nothing to do with art in magic.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
Frank Tougas
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Is theater an art or business? Depends upon whether you are in the play or own the theater!

The answer for magic is a simple yes. My major in undergraduate school was art, believe me when I say that the question as to what art IS, can start a firestorm of discussion that is never ending. Students, faculty and those in the fine arts and commercial arts fields have argued this ad naseum and there is still no definition all agree on. Not even close. So with no practical definition of art how can we even ask if magic belongs there?

After that we can argue if it is show business or theater? Put on your flak jackets!

Oh and if you ever DO get some consensus on what art is...throw in the word, CRAFT, you'll start the argument all over again. Smile

Frank Tougas
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Frank Simpson
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Wow! What a topic! In my opinion, magic and all other performing arts must be first and foremost for the audience. I have chosen, built and performed illusions that are not my personal favorites, but they are audience-pleasers and they are practical. These form the foundation of my shows, leaving room for my personal favorites to push further into the "art" side of things. But if they don't entertain an audience, out they go! It's not about what I like, it's about what the audience likes.

But I think it is vital to target your art to your audience. I have been on the board of a few theatre companies, and sometimes shows are proposed that are great shows, but they just do not fit our target audience. Glengarry Glen Ross is a brilliant play, but for a company that produces family fare, it's just not going to fly. But a theatre company produces edgier material (ie. a lot of Sam Shepard and David Mamet, etc.)they're going to have a hard time selling Oklahoma! to their audiences.

Magic also has many different audiences. I know people who are only entertained by close-up, and illusions leave them cold. Whereas others will yawn at a deck of cards in the hands of a very capable close-up magician, instead wanting a lot of scenery and lighting.

Hopefully all performing arts are just that: art. The business is selling the art to the right audience. The producers on Broadway and television are not looking to exclude "art", they are looking for art that they can sell to their audiences. They give business a heavier balance in the equation, but if they don't have the "art", they don't have a product to sell.

Art for its own sake is all very well and good, but the performing arts, by their very nature, require an audience. And an audience is a viable and integral part of any performance. They do not realize that they have "lines" and other responsibilities in a show. When they laugh, gasp, applaud, hold their collective breath, these are all contributions to the performance and the affect how a show plays. If a performer disregards this contribution, they should just stay home and perform in their bedrooms. What makes it truly art is the connection between performer and spectator.
Werner G. Seitz
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Quote:
On 2005-11-16 14:08, George Ledo wrote:
My question -- my curiosity -- is really more focused on how Café members think about their magic in terms of it being "for" magicians or "for" the general public, and how they feel about it.

Now I'm confused Smile
The topic is : Magic: is it an art or is it show biz?

Magic for magicians is never showbiz and not always *art*.

Magic for the general public always is showbiz and 'should' be art.
However it will always be art when it is done by somebody who worked his way up ( almost from the garbage)..

Not to imply, the following people did, but they are/have been true artists.
People like Al Goshman, Cellini and anybody else who made it after struggling for years.
The fact that they in later years probably (not re these 2 people mentioned) had simply to have a manager to fulfill *The show must go on*, to be able to concentrate on their *job* which is performing and not negotiating fees and dates, places and venues, is a natural follow up of their recognized success and doesn't lessen *the art*.

I mean, the commercial point of their job doesn't lessen their art at all, on the contrary, they *now* could and can enjoy performing even more, not depending on speculating about being able to support themselves or their probable family.

I've said it earlier and I'll say it again, also not everybody does understand the true meaning behind this.

One can never be a great and good artist, an outstanding performer, a unique one, if one not went through all the downs and then ups of life...because the ups and downs did give them a deeper insight in life and what people (their spectators) *want*...and probably even need.. in one word : *Fun* and pleasure to be able to relax for a short time whilst watching an outstanding performance and so forgetting that thing we call *life* which can be cruel for many...

Sorry for my ramblings, the above, but that is how I feel..

Magic for magicians is part of being/loving this funny thing we call 'magic', but it seldom is *art* and never *showbiz*..
The above might sound a bit or even much sentimental, but this is not my intention, the intention is to draw a true picture how I define to be an *artist* (I am not, as I never had to starve and struggle to make a living).

JMHO...sorry....
P.S. 2 names: Charlie Chaplin and Victor Borge...
Learn a few things well.....this life is not long enough to do everything.....

( Words of wisdom from Albert Goshman ...it paid off for him - it might
as well for YOU!!!- My own magic is styled after that motto... Smile )
Alex Linian
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It could be either one, it could be both.

However, I believe that only the artist are the ones really make it.

By the way,
Derren Brown, one of the few who have really made it, stated the most thought provoking and inspiring (to me) quote in his book Absoulte Magic: "anything that qualifies as art must be created from scratch."
George Ledo
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Good point, Frank. I went through those arguments in college too... and then we got into what's "art" and what's "design," and which one isn't always the other. By now the players have changed (they got burned out), but the arguments will continue forever.

The funny thing is, nowadays we see so much commercial "entertainment" that's making a lot of money for their producers, but is about as "artistic" as a monkey... never mind. I'm thinking sitcoms, mainstream novels, some movies, and so forth: actors, writers, and other "artists" doing what the general public will buy, sometimes at the expense of what they want to do. And so much good material that doesn't make it because the producers and publishers don't believe it'll sell enough to compete for the public's cash.

BTW, Alex, without asking you to over-quote Derren's book, would you elaborate on that comment on art being created from scratch?
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Frank Tougas
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Derren Brown has the innate ability to make almost anything sound profound. I am, however, suspicious of absolutes - when I hear the words such as must enter into a quote I can never fully buy into the premise.

This means I occasionally lose out on something important, but it also means I am far less "taken in" than others. For me, it's a good trade.

Frank Tougas
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George Ledo
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Me too. After the lengthy debate on Robert-Houdin's famous (?) quote, I'm not about to either agree or disagree with Derren's comment unless I know more about it and its context. I've been around artists and designers my entire career, and I've never heard anything to that effect... but then again his frame of reference might be different.
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Bill Palmer
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What constitutes "scratch" in the first place? Composers don't invent new notes when they write music. Even tbe microtonalists are repeating ideas that were done two to three millenia ago.

Payne wrote this in another thread, and I think he is describing some of the characteristics of art in it.
Quote:
It should be fun or serious, enthralling or flip. It should enlighten, entertain and engage while playing on multiple levels that each have no meaning. It should make you laugh or make you cry. Encourage one to travel to new heights or make one's joy plummet to the lowest of lows.
It should make your heart soar and your soul sing while bringing a tear to ones eye. Magic is all and nothing, everything and absence.
But most important of all it is what you and you alone make of it.
There is no right way to perform magic but a thousand, thousand ways to perform it wrong.


Regarding the idea that performing magic for magicians is not showbiz but is always art. -- ever been to a Petrick and Mia lecture? There are a lot of convention performers who, if what they are doing is "art," it bears the same relation to art that doggerel bears to poetry.

When I am performing, I don't think of what I am doing as art. Nor do I think of it as "not art." I think of it as communicating with my audience and entertaining them.
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George Ledo
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Hey, Bill, thanks for bringing Payne's quote in here!

A little something has come out of this thread, and it's very subtle, but the comments on art and starving artists and doing magic for magicians are pointing to some discussions we had in school. The old stereotype of a starving artist is a guy who's focused and serious about his work, who does what drives him and what he feels strongly about, but but keeps finding that other people are not interested in it. To him and to his circle of artist friends it's art, but to those who buy art, to the public, it's not something they want. This goes just as much for the written word as it does for studio art and photography, and probably for music too.

I mentioned (above) a friend I have who plays jazz at a local bar now and then. He plays mostly for the regulars, a lot of whom are also musicians. He has the luxury of playing what he wants to play because that particular audience appreciates it, and he's not trying to sell it to the general public. But yet when he does an occasional paid gig with the band, the material changes to more commercial stuff.

So the over-simplistic question is, is some magic material of more interest to other magicians than to the general public?
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Bill Palmer
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I believe there are several different kinds of magic. There is magic that magicians find interesting because they know it is impossible within the bounds of their knowledge of the craft. This kind of magic borders on being a puzzle. A good example of this is Steve Dusheck's "Wonderbar." I think more of them were sold to people who wanted the IT than the bar, itself. It ws a great dealer item.

There is a kind of magic that magicians find interesting, because it obviously requires great skill.

And there is a kind of magic that audiences find captivating, entertaining and moving -- Norm Meilsen's act is like this.

There is also a kind of magic that has the secondary effect of causing people to vanish -- "He asked me if I liked card tricks. I said 'no.' He did five."
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Clifford the Red
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I think that the art lies more in what you do BEFORE the performance, not IN the performance.

It is in the design, the creation, the practice, the attention to detail, the commitment to quality and the million other things that goes into creating a consistently great performance.

It seems some of the comments above are critiquing the sense of "artsy fartsy" that comes from some productions, not the artfulness of it. Commercial Magic and Artful Magic are not at odds, though many times the poor execution of either makes it neither.

Great Magic can be both. Carl Ballantine comes to mind. Now I am sure most would regard his performance as VERY commercial. Would you regard it as artful? I sure would. He designed and refined that show over decades to make it one of Magic's most enjoyable experiences. He screwed up every trick with expert timing and subtlety, it just slays me.
"The universe is full of magical things, waiting for our wits to grow sharper." Eden Philpotts
Frank Simpson
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Quote:
On 2005-11-17 17:17, Clifford the Red wrote:
I think that the art lies more in what you do BEFORE the performance, not IN the performance.


I disagree. Preparation, research and refinement are certainly part of the art but they ultimately serve the performance itself. A performance does not become fulfilled until it is before an audience. The ability to genuinely connect with an audience is the truest representation of the art. And that is what made Ballantine's act so fantastic.
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C'mon, George... the question is like asking, "Apples or oranges... which one is fruitier?"

Magic is too broad to be categorized in a single cubby.

If it sells it is commercial, but does that mean it cannot also be art? If it does not sell, does it better fit into the category of art, or is it perhaps a product too crappy even for the lowest branches of commercialism?

Magicians are the well-known belaborers of the most esoteric festerings the world of magic has to offer... a trait normally associated with art, as defined by some other posts above. The irony is that magicians feed the commercial side of magic through these esoteric inclusions more than laymen ever have on "commercial" magic, as also defined.

Magic surely must be a Mobius Strip unto itself... a paradox involving everything that can attach itself to it.
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George Ledo
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Quote:
On 2005-11-17 23:19, Michael Baker wrote:
The irony is that magicians feed the commercial side of magic through these esoteric inclusions more than laymen ever have on "commercial" magic, as also defined.

Interesting point! Good point!

When I figure out a comeback for your apples and oranges comment, I'll post it! Smile
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Ronin
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As Frank and Michael and others have pointed out, any discussion in which a definition of "art" is needed can get complicated, contentious and maybe tedious.

Here's my two cents--two quotes that I try to keep in mind as I create art (usually through the medium of magic):

"A craftsman makes what he can sell; an artists sells what he makes."--Pablo Picasso

"An entertainer gives the audience what they want; an artist gives them what they don't know that they want"--David Cronenberg

Maybe it's just a cop-out, but I personally try not to obsess too much over the precise intended meaning of these thoughts, just let them wash over me in a zen koan-like way.

I do, however, prefer not to interpret them as saying that artists are BETTER than craftspeople or entertainers, simply different in their approach.
David Hirata
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"Life is a combination of magic and pasta."
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