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danaruns
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A question: Is magic necessarily merely a pleasant diversion? Or can it dare to be important? If it can, why doesn't it? What is magic's purpose?

For a while, now, I've been frustrated with magic and magicians. I don't think magic is art, for the most part. I think it's a caricature of vaudeville. Outdated. Its own sad stereotype. Magic has become a collection of tricks woven together with a mindlessly pleasant script and character. It's candy, not meat. Ho, hum. Light. Floating on air. Barely there. Bereft of substance.

Technology has left magic in the dust. There is no miracle we can work that isn't outdone a thousand times on every smart phone. And culturally, magic has become pablum, afraid to be important, to the point where the Magic Castle is restricting expression rather than expanding it.

Is magic to go the way of vaudeville, juggling, and ventriloquism? Or is there a path for it to follow music, poetry and theater?
"Dana Douglas is the greatest magician alive. Plus, I'm drunk." -- Foster Brooks
WitchDocChris
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I agree that magic itself is not art. Though I believe magic is a tool, with which one can create magic/a magical experience.

It's not magic's fault that so few people actually use it to its full potential. That's a failing of the performer(s).

I, without any form of proof of data to back it up beyond biased opinion, think the lay audiences are craving more substantial entertainment, though. I think audiences want powerful performances that evoke emotional and intellectual responses. There are enough people doing this that magic will not die off - but it will probably morph and change over time. There will be those who do the brain candy performances which are so common now - but I think there will also be a select set of performers who are valued, who do more interesting/stimulating performances.
Christopher
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Dannydoyle
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What if it is nothing more than a pleasant diversion? Is that so bad? Doesn't the world need such diversions?

That being said I would offer for your consideration that you might not be watching the right magicians. As for poetry or theater I would say that few poets can even come close to being as popular as magic as a form of entertainment.

As for juggling and ventriloquism well those are alive and well as well. The variety arts have not died. You simply have to know where to look for them is all.

For most modern music, I would not personally call most of what comes out of the major record labels today "art".

While I do see your point, I simply think that a slight expansion of your horizon is all that is needed.
Danny Doyle
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Dick Oslund
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You've "said it very well", Danny! Thank you!
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danaruns
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Let me take Danny's post and see if I can fashion or clarify my argument, using Danny as counterpoint.

Quote:
On Aug 14, 2018, Dannydoyle wrote:
What if it is nothing more than a pleasant diversion? Is that so bad? Doesn't the world need such diversions?


Yeah, my whole point is that that's bad. But that's me. I see magic as an art, and to be successful art must be original, and thought-provoking, and move in new directions. The world has plenty of mindless diversions. My fear is that magic, which after a renaissance of sorts several years ago, seems to be slipping into the quaint irrelevance of unoriginality and the banal. I want magic to thrive and move and give birth to new things, not become an echo of something no longer active. I suppose you could say that square dancing is a pleasant diversion, but while people still do it, square dancing is pretty much dead.

Quote:
That being said I would offer for your consideration that you might not be watching the right magicians. As for poetry or theater I would say that few poets can even come close to being as popular as magic as a form of entertainment.


Which magicians should I watch? I watch a lot of magic. I see Derek DelGaudio and want more of that. He's doing something original. Penn & Teller rose to popularity on making magic subversive, and they still occasionally do that. David Blaine innovated simply by pointing the camera at the audience rather than the magician. But there's not a lot more. Who else is doing the original? Who else is moving magic forward? Who else is doing art?

Quote:
As for juggling and ventriloquism well those are alive and well as well. The variety arts have not died. You simply have to know where to look for them is all.


I suggest that if you have to know where to look for them, they are essentially dead. Juggling and ventriloquism have been essentially dead for a long time. That doesn't mean people don't still do it. They do. But there is nothing original or important about them and their audiences have shrunk to very small. You don't have to know where to look for acting, singing, comedy, writing, sports, etc., as they are all alive with strong beating, original hearts. There is very little magic that is original. It's almost all derivative. And a hallmark of art is originality. Magic is essentially an entire genre of cover bands. If you think that's good, you think magic is thriving. But I want magic to be new, original, forward-moving. I want it to be art. Even sawing a woman in half was social commentary when it came out. Where is that now? The loss of art is the postulate here. Your response is not to show me the art, it's to say, "Yeah, but so what? The world needs trivial, too." You're just changing the subject. Or surrendering.

Quote:
For most modern music, I would not personally call most of what comes out of the major record labels today "art".


Nor has it ever been mostly art. Most music is mere craft, and sometimes barely that. But music is art. There is a lot of modern music that is art. And whether you like or dislike modern music, it's original. It's new. It moves music in a direction. It even moves the culture in a direction. And billions of people obsess over music. Magic does none of that. There is no one complaining about how much they dislike the new magic these days, because by and large there is no new magic. Magicians used to be innovators, on the forefront of science and technology. No longer.

Quote:
While I do see your point, I simply think that a slight expansion of your horizon is all that is needed.


How so? I'm looking out over the landscape of magic, and I see very little that is new, that addresses important social or emotional issues, that rises to the level of art. Magic is essentially no more than a collection of old tricks strung together with an amusing script or character. So where do I need to look? How does a broader gaze address my original post? Believe me, I would LOVE to be shown how wrong I am on this. I am lamenting an observation, not championing a pet theory in which I am deeply invested.

But I think you are saying I should surrender and be happy with the status quo. That magic doesn't need to be anything more than what it has fallen to. if expanding my horizon means accepting magic as mere derivative pablum, as your initial point of how the world needs mindless diversions so that's all magic needs to be suggests, then I am still left with my lament. And that's what I'm resisting. To use yet another analogy, magic is like riding a bicycle: you move forward or you fall. Magic as a whole doesn't seem to be moving forward. And so it is in the act of falling.

So a restatement of my theme might go something like this: If unoriginal mindless diversion is all one think magic needs to be, then the landscape looks hunky-dory. But if one believes that magic is and needs to be art, moving forward with originality and importance, then we are at a moment of crisis and we need magic-wide CPR.

At least that's what I see. Expand my horizons. Tell me what I'm missing. I long to admit how terribly wrong I am.
"Dana Douglas is the greatest magician alive. Plus, I'm drunk." -- Foster Brooks
The_Mediocre_Gatsby
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This is a great topic and question. The more I think about my magic, the more I care less about it being about me, and the more I care about making it a wonderful experience for the audience. Andy at thejerx.com has done a lot of thinking in this vein, and his most recent post (http://www.thejerx.com/blog/2018/8/12/the-artist-distracted) gets at the heart of what I want magic to achieve. The gif in that post and his analysis of it are in line with my own thinking and it helps me fashion experiences that create a sense of wonder in the audience. Essentially, if you make magic less magic-centric and more audience-centric, magic becomes a more interesting art form. This is similar to my thinking about teaching (I have been a high school English teacher for 15 years). When my first daughter began school, we enrolled her in a Montessori program. Unlike the traditional school model which boils down to a teacher dispensing information to students and then assessing them on that information, the Montessori method flips the binary of teacher/student to student/teacher. In this model, the students decide what they will work on and how to demonstrate mastery of whatever concept/idea they are working on. In this model, the teacher is less a sage on stage, and more of a guide. Especially in the arena of amateur magic which is where I now work, flipping the binary from magician/spectator to spectator/magician allows me to concentrate on generating a sense of wonder and pleasure in the audience rather than concentrating on how to convince an audience how clever I am. Obviously, in the professional arena this is far more difficult to do. However, to subvert the cultural stereotype of magician as a geeky weirdo desperate for attention, this change in thought will move magic to places that it has not yet perhaps gone.

One small example of how effective this switch can be is a sentence Andy suggests using when first sharing magic with people. Early in the magic journey he wants to take his audience on, Andy will introduce an effect by saying something like "Hey, can I try something with you that I think you'd be perfect for." This one sentence is incredibly disarming because it implies that whatever happens next is because the spectator is necessary. In my recent post about my presentation for the Yogi Book test, I used this presentation framework as a way to suggest that the reason all of this is happening is because the spectator is incredibly intuitive and good at sending out energy into the world. This is far different than presenting a book test as "Look, I can read your mind". The difference is a subtle one, but one that can help me craft more interesting presentations.
Dannydoyle
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Well if it is THAT bad perhaps it is time for you to do something about it.
Danny Doyle
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Dannydoyle
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I find it ironic that you issue this complaint about nothing original nothing that is new, and your avatar is one with a card fan.

But that irony aside it seems that you're complaining what "others" should do and it is not their job to do that for you. What are YOU doing to change things? Why not change the landscape of magic and do what you are charging others with doing?

That aside though your music comparison is about as valid as me saying I don't think my dog is that smart because I beat him in chess in only 4 moves. Music has BILLION dollar companies behind it. It has far more offerings and yes BILLIONS of people follow it but it is not valid in comparison.

If I don't know where to look for a Maroon 5 CD does it mean I don't know where to look, or that they are not popular, or that a CD is not a valid medium? Certainly I would say it speaks more to my issue than whether it is anything to do with the group or the medium.

As for who to watch the question is actually more who have you seen? But to answer the question as it is polite Peter Samelson has a wonderful routine that brings tears to the eyes of some. Michael Chaut is original along with Bob Sheets, Jon Stetson and Banacheck. This is just names out of my phone book that I have worked with or used regularly. There are dozens more.

As for the pleasant diversion idea Go to Branson Missouri and tell me Square Dancing is dead. When you say things like this it speaks to YOUR experience or lack of it. This by no means says it is the truth. It does no good to universalize your own experience and put that forth as fact.

That aside as far as "magic as art" I offer the following. You seem to be speaking in absolutes. If this is not your intent I sincerely apologize as it is an interpretation problem on my end. But there ARE times at which a pleasant diversion is all that is needed. Try standing across a bar slinging drinks and doing artistic original magic for a night and see how far it will get you. A pleasant diversion is all the audience is looking for. YOU and your needs are not the audience in this case. In this setting, bar magic IS an art form I would argue.

Comedy clubs are another example. People are there for 55 minutes (If you headline.) and the owner wants to sell as many drinks as possible in that time period. In MANY if not most cases a pleasant diversion is all these people are looking for and all they want to accept.

So in short the idea that magic must always be some form of higher art just does not sit well with me. I don't think a "pleasant diversion" is a bad thing in many cases. I am not telling you to settle for anything. If you don't like magic as an art and don't enjoy it and don't think it is worthy of your time then this is absolutely your prerogative. You are entitled to this position. If you do feel that way then as I said go forth and blaze the trail. Show the way by example.

One thing to consider is also money. Like it or not it in the end is a business. People who often complain about lack of art in performance are not always those who have to eat as a result of the art. In the end often it comes to giving the people what they want.
Danny Doyle
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<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
Dannydoyle
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Can I also say that I don't mean this to be contentious. I'm not sniping at you or trying to be obnoxious. I'm sorry if it reads that way.
Danny Doyle
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<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
Jonathan Townsend
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Quote:
On Aug 15, 2018, danaruns wrote:
...if one believes that magic is and needs to be art, moving forward with originality and importance...

Painting is an art. Making valuable painted works. Make that space on the wall interesting. Today thanks to the internet we can easily look at some of the history of painting. There's much about technological innovation, fine craftsmanship and contextual relevance. And lots of politics. Really. https://www.dezeen.com/2016/12/30/anish-......ite-ban/

Please don't be misdirected by unfamiliar words. The word "art" comes from the old Greek "ars" by way of French. About the same path as the word "technique".

Getting back to magic, you might like this article as background: http://www.vulture.com/2018/08/penn-jill......ion.html What's your target market?

*

Here's a link to a fun story that owes itself a better title - relevant.
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The_Mediocre_Gatsby
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Awesome links here Jonathan. I'll probably use the pink article in my AP language class. I guess Spinal Tap got it wrong when they thought it couldn't be more black. The Jillete interview is also interesting and apropos for this thread. Thanks.
WitchDocChris
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This is a subject that will often inspire defensive reactions.

I see both sides, really. I see nothing wrong with a pleasant diversion if that is the performer's goal. I also see a distinct dearth of meaningful magic performance.

I think it's quite obvious that the vast majority of magicians are not out to create art. That's fine. I do take a bit of umbrage when those performers claim to be presenting art, though. This is how we end up with caricatures like Gob from Arrested Development. And again, that's not necessarily a matter of what's "right" or "wrong" or "supposed to be" or anything like that. But it does create situations that the rest of us have to deal with.

I have noticed a lot of performers avoid the use of terms that associate them with magicians, in an effort to avoid dealing with that very stereotype.

I think far too many people have associated the skill/craft used to create art, with art itself. Music is a series of sounds presented in a pattern. Painting is applying pigment to a surface. Singing is producing sounds with the vocal chords. All of those things can produce art, but I do not believe are art in and of themselves.

I do agree with Danny that it's up to the individual performer - which is why it will continue to be the case that those who want to present artistic magic will be in the minority. The vast majority of magicians are casual performers who have no serious interest in performance.
Christopher
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Dannydoyle
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Who exactly judges "art" anyhow?

All you can say is you would prefer to see mystery performance done in a certain style. Trust me bar magic done right is an art.

It seems as if you guys want dogs who are pointers to suddenly decide to retrieve. Each is an art in and of itself and I think lowering the nose and recognizing other forms of art within our art would be a good step.

Yes there is bad magic out there. Always has been always will be. But who in this discussion earns their entire living from performance art? Isn't giving people what they want to see art? If not why not? Trying to please a few magicians with art is ok. Go for it. I think the bigger picture is the laity.
Danny Doyle
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WitchDocChris
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Quote:
Who exactly judges "art" anyhow?


Because I'm simply not educated enough on the subject to know any better, my response to this is "The person seeing/experiencing it".

And to be clear, I will restate that I have no problem with folks who want to present diversions. I believe that has real value.

Quote:
It seems as if you guys want dogs who are pointers to suddenly decide to retrieve


I disagree - but perhaps I have not been clear in my previous messages. I don't think anyone should feel the need to change their performances because of something someone on the internet says. If someone wants to present diversions and they are satisfied doing so, good for them. I am clearly not their audience, but that in no way makes them wrong for pursuing their own goals.

Do I wish more people strove for artistic performances? Yes. And to that end I will always encourage the performer who does perform artistically to continue creating and performing. I personally believe that if more people strove for artistic presentations, the general opinion of magic and performers of magic would be higher.

Now, from my end, I've been involved with Burning Man style communities for a long time now. I've put my support behind some truly bizarre versions of 'art'. I see nowhere near that level of creativity in most of what's put out in the magic world (both products and performances) currently.

Quote:
I think the bigger picture is the laity.


In my experience the laity appreciates artistic presentations that respect their intelligence and experiences. I don't make my living 100% from performance and I doubt I ever could, due to a variety of my own issues. But the wildly successful run of In And Of Itself by Derek Delgaudio tells me perhaps my experiences aren't that unusual.

I perform bizarre magic/mentalism for the most part. It tends to be very story-driven with few punch lines or "tada" moments. I have consistently and repeatedly been told that my performances are more interesting/stimulating/enjoyable than those of classic magician counterparts, specifically because they are artistic and intellectually based.

I think the lay audience wants deeper performances. I believe they are craving things that go beneath the surface after decades of superfluous entertainment. That's my perception.

But there will also always be a place for brain candy, so again, I encourage anyone who is satisfied with what they are doing to continue doing it however they please.
Christopher
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Dannydoyle
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If there is such a huge market for it what is the reason there is so little of it according to you?

And again if the people watching it define art how is it you can say you wish people would strive for a more artistic performance? They ARE, but what you seem to miss is it simply is not art you enjoy. THIS is the point I'm trying to make.
Danny Doyle
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WitchDocChris
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Quote:
If there is such a huge market for it what is the reason there is so little of it according to you?


I think the biggest reason is that most magicians are casual performers who don't worry at all about being paid. They get "good reactions" from copying the presentation on the instructions and that's good enough for them. They never put more effort into it than that.

I think professionals and semi-professionals think their material has to be appealing to a wide audience (in general terms). They want to be able to take any gig offer that comes their way, and if their material is more artistic or niche they'll lose gig opportunities.

Or maybe they're just happy doing what they're doing. Again, nothing wrong with that.

Quote:
And again if the people watching it define art how is it you can say you wish people would strive for a more artistic performance? They ARE, but what you seem to miss is it simply is not art you enjoy. THIS is the point I'm trying to make.


This isn't solely my opinion. I often ask laymen what they think of magic and magicians, usually when I first met them and they find out I'm a magician. The most common answer is that they think all magicians are basically birthday clowns. They think it's meaningless children's entertainment.

While I do believe art is ultimately in the eye of the beholder, I think there is more nuance to it - it has to have meaning. It has to inspire thought or emotion. Otherwise, I don't really feel like it's an experience. Most magic that I have seen (and this is a consistent response from laymen as well) is meaningless, and therefore doesn't really have much potential to be perceived as art. Someone might perceive it as such, but it's not likely.

Magic is a tool. It can be used to create art, but most performances are just demonstrations of said tool.

And, once more, I'm not saying anyone is wrong for how they perform. If they find it satisfying, good for them. I'm clearly not their audience, but that's fine. I support anyone's desire to create or perform in any capacity, even if I have no desire to actually experience that creation or performance. I think the world is better off if more people are trying to create and express themselves, in general.

I would like the default perception of magic to be one of an artistic pursuit, rather than meaningless brain candy.
Christopher
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Dannydoyle
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I think the opposite. Because once they see something they like, then it means even more.

And again you universalize your position. Meaningless brain candy to you can be art to others. Why is this so hard to accept?

I do not particularly enjoy dove magic. But watching Shimada is watching an artist. You can't seem to accept that what you do not enjoy can still be art.
Danny Doyle
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<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
Greg Arce
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I don't want to be in this feud, but it reminds of something I did many, many years ago.

I was a psych major in the late 70s. While taking the courses I took other ones I liked. I had one course that dealt with the history of art and similar things. I asked the teacher if I could do a demonstration for extra credit. I did that in every class because I knew I could somehow mix magic in there.

Anyway, I told him I was going to prove that magic was an art form. What's weird is that I don't believe that myself... I see it as a craft... but, anyway, I took the challenge.

So on my day I gave a history of magic plus did some classic effects: Linking rings, cups & balls, etc. In the end the teacher said I hadn't proved that magic was an art. Well, no pun intended, I had an ace up my sleeve that I had realized the night before.

I said, "When you hear the word beautiful you know it means full of beauty... it's in the dictionary that way. Also, wonderful means full of wonder. Now when you look up the word artful it does not mean full of art... it means full of tricks or being a trick person."

The teacher smiled and I got an A in that class.

Greg

P.S. I now wondered if the same definition is in the dictionary so I did a google search for the word. Here is the first description of that word: (of a person or action) clever or skillful, typically in a crafty or cunning way.
"her artful wiles"
synonyms: sly, crafty, cunning, wily, scheming, devious, Machiavellian, sneaky, tricky, conniving, designing, calculating;
One of my favorite quotes: "A critic is a legless man who teaches running."
WitchDocChris
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I have repeatedly stated that this is my opinion, and that I don't expect anyone else to change their view point if they are happy with their performances. I don't know how else to make it clear that this is my opinion only, Danny. I, personally, would like to see more meaningful magic performances. That's the end of it.
Christopher
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Jonathan Townsend
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What do you mean by artistic as regards a working entertainers show? More relevant presentation and props, sure.
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