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George Ledo
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Every time I see a discussion here on "art," I cringe. It takes me back to seven years of art history, studio art, and design classes in a two-year college and two universities. Papers, lectures, projects, critiques, discussions, the whole bit. But I've been using what I learned back then in my career over the past thirty-odd years.

So here, for whatever it's worth, is a column I wrote back in '05 on "what is art" and how it relates to magic: http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewt......orum=173

You may agree or disagree with my comments, but remember: either way, you'll be joining in with countless scholars, historians, critics, artists, craftspeople, gallery owners -- and first-year art majors -- over the past few hundred years.
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine
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Latest column: "Sorry about the photos in my posts here"
Dannydoyle
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George good points. Sitting about the internet pontificating about "art" is not a way to be gainfully employed. This is the truth of the matter.

I guess the thing that I find frustrating about this type of discussion is in life in general I tend to focus on and be happy with what I do have, not with what I am lacking. It is easy to bloviate about what is wrong with everyone else and what they are lacking. Anyone can do that.

Also the argument more speaks to ones own personal life experience and should not be put forth as a blanket statement about the state of magic itself.

I am not trying to be contentious. I am just trying to show the flaws in the argument is all.
Danny Doyle
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<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
danaruns
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Danny, you are being contentious when you say things like "sitting about the internet pontificating" and "bloviate." That's totally derisive.

Since this thread has descended into reductio ad absurdum regarding art, I'll focus this down to two things: (1) originality; and (2) beauty or social commentary. To me, those are two elements of art. So rather than arguing about what is and isn't art, I'll stick to those two things. And I like to see them combined.

My original point remains that very little magic is original. The vast, vast majority of it is completely old effects/props/methods, and if we're lucky we get to see it dressed up with some new presentation or new character. I'd guess that the majority of professional magicians, in an effort to appeal to as many people as possible, go their entire careers without doing anything truly original. It's like all of magic is just cover bands. Anyone who talks (or should I say "bloviates" or "sits about the internet pontificating") about how wonderful it is to see linking rings or sawing a woman in half can take a seat now.

Then there's the second element: beauty or social commentary. I gotta say, there is some beautiful stage magic coming out of Asia these days. Indeed, most of the original stuff I see is coming out of Asia, too. In America, there's not a ton of beauty, except in stage manipulation routines, if the magician can seem to get beyond showing off what a great card manipulator he/she is. As for social commentary, all I can think of off the top of my head are Penn & Teller (who made their name on it, but do little of it anymore) and Derek DelGaudio. Beyond that, nothing's ringing my bell right now.

I think anyone who is doing truly original magic that is beautiful or which employs social commentary can make a good living with it, with the exception of the 5-10 minute competition act, which simply isn't enough to sustain a whole show. Certainly Derek and Penn & Teller are doing both and making good money at it. I agree with Chris in that I think the public yearns for newness, edginess and beauty in magic, and anyone who can do it and do it well will do well doing it.

Even when you get something new that isn't particularly artistic, the public eats it up. An example that comes to mind is David Blaine, who did standard magic with the innovation that he turned the camera on the audience instead of the magician. Another example is our own Dan Sperry, who has a completely traditional bird act with gross magic interspersed, but does it with a Marilyn Manson persona.

Now, I frankly don't care if you do the Chicago Opener, the Six Card Repeat, Coins Across, Professor's Nightmare, Card to Pocket, Ambitious Card and Three Fly your entire life. Have at it. Good for you, if that's what floats your boat. But like Chris, I think that magic as a whole would become more popular, people would make more money at it, and more people would be making a living doing it, if magic as a whole were to become more original, more beautiful, and edgier with social commentary. People yearn for new, they yearn for beauty, and they yearn for a message. I, personally, would like to see more folks going in that direction.

And yes, before you make the hypocrisy argument again, I bring it up because it is something I've been thinking about for some time, and I'm now starting to try to do something about it myself. But again, if old stuff is your thing, have at it. Not trying to dissuade you at all. Just trying to inspire.
"Dana Douglas is the greatest magician alive. Plus, I'm drunk." -- Foster Brooks
Dannydoyle
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Why worry about what others do?

And is it possible to do old things in a new way and be artistic?

And what do you mean by original? In method, in presentation, or what else? What qualifies as original?

People say these things quite often but then it gets tough. Could you please explain exactly what you mean by original?
Danny Doyle
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George Ledo
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I have to disagree on the "originality" part, although I do respect your personal viewpoint.

Originality is not necessarily a component of a work of art, in this case a performance. The "classics" in music, including the Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods, are performed all the time, and, if performed by a top-notch orchestra or group, are still perceived as art. Sinatra and many other singers used someone else's material and they were, and are, considered artists.

Plays, musicals, ballets, and operas fall into the same category. As old as they may be, if performed correctly, they can shake you up and send you home shaken. Shakespeare is still performed after four-hundred-odd years and can still grab you.

My problem with a lot of the "old" tricks is that they are too often performed with no apparent thought as to what they are or could be. They're often just demonstrations of the props.

Still, if a "prop demonstration" is perceived by some as a pleasant diversion, well, that's their prerogative. Not my place to argue with them.
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine
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Latest column: "Sorry about the photos in my posts here"
Dannydoyle
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Google how many original songs Elvis performed you may be shocked. Much less how many he actually wrote.

I'm pretty certain he was an artist.

Also 9 out of 10 performances of "artistic magic" seem boring and contrived to me. The stretch for meaning is hard to watch. For me that is, not for everyone.
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 17, 2018, danaruns wrote:
...The vast, vast majority of it is completely old effects/props/methods...


All too often I feel that the performer is not engaging, the tricks are not surprising, and what's on display does not feel relevant to either the performer or the show.

I don't want to judge how well the tricks are made or done. I would like to be entertained.
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Jonathan Townsend
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Just for fun: Performance to music is also known as dance recital. Magic variety shows have a lot of "Dances with Cards" and "Dances with Cabinets". * SmileStrike a pose - vogue. Smile

Then the ventriloquist or juggler comes out and gets the applause.
...to all the coins I've dropped here
Dannydoyle
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Quote:
On Aug 17, 2018, danaruns wrote:
Danny, you are being contentious when you say things like "sitting about the internet pontificating" and "bloviate." That's totally derisive.

Let me just say this. The following is directly quoted from your very first post.

"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."

Want to talk derisive? Well there ya go. You opened with it. You are being very judgmental of an entire performance medium.

So if it comes back to you and seems derisive is it shocking? I mean really do you think that those who you are calling all these things would not be the least bit perturbed by it? (Especially with your card fan avatar staring everyone in the face as you do it?)

So I ask you to please try to understand that my post is meant to be no more contentious than your original offering.
Danny Doyle
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<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
danaruns
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Danny, I certainly did not mean any of that to be derisive, and did not mean to offend you. Though you seem to have taken it personally, mine was not a comment about a person, it was a comment on the state of magic generally. I'm really not sure why you seem so personally offended by it. Could it be that you take it personally because you think it describes you? I can't think of another reason why you would take it so personally while no one else has.

The observations in my thesis are not just mine, they are backed up by research. At least one study shows that what audiences like least and dislike most about magic is seeing a trick that they believe they have seen before. And what they crave most is to be surprised by a fresh trick. The old adage, "familiarity breeds contempt" is so true in magic. While music becomes more appealing with repetition, magic becomes less appealing. The essence of watching magic is surprise at what appears to be an unexpected violation of the laws of physics. Repetition destroys surprise. If any pursuit requires constant newness, it is magic. And yet, magic suffers from an almost complete lack of it.

Magic also suffers in audience appeal when it is a demonstration rather than performance art, and most magic seems to be demonstrative. And demonstration style magic performances fail doubly when audiences believe they have seen the trick before. This is why linking rings is so often the punch line of a joke, and earns a roll of the eyes so often from lay audiences.

So it was a comment on that, and not a comment on you. I have no idea what you do. And I certainly don't understand how my avatar can bother you. A card fan is somehow putting a lie to these observations? I think you're reading too much into it.
"Dana Douglas is the greatest magician alive. Plus, I'm drunk." -- Foster Brooks
Dannydoyle
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Yes now lets do pseudo psycho babble to add even more insult LOL. Nice.

I am not taking it personally at all, even though you attack an entire profession with this. I notice how you gloss over my observations about Elvis and original.

I am trying to drill down to the bedrock of the point you are making and seeing what it really is? It is EASY to be an armchair magician who works on occasion and sits in judgement of all those out there actually doing it. Which is incidentally exactly what you are doing. (And the card fan does not bother me, the hypocrisy of your statement and your incredibly unoriginal avatar is simply amusing irony.)

But I would like to find out what exactly bothers you? Is it that effects have changed little over the past 150 years? I agree actually. But I would like to know if someone DID the list of tricks you put forth to put me down, but did them like themselves would that be OK?

Can nobody do cups and balls any more? Can nobody do card tricks any more? I'm trying to get to what you think should be done? I just see complaints, but no solutions. Should we eliminate cut and restored rope and all rope effects? At what point is something "original" and at what point does it cross over into "artistic"?

Like I said there is a time and place for pleasant diversions and you have said it is bad to want to do that. You have taken what seems to be a completely untenable position and don't want to back up an inch. Rather you use pop psychology nonsense to attack me LOL. You came out and accused an entire profession of a behavior, and then tell me it is not meant to be offensive to those in that profession. For example, "All singers are pulling sharp. I look over the landscape of singing and can't see ONE who is not pulling sharp all the time." Does a singer HAVE to be sharp in order to be offended by such a comment? Or is the problem the blanket statement made in the first place?

Have you seen any of the performers I have mentioned? NOT on YouTube, but live? If not then I suggest trying to do so.

Now if you want to make statements such as magic suffering from demonstration as opposed to performance, then we are on the same page. I have said it for a LONG time. This is a general statement about performance style. See how much different that is from your assertion that you are frustrated with magic AND MAGICIANS? Saying it is "bereft of substance is also pretty derisive. Once you go to attacking people and move from statements of style it is offensive. And I don't have to be guilty of it to point it out.

Put another way you are pretty quick to be offended by lawyer jokes. If I was to say ALL lawyers are, or all lawyers do whatever I'm guessing it would make you unhappy. Not because tog DO or are those things but because I insulted your profession.

Try that point of view and you may see my point.
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 20, 2018, danaruns wrote:
... seeing a trick that they believe they have seen before. And what they crave most is to be surprised by a fresh trick. ...


Has that happened to you? Is that what your audiences are telling you?
...to all the coins I've dropped here
George Ledo
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Quote:
At least one study shows that what audiences like least and dislike most about magic is seeing a trick that they believe they have seen before. And what they crave most is to be surprised by a fresh trick.

Dana -

These studies have been mentioned here a number of times before, but I can't recall any reference to a specific study. What I'm most interested in (given that I agree that most magic nowadays seems to consist of demonstrations instead of performances) is:

Who conducted the studies (an individual or an organization) and under what conditions;

Who responded to them (i.e., were they people involved in magic or members of the general public);

How many people were surveyed;

And when (what year) the studies were conducted.

We all know about "leading questions in surveys," and I'm not going there. I'd be perfectly happy with just seeing the actual results of a couple of these studies, as long as my questions above are answered. Can you provide a link or a reference to a couple of them?
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine
www.georgefledo.net

Latest column: "Sorry about the photos in my posts here"
debjit
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To answer the original question, I think magic has always been done to entertain others.... To create awe in people and make them believe in miracles. Sure it might be used for something emotional and powerful but that doesn't mean all magic should be that way.

I think of magic as standup comedy, you perform magic just to make people happy.
Dannydoyle
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Quote:
On Aug 21, 2018, debjit wrote:

I think of magic as standup comedy, you perform magic just to make people happy.


Comedy is an art in my eyes. Comedy magic is also. Making people happy is not a bad thing in my view. I agree with you.
Danny Doyle
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longhaired1
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These "state of magic" conversations have been going on for longer than the many decades I've been involved in magic. Check out the BBS system from back in the 90's for example

http://questx.com/magic!/history.html

For years I operated under the impression that it was my job to "move magic forward" or something along those lines. That is certainly the job of some, but every field need its orginaalists, its traditionlists, its working stiffs etc.

Lance Burton did relatively little "cutting edge" effects in his many decades on the strip yet there is no doubt he is an artist of the highest caliber.

In my signature handkerchief routine a handkerchief vanishes and re-appears in a variety of increasingly bizarre locations, under increasingly bizarre conditions, but at it's core it is nothing more than a vanishing handkerchief trick. The only thing original about it is .... the plot and every single word of the script (yes I said script).

Having performed it thousands of times and for many years I still look for ways to better deliver a line, position the spectators on stage, sell the climaxes, handle the volunteers (always a fluid situation).

Is the strong point of my routine originality of effect? Not at all. Will it fool magicians? Absolutely not. Is it art? Yes. It is my personal expression of how I choose to present the effect in my own voice. It is no different than a painter saying "this is what the flower looks like to me". It is in fact a piece of carefully crafted theatre, that would not fool a magician and does not advance the art of magic, except to the degree that when I perform it I believe I am respecting and presenting magic in a way that has a positive impact on the state of magic.

But the audience doesn't care about that last part. They just want to be entertained. And that is what I get paid to do.
Dannydoyle
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A wonderfully articulate way to phrase that. Artistic in and of itself almost.
Danny Doyle
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<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
Alan Wheeler
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I think "high art" is a great presentation frame for magic--if someone such as a Lavand can pull it off, whether in close-up, parlor, or stage venues. The novelty effect or trick is presented as a self-contained "piece" requiring artistry and sophisticated skill.



The thematic or emotional element of great art can also be presented through the art of magic. Max Maven's press, for example, refers to his performances as "conceptual art." Some works by Penn and Teller have been presented as think pieces or artistic pieces--and have certainly enjoyed popular success.

These presentations are exceptional to the general stereotypes of magic as
a novelty act Smile
or folk art (craft) Smile
The views and comments expressed on this post may be mere speculation and are not necessarily the opinions, values, or beliefs of Alan Wheeler.
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donny
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"Magic for Humans" by Willman. On Netflix. This will significantly move magic forward. Why? It has story, meaning and why. The secondary effect is the public's craving for something like this to happen to them. FUTURE!
It's not their senses that mislead, it's their assumptions.
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