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Martin Pulman
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This year is the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Café and the green place becoming a place for those performing, collecting or interested in Mentalism to congregate.

Mentalism has changed an incredible amount in that time. The life of the Café has coincided with the explosion of the internet. What do people think has been lost and what has been gained in those 20 years? Do people think Mentalism is in a stronger place now? Has there been a noticeable improvement in performances, methods, plots etc? Has the internet been a force for good or ill in the world of Mentalism? Or is it a mixed bag? Have any performers emerged in that time to rank alongside the greats who used to post here (Lesley, Maven, Banachek, Brown (in disguise!)?

And where do people think Mentalism is headed in the next 20 years?

Any thoughts greatly appreciated.
Nestor D
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Great question, I am impatient to see the answers! Let me dump my thoughts on the subject...

I think that mentalism is much more common nowadays and attracts much more hobbyists than before which is not necessarily a bad thing as it put many more mind and perspectives to work on improved methods and variations of existing plots.

Regarding trends, we see more electronics (that leaves me cold), apps (idem), propless (some gold nugget in a vast sea of mud), business card effects and moves (good things getting out at regular intervals, I expect further progress).

A performer said that there is a magicinisation of mentalism with people introducing very clever methods and sleights to solve problems in cleaner way. Which has pros (cleaner methods) but also cons (the method should not be the point and it gets harder to realise every time the method gets more clever).
That to me is the key to explain the current and future developments of mentalism.

Regarding the café, my feeling is that well known performers have mostly retreated from this section (topics where they have something to sell being the obvious exception) which is our loss. David Thiel might be my favourite poster currently active, there is a lot of wisdom to be gained from him.
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Most mentalism lacks surprise.

You say you are going to do something.

And then you do it.

The audience ends up exactly where they expected.

It is a demonstration rather than a performance that pulls them in and surprises them in some way.

The next big challenge for mentalism will be to work on this. That way the trick becomes more than just a puzzle to be solved.

I wrote a blog post on this issue.

My post was addressing this issue in magic. But the problem is sadly ten times worse in mentalism.

Joe Mckay
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Interesting read,

While the premise of mentalism seems inherently fascinating to most people the presentation of it unfortunately is often inherently dull/boring.
I don't mind if the audience ends up where they expect to, as long as the journey to get there was fun and entertaining. Look at it as a good "Who's done it" book.
you expect there to be a crime and you expect it to be solved by the end of the book. Nothing wrong with that as long as the way they get to it is entertaining.

As Derren Brown mentions in ( I think its) Pure Effect. Allot of mentalism unfortunately consists of people writing down a thought, the mentalist grabbing a pad writing something down and showing that somehow he was correct. During this the audience doesn't get to see anything of what they came to see ( mind-reading, influence, etc.) I know this book is 20 years old but I still think it applies to allot of mentalism now.
If you can add an extra layer by having a surprise ending it can certainly be a plus, but I do not think it is absolutely necessary as long as the presentation/process during the effect is entertaining.

As for It being a demonstration rather then a performance, I know its personal choice, but I actually prefer this and for many effects I choose a demonstration and sometimes even lecture type of approach. I also do memory demonstrations ( something that also inherently lacks surprise) and find them to blend better if the mentalism also has the demonstration aspect.

And for the puzzle part.
As long as the spectators ask themselves: how did he know what I was thinking by, ... moving my arm while I answered unrelated questions, ... looking at me pouring a drink, ... looking at my throat while I shout the answer in my head. etc.
Instead of how did he manage to read what I have written down.
Philemon Vanderbeck
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That most mentalism lacks surprise is a feature, not a bug.

It follows the classic premise of "first you tell them what you're going to do, then you do it, then you tell them what you've done."

Consider how movie trailers basically give away the entire plot, and yet folks still go see them in the theaters (or at least, used to before the pandemic).

The art of mentalism is having a good story to tell along the journey, and having a good character that invokes interest.
Professor Philemon Vanderbeck
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"I use my sixth sense to create the illusion of possessing the other five."
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I am going to link to something else I wrote (apologies for that!)

This time round I focused on a brilliant essay by David Ben that explored a key piece of theory that underpins a lot of the work of Penn & Teller.

If you understand the advice that Teller gives below - it will provide another avenue that mentalists can explore in order to make their performances genuinely compelling.

Joe Mckay
Martin Pulman
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Thanks for the replies, everyone.

I think "Mentalism" is all but unrecognisable today compared to 20 years ago; certainly in a UK context. 20 years ago there were very few mentalists at all; no street Mentalism, no table-hopping mentalism, no mentalists performing at weddings; very little in the way of books; very few single effects available to purchase.
Mentalism was almost exclusively a stage/corporate entertainment and the product releases reflected that. We now see almost the direct opposite with most mental-themed releases geared towards close-up, informal performances.

One could possibly reasonably argue that most of the changes have actually been expansions of the concept of mental magic, rather than a downgrading of Mentalism, but things are certainly very different today than 20 years ago.
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Profile of countrymaven
I think that in spite of a lot of overfishing in routines and routines that are too complex and thus unconvincing, mentalism has been improving. The one thing I believe that is often lacking is a highly convincing presentation.

When people are truly convinced that someone is receiving even a part of someone else's thoughts, it is very entertaining.
The key is that people are truly convinced. This takes quite a bit of showmanship and BELIEF, TRANSMITTED, by the performer.

The best mentalism has always been VERY DIRECT, and very convincing. And being convincing often means partly messing up the reveal before the final revelation. My two cents.
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I have always contended based on my decades of experience that each audience member has some degree of belief in PSI things
and is looking for validation as much as entertainment as part of their expectation of a demonstration.

Internet exposure may have increased this "general awareness" with alive demonstration able to provide validation not possible vicariously.
Thus, I see the necessity of a mentalist coming across as authentic as well as clear as to what is being demonstrated.

Sadly (for me) most demonstrations seem to be muddled, shotgun approach and pointless (no relevance to anything important)
One problem is giving a long show. I can envision many ways for a single demonstration to be impactful, validating, entertaining and meaningful,
But then what? How can one have series of demonstrations at that level? Can small demonstrations built to a grand demonstration? I don't see how.

So, fo me, I see some future in powerful mentalism (by any definition) for small groups/parlor events in which the entire audience can be engaged/participate,
but no way to make a living doing so, or having any "best effect" be a reputation maker.

As to the changes over time, my favorite methods are the same as 60 years ago - any my presentation has changed, based on my guess at audience expectations.
For example, audience familiarity with pendulums as me now use Multi-bob, no-touch techniques and Radial pendulums. My "abilities" have not changed at all,
and any notion that my efforts could be enhanced by electronics or gimmick is shameful.

I also do not consider NLP, hypnotism, readings, memory skills or medium work to be mentalism. Mind based entertainment, yes.
To that end, I am sure the concept of what mentalism is for the general audience is very confused. One must be clear as to what they are about.

That is, if I purchased a ticket to see a mentalist and they did any of the above I would feel cheated.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst

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Ohhh...this has a the potential to be a great thread...

I look forward to hearing that the MIND READERS chime in with, and have some thoughts myself when I get a sec.

(just chiming in now so I don't forget and this pops up when I search my name.. Smile )

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