Saturdays in the Magick Lounge can be relied upon to cover a wide range of subjects of conversation. This week, perhaps as a result of matters arising from Marc Oberon’s lecture, a few of us fell to talking about the performance of magic. Which reminded me of something I touched upon in a recent PrestiDigital editorial.

I think we sometimes forget that the performance of a magic trick isn’t itself entertaining to most people.

The phrase ‘magic trick’ is perhaps something of an oxymoron. A trick isn’t magical, and more than it is generally entertaining. The entertainment in our craft — I hesitate to call it an art, for reasons I could easily return to with the minimum of encouragement — comes from the magic, not the trick.

Anyone can demonstrate — even perform — a trick; few can perform magic. Anyone who doesn’t understand what I mean should go to YouTube, type in the word ‘magic’ and wait for ennui to encompass. (I could put some links in here, but wouldn’t want to embarrass anyone who may grow out of it. Perhaps we should hope that they find the love of a good woman who will gently point out the error of their ways and lead them henceforth into honourable and useful employment. But maybe they’d have to ditch the card tricks first.)

Who is at fault. The dealers? We wish to sell our wares so we present them in the best light, and in the way we think will appeal to potential purchasers. Surely it should be enough to outline the effect as seen by an audience, and leave the customer/performer to make his decision based on whether that will fit his style and his act? Probably, and most dealers would go quickly broke if they operated on that basis.

We’re buying dreams (‘magic’?) to some extent, of course. In my teens when I first started to read magic catalogues and then attend conventions I read descriptions and watched demonstrations. And their power depended on their ability to trigger my mental ‘magician fantasies’. I wanted to be Channing Pollock, and later Chan Canasta. Of course most of us grow out of that, although perhaps not entirely as there’s an important aspirational element too.

Now, of course, we have even more powerful fantasy-triggering techniques. I’d always prefer to make a decision about buying a prop or trick based on reading a good description than watching a demonstration, but perhaps that’s just me. Now we have websites with MTV style performances — selling the sizzle rather than the sausage? Has the medium truly become the message?

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