HOW TO MAKE MAGIC ARTFUL: FINDING YOUR VOICE
For those who don't know me, my name is Lance Sinclair, I'm a mentalist, hypnotist, magician, photographer, and designer. I also play the piano and sing but enough bragging... For those who do know me, I like to think I'm an artist. Before I get into why I think so, let me ask you this... Is magic an art?
Without a doubt, the term "art of magic" exists. But does that mean all magic is art?
You see, buying a canvas, some brushes, paint thinner, and paint and putting it all together to form a picture doesn't make you an artist. Buying an expensive camera and taking pictures doesn't make you an artist either.
I don't define an artist as someone who possesses great skill - that's way too easy to acquire. To me, artists are people who understand the whys of their industry and can make you feel something inside through their work - individuals who play with your emotions and leave you with something you can take with you after experiencing their art. Some paintings (especially abstract ones) will make you stand there in awe attempting to interpret them, making connections between the artist's intent and your own life and asking yourself WHY the painter decided to paint this abstract work and not a beach. Others (like the beach painting) will merely seem to the viewer like a display of skill and the more realistic the beach looks, the more skillful the painter. Some photographs capture people's souls and have embedded in them a message or a feeling so strong and so relatable, that they will make you cry (A high contrast black and white picture of a skinny 3-year-old child in Ghana making cookies out of clay is a great example of this). Others are merely what in the photography business we call "snapshots" - these are images that don't have the best composition and that really don’t make you feel anything when you look at them.
Now, let's shift our minds back to the performance of magic and mentalism and let me ask you to ask yourself the following and be honest with yourself:
"Do I have a WHY for performing?"
"Is there a purpose to my show?"
"Do I have a message I want to share with the world?"
"Have I been performing with the sole intent of showing off my abilities and 'astuteness'?"
"How can I create real connections with my audiences through my performance?"
"How do I add MEANING to a simple trick?"
I could go on and on, but I want you to take a few hours for yourself, a pen, and some paper, and write down the answers to questions such as these. The big question is, what do you do if you don't already have a message you are willing to share through your magic? It's very simple. Are you ready for the answer? Here it goes:
You need to live.
Explore different aspects of life. Step out of your comfort zone. Make bold moves. Fall in love. Go skydiving. Play a new sport. Change the way you dress. Try different hairstyles. Make new friends. Learn a new language.
If all you've ever known is magic, that's a problem. The secret to performing wonderful magic and becoming a mystery artist is to FIND YOURSELF. Once you spend enough time exploring life and meditating and getting to know yourself, you will find that you will have gained a voice in this world and you'll feel like you have something to share with people, you'll find that you see life through a unique set of eyes and a unique perspective and you'll then be ready to apply that perspective to your performance and naturally your magic will improve a hundredfold.
So what's an example of this in practice?
Magician asks someone to pick a card from a deck. The card is shuffled. The card is found.
Not bad. But perhaps it's just sleight of hand and skills. Impressive for a few moments but let's be honest and let's not fool ourselves, nobody really cares about your ability to find a lost card.
Let's look at this other scenario...
Magician asks someone to think of a card. He finds the card in the deck.
The effect is slightly more interesting, isn’t it? The participant may say "He had no way to know what card I was thinking of." But another may argue "He probably just forced you the card he wanted you to think of."
How about this one? ...
Without any cards in sight, magician asks someone to think of a card. Magician divines thought-of card.
Now that's a lot better, right? Wrong! Still not good enough. Truth is, unless the script mentions that the thought-of card is symbolic of a more private and personal thought, the effect still will be soon forgotten. They still don't care about a playing card. It’s still impressive! But nobody cares.
So consider this,
Magician asks someone to think of something they fear. They never say a word. He writes down the fear on a piece of paper and shows the rest of the audience. The participant says what their fear is. The audience reacts and then the magician shows the participant and they react accordingly.
Now, things are starting to get interesting! Instead of a thing so trivial and meaningless like a playing card's identity, now the magician has divined an aspect of the participant's own identity. They will remember this and they will feel like this performance is crafted just for them. But we don't have to stop there. What if you saw someone doing this:
Magician asks someone to think of something they fear. Participant never says a word. Magician reveals the fear or phobia. Magician removes the fear or phobia from the participant.
I think we can happily say the last example is the best and it without a doubt reaches miracle status. I can think of a working method off the top of my head right now to make that possible but I will omit it because I'm here to talk about presentation, not methodology. I'm here to talk about the real secrets. You can come up with your own method for that if you so wish.
I encourage you to analyze your own performances in the manner in which I have done so above and try your best to add meaning to your effects and create premises that revolve around your audience.
Now back to the subject of structuring a show that has a purpose or meaning...
If you have ever watched Derren Brown perform a full show, you would agree with me saying he is a true showman and a real artist. But something very few people know is that he has to come up with the name of the shows before the shows are ever written and structured. This he has to share with the TV networks and what not. But I find it interesting that he takes a title and structures a show around it.
Let's look at his latest show called "MIRACLE" for example. He made the show about everyone being a miracle and that it doesn't matter if you see someone's sight restored (which he does in his show) or if you see the future predicted (which he also does), the biggest miracle of all is that you are alive!
Isn't that beautiful?
I have a great friend named Daniel Nicholas who is right now putting together a two-person show called "PERCEPTION", with our friend TJ Tana - another great showman - and their effects are almost all structured around the idea of looking at things from different perspectives. I suggested that they begin the show with a monologue about living a better life and how getting into the shoes of people who you disagree with is a great virtue and allows for people to come to a compromise. I then said they should follow that with a joke about their shoes to bring to everyone's attention the fact that Dan has black shoes on and TJ has white ones. Then, at the end of the show, they can show that they are now wearing each other's shoes. I think this fits very well with that initial monologue about perception. But then TJ said something that knocked this out the park... He said that them ending the show wearing one of each shoe would be even better because that implies that when you put yourself in other people's shoes, you should remember to also stay true to yourself, so as to not lose sight of your own identity. Isn't that genius?
I could go on and on about this but I think it's useless because many giants have already spoken about these matters before me. I suggest reading a few great books on magic theory to really understand the why behind your performance. I highly recommend reading Our Magic by Nevil Maskelyne and Magic in Mind by Joshua Jay, both of which can be found by clicking on the book titles. You're welcome!
Master the techniques.
Find your voice.