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The Lost Art of Magic

The Lost Art of Magic

"Now you're looking for the secret. But you won't find it because of course, you're not really looking. You don't really want to work it out. You want to be fooled." - Alfred Borden 

Do you remember that feeling of being fooled? The way you felt when you didn't know how the trick was done? I do. We inately want to put the pieces of a puzzle together, and know how stuff works. It's in our nature as human beings. We need to understand, and if only for a moment, we stop trying to know how everything works, the prestige is still there.

Is magic art, or is it spectacle? There is something to be said about the current state of magic and the impact the internet has on it. What we see through our computer screens, TVs, and phones changes the feelings we have/had about magic.

Art is subjective. An Andy Warhol painting will look like a five year old's mess to some, and to others it is a five-million dollar masterpiece. That's not to say every bit of magic has to be a masterpiece, but that sense of wonderment and the feelings it evokes, must be present to some degree. Without it, magic is not art, but merely masturbation. That only pleases the one doing it, and is not enjoyable for others.

Recently I met with a busking magician from Texas. We met up at a cafe and hung out talking theory and showing each other little things here and there. I myself am a card mechanic, or "move monkey" as some would say. Coins are not my area of expertise. This guy show me his coin matrix, and I was floored. I have seen a bunch of different matrices, ones with cover cards, ones without. The cover he used was his hands, and I couldn't believe what I was seeing. There, in that moment, magic was real again. I got to experience what we think spectators experience. Once he showed me the method, that feeling died faster than a batch of sea-monkeys.

We want to be amazed, but just as quickly as new ideas and creations get out there, the methods are not kept in secrecy. We are entertained, but everyone wants to peek behind the curtain. Once you know that it is an old man pulling levers, the "magic" is lost.



Classic click-bait. From a "business" perspective, this works and the videos get more views and ad revenue flows in. Is this good for magic? In a way, it is drawing people into magic, whether bad or good, and teaching them in part, how some magic works. On the other side, it is ruining magic for people who want to be fooled. It's like they say, once you see how sausage is made, you don't eat sausage anymore. The performances that don't expose methods do more for magic, just because of the exposure. Without knowing the method, you are left to your own ideas and thoughts on the piece. Showing how someone's trick works is just like saying, "hey did you see [insert new movie,] where everyone dies at the end?" That's pretty messed up. You are spoiling the very thing that drew people to the art in the first place. I don't start or keep conversations like that, and neither should you. 

Now the dilemma: magic as copyrighted material. Currently, there is no copyrighting on ideas. What that means is, you do not own the rights to your magical methods. You own the rights to physical devices and publications, but not the methods behind moves or sleights. The crediting you see in projects, YouTube, and elsewhere, is out of courtesy and respect to the creator, and not due to laws regarding intellectual property. Magic is one of the oldest art forms, and is the least respected from a legal standpoint. People can go around in circles ripping each other off, and whoever has better marketing, "wins."

Revealing magic is not divulging someone's intellectual property. There is no precedent on this, but there should be. Why do you think magic has secrets that have been guarded for so long? This is one reason, the other is to keep the enigmatic nature of the magicians who practice and perform.

The internet and our insatiable hunger to know the truth is spoiling us. The respect for something that brought us to where we are is desperately needed. If you don't know where you come from, how do you know where to go? It is not that we want to be fooled, but rather, we need to be fooled. We need to bask in moments of astonishment and believe for ourselves that magic is real, because if we don't, then magic is truly, a lost art. 

"A lie is just a lie, if you believe that they'll believe it." - Sage Francis

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