The art of illusion
Have you ever wished you possessed magical powers and it was only a matter of saying “abracadabra” for all your wishes to come true?
Maybe you’ve dreamed of travelling to another time or place like Dr Who in his police box, the Tardis? Have you ever tried searching deeper into your wardrobe in the hope of finding another world on the other side like the children in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe?
Or maybe you would like to go to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and learn magical feats such as teleportation, transfiguration or how to fly a broomstick?
Whether we believe it or not, there is a time in most people’s lives when they wish they could perform a little bit of magic.
Maybe you can.
Believe it or not?
Magic in the real world appears to be supernatural but is, of course, a trick or effect. The magic trick usually involves a combination of science and art coming together to create an illusion. The process to create the trick involves science and the performance itself is an art. And the better the performance, the more convincing it is to the audience.
There are many different types of magic and tricks. Here are some well-known ones:
Production: Produce something from nothing. A rabbit is pulled out of a hat.
Transformation: Transform something from one state to another. A silk scarf changes colour.
Vanishing: Make something disappear. An assistant disappears.
Restoration: Make something disappear and then restore it to its original state. A rope is cut and then rejoined.
Teleportation: Move something from one place to another. A coin moves from one hand to another.
Escapology: Escape from restraints or handcuffs. The magician escapes from police confinement.
Pickpocket: Take belongings from the audience. The magician takes a wallet from a member of the audience.
Levitation: Make something float in the air. The magician is able to hover a small distance from the floor.
Mentalism: Read and control peoples’ minds. The magician tells someone what and predict events. they are thinking.
Penetration: Make a solid object pass through another. A sword passes through an assistant in a box.
Magic has been performed throughout history. The magic trick using a cup and balls, where the balls vanish and reappear, was being performed in Ancient Rome but the conjurer used stones instead of balls.
The first people to record magical feats were the Mesopotamians in the 4th and 5th centuries BCE (Before Common Era). There is also historical evidence to show that ancient civilisations such as the Egyptians and Romans practised magic.
Books on magic were some of the first to be printed when the printing press was developed in the 1500s. Some governments in Europe, however, forbade these books as they considered them to be teaching witchcraft.
By the 1700s, magic shows were being performed at fairs and market places. In the 1800s, the French magician Jean Eugene Robert Houdin brought magic from the street to the theatre and to private parties.
The oldest magic society, The Society of American Magicians, was formed in the early 1900s in America. It still operates today and continues to advance magic as a performing art.
The Magic Circle was formed in London in 1905 to support and professionalise magic. It also continues to operate today.
With the advent of television, magic moved from theatrical venues to TV studios. Suddenly, many thousands of viewers could simultaneously watch magic being performed. Filming of magic enabled performers to create new illusions but most magicians still performed in front of a live audience to show that their illusions were not created with post-production visual effects.
Magic has now moved into the digital age where magic tricks and performances may be seen via the internet from anywhere in the world.
Listed below are some historical and contemporary magicians highly respected around the world for their very special feats of magic.
- Jean Eugene Robert Houdin (1805 – 1871): A Frenchman who became known as the father of modern magic.
- Harry Houdini (1874 -1926): An American who became famous for his sensational escape acts. He managed to escape police handcuffs, chains, straitjackets under water and ropes slung from skyscrapers.
- David Copperfield (born 1956): An American illusionist who has been performing for 40 years. At 12, he became the youngest person ever admitted to the Society of American Magicians. He was teaching a course in magic at 16. He is the world’s most- successful commercial magician, winning 21 Emmy Awards for his TV series. He also holds 11 Guinness World Records and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
- David Blaine (born 1973): An American magician known for his high-profile feats of endurance. He was first recognised for his close-up magic where he would busk in the street, performing card magic and mentalism. Blaine has made many specials on American TV and has broken several world records. He is known for the incredible endurance stunt “Buried Alive” (1999) where he was entombed for seven days in an underground plastic box, placed under a 3000kg water-filled tank.; 75,000 people visited the site.
Australia has also produced some very talented magicians who include:
- Paul Cosentino (Born 1982): An illusionist and escapologist. Many Australians know him for the magic he performed in 2011 on the TV series Australia’s Got Talent.
- Murray Carrington Walters (1901 – 1988): Best known for his escape stunts and regarded by some as being better than Houdini.
- Lesley George Cole (1892 – 1978): An illusionist, and regarded as one of the greatest magicians of all time. His performing name was The Great Levante.
Jean-Luc Marinai is a professional magician who has been performing for twenty years. He describes himself as an illusionist and conjurer. He has won many awards for his performances since coming to Australia in 2006. Although Jean-Luc was not prepared to reveal his magic secrets to ED!, he was happy to tell us a little about himself and his work.
Who are your favourite magicians?
Robert Houdin because he was the father of modern magic. Harry Houdini for his great showmanship and more recently David Copperfield for his feats of illusion.
When did you first become interested in magic?
I had a magic set when I was twelve and only played with it for two weeks. It was not until I was 30 years old that the magic virus struck me and it has been with me ever since. I was working in London at the time and I went to a magic shop and bought some books. I now have five hundred magic books in my library, some dating back to 1840.
How often do you practise?
I practise magic all the time. I always have cards or coins in my hand and keep a notebook on my bedside table just in case I have an idea during the night and need to write it down.
What is your most popular trick?
On stage, the effect most people like is when I put my assistant in a small box, fold the box into a big shoe-box size and then put swords through it. For my close-up magic, my most popular effect is when I change my brochures into 50-dollar notes.
How does performing magic help you?
I am a shy person in real life, so performing magic gives me more confidence. It also makes me use my memory and help me develop my dexterity.
Do you belong to a professional magicians’ organisation, and have you taken the Magician’s Oath?
Yes, I belong to the Western Australian Society of Magicians (WASM) and have taken a special oath.
What is the best thing about being a magician?
Having the ability to bring a smile or a look of astonishment to peoples’ faces and making people dream or believe something impossible is happening in front of them.
Good reasons to do magic:
- It helps with self improvement — the mastery of tricks can develop self confidence and skills such as memory, spatial awareness, numeracy, concentration and dexterity.
- It’s fun.
- It’s entertaining.
- It’s sociable — you can share new tricks with friends and get them to participate. Tricks can cheer people up. It’s also a great way to meet people and there are magic clubs you can join.
- It does not have to be expensive — many tricks can be performed with everyday objects.
- It can be easily transported — some tricks only require a few props so magic can be performed almost anywhere.
- It is enjoyed internationally — all around the world people enjoy magic tricks, regardless of the language spoken.
© The West Australian
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