I’ve read a couple of essays recently which postulate that magic is not an art. Now for my money such essays are little more than transparent exercises in self-aggrandizement, much the same as those that rail that what Blaine and his imitators do is not street magic – and never mind that Blaine and his imitators are doing their magic on the street. Such minute, anal distinctions serve no purpose that I can discern other than demonstrating what oh-so-enlightened-thinkers their authors are. They’re pointless intellectual exercises at best, and self serving bullshit at worst. Whether or not magic is, by exact definition, art and whether or not what Blaine and company do is, according to self-styled experts, street magic doesn’t matter much to me either way. After all, I’ve got grass that needs watering and carpets that need vacuuming, if you get my not too subtle drift.
I bring this up because to me the highest compliment one magician can pay another is to say he’s an artist. Being an artist implies, to my maybe primitive way of thinking, that the practitioner has transcended the technique of his/her particular medium so that the technique itself has become invisible and we see only that being created. In the context of magic, we see just that, magic. No bumps, no hesitations, but only a seamless and straight forward whole without explanation.
I want to show you an artist at work. Click the YouTube clip at the end of this post. It’s a clip of Morgan Strebler bending forks. Why do I call him an artist? Because he’s completely transcended the technique of what he’s doing. I know every single move he’s making, and those of you familiar with metal bending, and his DVD Liquid Metal, probably do as well. However, I am unable to detect the moves, even knowing them. There’s simply nothing to see.
Even more amazing, I was talking to Morgan about this clip some time ago and he said he can’t detect the moves himself. That’s right – the guy making the moves just can’t see them. Now if that’s not transcending the technique I don’t know what is.
How did he acquire this level of expertise? By performing the routine thousands of times. Read that again, performing the routine. You don’t attain that level by doing it in the mirror or in front of the video camera. It’s only through taking a routine out into the world and working it time and again before audiences that you’re able to refine what you’re doing to such a state.
I think you also have to remember that Morgan honed this routine before audiences that would make the average magician cringe. I’m talking about audiences composed of the super rich and famous, people who’ve seen it all, done it all, and who are having a few drinks to boot. This routine was mainly polished to its current state by being done in some of Vegas’ most exclusive night spots, including the Caramel bar at The Bellagio. Now, if you think an audience is an audience, I would invite you to perform an act for a group at a family restaurant and the same act for a group at a bachelor party. Tough audiences make for exceptional performers.
Again, the guy’s an artist, what more can be said? It’s a lesson in what can be attained through hard work and repeated performance. I’ll be doing a review of Morgan’s Taste Conditions sometime in the near future. Stay tuned.