Cards and Sponge ball

Magic in the 21st Century

Most people will enjoy seeing a magician perform. Gasp in amazement when a dove appears or a coin disappears. Be intrigued by a feat that seems to point to superhuman intellect and astounded by the revelation of the selected card. But how are you meant to view these sorts of performances. Is it a battle waged between the spectator and the performer, or is it something else?

Cards and Sponge ball
Close-up Magic

I am sure that most people in this third millennium do not really believe that the performer is arcane powers, any more than they believe that Spiderman is real. This is a good thing. The more rational we are, the better we become as a society.

The relationship between the performer and the audience is a complex one. On the one hand you as a spectator and audience member expect to be entertained and amazed. In essence you want the performer to trick you. At the same time you want to see if you can see what the performer is doing, as an exercise to see how good you are at spotting the trickery.

On the other hand, the performer will do absolutely everything they can to entertain you. The entertainment is based on trying to trick and fool you, the audience member. Yet the trickery is not meant to be malicious, nor humiliating. It is simply an exercise in psychology.

But this is where the relationship becomes complex. You see if the audience are too easily able to see how the trick is done, if they do reveal the secret, they do not feel it is a victory. It is then that they feel most deceived. It is when they spot the secret that they experience disappointment and believe the performer has not delivered on the promised entertainment. In effect,

the more the spectators try to see how the magic is done the harder they are working to be disappointed.

Unlike any other contest, the relationship between the audience and the performer in a magic show is one where both parties truly want the magician to succeed. It is best described as a cooperative venture rather than a competition.

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