FISM has been called the World Olympics of Magic. It’s not quite that, but it is an international competition where performers attempt to wow their fellow magicians. This year’s winner was the amazing Eric Chien who turns some common tropes of card and coin magic upside down and inside out. For me, he’s the most refreshing card man since Shin Lim.
Click on the video to see some powerfully entertaining magic that will leave you shaking your head, “How?”
Though David Roth first introduced his coin magic showpieces some forty years ago, they are still fresher, more original, and more creative than just about anything seen since in coin magic. Here he performs one of my favorites, the inexplicable Funnel effect.
This astonishing magic routine by David Roth is my all-time favorite piece of coin magic. With concept pieces such as The Planet, as well as The Sleeve, The Funnel, and The Rainbow, Roth widened the paradigm of what coin magic could be.
I’m not usually a big fan of magicians who don’t show their eyes—either on stage or on camera—but Ponta the Smith is so technically proficient that I still find him enjoyable to watch. Here he does three variations on a classic of coin magic.
Coin magic has always been the most difficult branch of magic for me. It takes me forever to learn a coin effect properly: I’ve been working on this one for the last ten years, and I still haven’t gotten it to the point I want it, but I thought it would be fun to share.
Now, about where to send that start-up money…
Click on the video to watch, and if you click in the lower right-hand corner, you can get to view it full screen.
A while back, I posted a photo of an intriguing street mural called “Wordscape” that I had come across while strolling in Brooklyn; at the time, I had no clue as to who the artist was, other than the name on the mural. Fortunately since then, I’ve been in phone contact with the artist, Don Porcella, who now lives in California. I had a great conversation with him, and in the near future I hope to post the audio of the interview here.
Until then, I just wanted to comment on one thing that Don said to me: when a person goes to a museum or gallery, the average time that the viewer interacts with a piece of art is just three to seven seconds—that’s it. The artist may have taken months or years bringing a project to fruition, but that three seconds could be the entire length of time that a viewer engages with the piece of art. So the artist’s job, as Porcella sees it, is to somehow persuade or seduce a person to stay and engage and interact a little longer. He wants people to see through the surface, and then take the time to go a little deeper.
That resonated with me, because it seems as if in all the arts, there’s that obligation of baiting the hook for attention. It seems almost whorish. But the novelist is taught that the first few sentences have to grab, or no one’s going to read the rest; a musician has to have a musical hook that gets the audience humming or singing along; the old vaudeville maxim declared that “you gotta have a gimmick.” The great British actor Ralph Richardson once stated that the art of acting consisted of keeping the audience from coughing for two hours.
In magic, too, the first obligation is to get the audience’s attention. Indeed, it’s doubly important in magic: not only do magicians need your attention so that they can perform for you, they need first to receive your attention, so that later they can deceive your attention. There’s the story about a teacher of coin magic—I wish I could remember who it was!—who would stop his students’ rehearsals of coin sleights barely before they had begun. He would admonish them that they were attempting magic when they hadn’t even made eye contact with their spectators yet. Without engaging the audience’s attention, there is no hope of manipulating it.
There are crude ways of getting attention and more subtle, artistic ways. Attention is deeper and longer lasting when the viewer makes that decision without coercion. But without attention there can be no art either on the part of the artist or the part of the viewer.
There is a classic Zen Buddhist story that goes like this:
A student goes to a Zen Master: “Master, will you please write for me the essence of Zen?” The Master immediately takes out a brush and writes the word “Attention.”
“Is that all?” asked the man. “Can you explain more?”
The master then writes: “Attention, Attention.”
The bewildered student says, “I don’t understand.”
The master writes: “Attention, Attention, Attention.”