Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe
On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751
PRETORIUS, Phil C.. The survival of magician's magic: the dilemma of the influence of technology on the art of magician's magic. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2014, vol.54, n.2, pp.365-378. ISSN 2224-7912.
Magic as a performing art has been an interpersonal medium for centuries. In the early 1930s close-up, face-to-face magic had to make way for large-scale illusions on television. As a result of the immediacy of face-to-face magic, magician's magic used to rely on split-second timing and tremendous expertise and skills on the part of the magician. The interpersonal presentation of the art of magic has a persuasive effect that is instantaneous and guaranteed to be authentic. The fact that the illusion is created right in front of one's eyes and in one's presence makes it a highly authentic product created mainly through the skill of the conjurer. This is no longer true today. With its large-scale illusions and television effects, the migration of the art of magic to television has made the art of prestidigitation a mere documentary-drama (docu-drama). With the advent of television, approaches to acting, directing, and prestidigitation have changed tremendously. The use of establishing medium and close-up camera shots creates a sectional analytical montage with an integration to a higher level of meaning (Barthes 1988:101) than that of a stage show. Although television as a medium has made it easier for magicians to produce a magic show using the advanced technology of audiovisual media, it also reinforces the perception that illusions are created by using special cinematographic effects. Therefore, television presents magicians with a fundamental problem in persuading the audience of the authenticity of the art of magic within this new medium. To date there has been a certain level of success with magic on television and via the internet when one considers that it has made famous magicians out of David Copperfield, Pen and Teller, Criss Angel, David Blane as well as South Africa's Martino and Wolfgang Riebe. These magicians have successfully adapted stage magic to television. This article presents a critical descriptive overview of the measures taken by magicians to adapt magic shows from theatres to audiovisual media in a way that encourages people to suspend their disbelief It also analyses the implications of the invasion of television into the technical art of magician's magic for the survival of magic as an art form through a listing of fundamental problems in this adaptation process. An overview is provided of the history of magician's magic on an interpersonal face-to-face level in theatres and this highlights the techniques used by magicians in this environment. The article further explores the problems that practitioners of the art of magic encounter in its adaptation from stage to screen by reviewing some of the most prevalent dilemmas regarding the use of special effects in television and film. Lastly, insight is provided into the measures that magicians take to curb the audience's perception that special effects are responsible for creating the magic within audiovisual media.
Keywords : magician; magic; illusion; adaptation; television; media; special effects; prestidigitation; technology; audiovisual; persuasion.