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Illusionist

Magic
Hieronymus Bosch 051.jpg
The Conjurer, 1475–1480, by Hieronymus Bosch or his workshop. Notice how the man in the back row steals another man's purse while applying misdirection by looking at the sky. The artist even misdirects the viewer from the thief by drawing the viewer to the magician.

Magic (sometimes referred to as stage or street magic to distinguish it from paranormal or ritual magic) is one of the oldest performing arts in the world in which audiences are entertained by staged tricks or illusions of seemingly impossible or supernatural feats using natural means. These feats are called magic tricks, effects, or illusions.

The term "magic" etymologically derives from the Greek word mageia (μαγεία). In ancient times, Greeks and Persians had been at war for centuries, and the Persian priests, called magosh in Persian, came to be known as magoi in Greek. Ritual acts of Persian priests came to be known as mageia, and then magika—which eventually came to mean any foreign, unorthodox, or illegitimate ritual practice. The first book containing explanations of magic tricks appeared in 1584. During the 17th century, many similar books were published that described magic tricks. Until the 18th century, magic shows were a common source of entertainment at fairs. A founding figure of modern entertainment magic was Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, who had a magic theatre in Paris in 1845. John Henry Anderson was pioneering the same transition in London in the 1840s. Towards the end of the 19th century, large magic shows permanently staged at big theatre venues became the norm. As a form of entertainment, magic easily moved from theatrical venues to television magic specials. Performances that modern observers would recognize as conjuring have been practiced throughout history. For many recorded centuries, magicians were associated with the devil and the occult. During the 19th and 20th centuries, many stage magicians even capitalized on this notion in their advertisements. The same level of ingenuity that was used to produce famous ancient deceptions such as the Trojan Horse would also have been used for entertainment, or at least for cheating in money games. They were also used by the practitioners of various religions and cults from ancient times onwards to frighten uneducated people into obedience or turn them into adherents. However, the profession of the illusionist gained strength only in the 18th century, and has enjoyed several popular vogues since.



  • Production: The magician produces something from nothing—a rabbit from an empty hat, a fan of cards from thin air, a shower of coins from an empty bucket, a dove from a pan, or the magician himself or herself, appearing in a puff of smoke on an empty stage—all of these effects are productions.
  • Vanish: The magician makes something disappear—a coin, a cage of doves, milk from a newspaper, an assistant from a cabinet, or even the Statue of Liberty. A vanish, being the reverse of a production, may use a similar technique in reverse.
  • Transformation: The magician transforms something from one state into another—a silk handkerchief changes color, a lady turns into a tiger, an indifferent card changes to the spectator's chosen card.
    Transformation: Change of color
  • Restoration: The magician destroys an object—a rope is cut, a newspaper is torn, a woman is cut in half, a borrowed watch is smashed to pieces—then restores it to its original state.
  • Transposition: This is whereby two or more objects are used in play. The magician will cause these objects to change places, as many times as he pleases, and in some cases, ends with a kicker by transforming the objects into something else.
  • Transportation: The magician causes something to move from one place to another—a borrowed ring is found inside a ball of wool, a canary inside a light bulb, an assistant from a cabinet to the back of the theater, or a coin from one hand to the other. When two objects exchange places, it is called a transposition: a simultaneous, double transportation. A transportation can be seen as a combination of a vanish and a production. When performed by a mentalist it might be called teleportation.
  • Escape: The magician (or less often, an assistant) is placed in a restraining device (i.e., handcuffs or a straitjacket) or a death trap, and escapes to safety. Examples include being put in a straitjacket and into an overflowing tank of water, and being tied up and placed in a car being sent through a car crusher.
  • Levitation: The magician defies gravity, either by making something float in the air, or with the aid of another object (suspension)—a silver ball floats around a cloth, an assistant floats in mid-air, another is suspended from a broom, a scarf dances in a sealed bottle, the magician hovers a few inches off the floor. There are many popular ways to create this illusion, including Asrah levitation, Balducci levitation, and King levitation. The flying illusion has often been performed by David Copperfield and more recently by Peter Marvey. Harry Blackstone floated a light bulb over the heads of the public.
  • Penetration: The magician makes a solid object pass through another—a set of steel rings link and unlink, a candle penetrates an arm, swords pass through an assistant in a basket, a salt shaker penetrates a tabletop, or a man walks through a mirror. Sometimes referred to as "solid-through-solid".
  • Prediction: The magician predicts the choice of a spectator or the outcome of an event—a newspaper headline, the total amount of loose change in the spectator's pocket, a picture drawn on a slate—under seemingly impossible circumstances.
  • Stage illusions are performed for large audiences, typically within a theatre or auditorium. This type of magic is distinguished by large-scale props, the use of assistants and often exotic animals such as elephants and tigers. Famous stage illusionists, past and present, include Harry Blackstone, Sr., Howard Thurston, Chung Ling Soo, David Copperfield, Lance Burton, Siegfried & Roy, and Harry Blackstone, Jr.
  • Parlor magic is done for larger audiences than close-up magic (which is for a few people or even one person) and for smaller audiences than stage magic. In parlor magic, the performer is usually standing and on the same level as the audience, which may be seated on chairs or even on the floor. According to the Encyclopedia of Magic and Magicians by T.A. Waters, "The phrase [parlor magic] is often used as a pejorative to imply that an effect under discussion is not suitable for professional performance." Also, many magicians consider the term "parlor" old fashioned and limiting, since this type of magic is often done in rooms much larger than the traditional parlor, or even outdoors. A better term for this branch of magic may be "platform," "club" or "cabaret." Examples of such magicians include Jeff McBride, David Abbott, Channing Pollock, Black Herman, and Fred Kaps.
  • Micromagic (also known as close-up magic or table magic) is performed with the audience close to the magician, sometimes even one-on-one. It usually makes use of everyday items as props, such as cards (see Card manipulation), coins (see Coin magic), and seemingly 'impromptu' effects. This may be called "table magic", particularly when performed as dinner entertainment. Ricky Jay, Mahdi Moudini, and Lee Asher, following in the traditions of Dai Vernon, Slydini, and Max Malini, are considered among the foremost practitioners of close-up magic.
  • Escapology is the branch of magic that deals with escapes from confinement or restraints. Harry Houdini is a well-known example of an escape artist or escapologist.
  • Pickpocket magicians use magic to misdirect the audience while removing wallets, belts, ties and other personal effects. It can be presented on a stage, in a cabaret setting, before small close-up groups, or even for one spectator. Well-known pickpockets include James Freedman, David Avadon, Bob Arno, and Apollo Robbins.
  • Mentalism creates the impression in the minds of the audience that the performer possesses special powers to read thoughts, predict events, control other minds, and similar feats. It can be presented on a stage, in a cabaret setting, before small close-up groups, or even for one spectator. Well-known mentalists of the past and present include Alexander, The Zancigs, Axel Hellstrom, Dunninger, Kreskin, Derren Brown, Rich Ferguson, Guy Bavli, and Banachek.
  • Theatrical séances simulate spiritualistic or mediumistic phenomena for theatrical effect. This genre of stage magic has been misused at times by charlatans pretending to actually be in contact with spirits.
  • Children's magic is performed for an audience primarily composed of children. It is typically performed at birthday parties, preschools, elementary schools, Sunday schools or libraries. This type of magic is usually comedic in nature and involves audience interaction as well as volunteer assistants.
  • Online magic tricks were designed to function on a computer screen. The computer essentially replaces the magician. Some online magic tricks recreate traditional card tricks and require user participation, while others, like Plato's Cursed Triangle, are based on mathematical, geometrical and/or optical illusions. One such online magic trick, called Esmeralda's Crystal Ball, became a viral phenomenon that fooled so many computer users into believing that their computer had supernatural powers, that Snopes dedicated a page to debunking the trick.
  • Mathemagic is a genre of stage magic that combines magic and mathematics. It is commonly used by children's magicians and mentalists.
  • Corporate magic or trade show magic uses magic as a communication and sales tool, as opposed to just straightforward entertainment. Corporate magicians may come from a business background and typically present at meetings, conferences and product launches. They run workshops and can sometimes be found at trade shows, where their patter and illusions enhance an entertaining presentation of the products offered by their corporate sponsors. Pioneer performers in this arena include Eddie Tullock and Guy Bavli.
  • Gospel magic uses magic to catechize and evangelize. Gospel magic was first used by St. Don Bosco to interest children in 19th-century Turin, Italy to come back to school, to accept assistance and to attend church.
  • Street magic is a form of street performing or busking that employs a hybrid of stage magic, platform and close-up magic, usually performed 'in the round' or surrounded by the audience. Notable modern street magic performers include Jeff Sheridan and Gazzo. Since the first David Blaine TV special Street Magic aired in 1997, the term "street magic" has also come to describe a style of 'guerilla' performance in which magicians approach and perform for unsuspecting members of the public on the street. Unlike traditional street magic, this style is almost purely designed for TV and gains its impact from the wild reactions of the public. Magicians of this type include David Blaine and Cyril Takayama.
  • Bizarre magic uses mystical, horror, fantasy, and other similar themes in performance. Bizarre magic is typically performed in a close-up venue, although some performers have effectively presented it in a stage setting. Charles Cameron has generally been credited as the "godfather of bizarre magic." Others such as Tony Andruzzi have contributed significantly to its development.
  • Shock magic is a genre of magic that shocks the audience. Sometimes referred to as "geek magic," it takes its roots from circus sideshows, in which 'freakish' performances were shown to audiences. Common shock magic or geek magic effects include eating razor blades, needle-through-arm, string through neck and pen-through-tongue.
  • Comedy magic is the use of magic in which is combined with stand-up comedy. Famous comedy magicians include Ed Alonzo, Penn & Teller, and Levent.
  • Quick change magic is the use of magic which is combined with the very quick changing of costumes. Famous quick change artists include Sos & Victoria Petrosyan.
  • Camera magic (or "video magic") is magic that is aimed at viewers watching broadcasts or recordings. It includes tricks based on the restricted viewing angles of cameras and clever editing. Camera magic often features paid extras posing as spectators who may even be assisting in the performance. Camera magic can be done live, such as Derren Brown's lottery prediction. Famous examples of camera magic include David Copperfield's Floating Over the Grand Canyon and many of Criss Angel's illusions.
  • Hawk, Mike. The Illusionist . 1st Ed. 01. Tiverton, ON: IBM, 1999. 234–238. Print. (Hawk 234–238)
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