ENCHANTMENT: An Interview with Magician PATRICK MARTIN
Magicians and Their Audience
Mark Petrakis: How is skill transferred among magicians? Those I've known have been tight-lipped; somebody must be talking to someone
Patrick Martin: Yes, but the way that it is done is quite varied. For me, it is a very self-taught art form. Most magicians learn by themselves through books and experimentation; though now there are videos and chat rooms for magicians on the Web. If youre lucky, you meet a master at a conference for the conjuring arts. Some, of course, will tell you nothing. But if you ask the right questions, you may get an answer that completely expands the way you think and relate to your work.
MP: How do magicians regard the audience?
PM: Many magicians confront the audience in an adversarial way. It's almost as if they want to irritate the audience to force a reaction. I find that annoying and counterproductive as it only inspires skepticism. The audience must duel with the performer, stepping back and trying to figure out the "trick". In this way, they are separated from the possibility of enjoying a magical experience that may take them beyond themselves or beyond what they see.
MP: What would you say is the counter-position to that confrontational style of performing?
PM: Something that includes their own intelligence and creative spirit. Youre setting up little dots of reality that they can firmly hold onto. The audience then fills in blanks to create their own little enchantment. From the same basic illusion, everyone experiences something slightly different from everyone else. Instead of being tricked with a series of flashcard challenges, the audience is actively engaged and participates in the work.
The art of magic uses our reliance on intellectual evaluation of perception to show how easily they can both be manipulated. Discovering this also helps release us from the burden of reality. In every moment we have to keep so many facts in place in order to hold up our universe that it's sometimes refreshing to be reminded that it doesn't matter what we think.
MP: What do you see as the difference between sleight of hand/close up magic and large illusions, in terms of the audience experience?
PM: Each involves a different way of handling energy for the performer. The more personal the experience, the deeper it affects you. Close up work has the advantage of involving the audience directly. As a magician I can look into your eyes, observe your movements and reactions. Like a skilled Tarot Card reader or hypnotist, I move through your beliefs system to tailor the experience.
A stage show is a different beast. There you are after the kind of larger rhythm and flow that you just cant achieve on a small scale. The art of magic is taking a mass of people and making them all feel like theyre one. You can feel it in the audience - you can feel a sweep through the audience as you say something and you know by the timing of it how long it takes the audience to get something. You know how quickly you can communicate with this audience and on what level. With certain audiences you can get into esoteric things that completely change the shape and color of the performance.
Different cultures respond to magic differently. In general, the Japanese love mechanical contraptions, while Europeans appreciate presentations with subtleties in psychology. Americans are used to instant information, so the pace of the show must be quicker and more to the point. Performances I've given for the Gyoto Monks of Tibet or for villages while travelling in Bali have integrated their spiritual connection to the world where magic is a common experience.
Whether the illusion is close up, on television or on a large stage in the middle of a redwood forest, it is only by inviting the audience to personally participate in the creation of the illusion, that they will realize their interconnection. Dissolving the limitations of perceptions allows for an even more intimate appreciation of our shared reality.
Patrick Martin is a highly regarded illusionist who creates unique magical events throughout the world. He can be reached at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
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