The Art of Magic


magic

The Art of Magic

     My induction into the world of magic occurred 30 years ago via, a boyfriend who at the time was a rising star of the junior members of the Hollywood Magic Castle. We were dating and I would see him perform at the Castle and hang out at Hollywood Magic store with the likes of Max Mavin, Christ Hart, Lorenzo Clark, George Tovar and many others that came through the doors of Hollywood Magic.  He would talk a lot about “real magic” and being a “real wizard”. Having come from a Catholic background I had no idea what he was talking about at the time but he gave me the book, Illusions, by Richard Bach which opened a portal into another world for me.  The relationship didn’t last but my love for magic and performance ensued.  I would eventually create, “Pinky the Clown” performing magic for little tykes.

The million dollar question in the world of professional performance magic appears to be, is magic an art, craft or neither?  There are two components that must be examined independently of each other in this question.  The first component is magic and the second component is art.  In order to be able to say that magic is art or that magic is not art one needs to define what is magic and what is art. In this article I will look at the idea of magic and art in society and culture and in their inception.  And then we can examine where is the intersection of magic and art if at all.

While pursuing my M.A. in Religious studies I took a course called, “Gender, Magic, Witchcraft and Religion.”  For the first class my professor asked me to perform my kids party act to open up the discourse on what is real magic?  In religious studies magic and religion go hand in hand.   Emile Durkheim, in The Elementary forms of Religious Life states, “that magic is full of religion just as religion is full of magic.” [1]  He also states that, “the magician is for magic what the priest is for religion.”[2]  Durkheim is referring to magic as ritual practice but the birth of the performance arts had their inception in the early religious rituals of the shamans.  Joseph Campbell states, “The myth makers of earlier days were the counterparts of our artists.”[3]  Mr. Campbell is referring to shamans.  Bill Moyers posits the following question to Campbell, “In these early elementary cultures, as you call them, who would have been the equivalent of the poets of today?”  and Campbell responds, “The shamans.”[4]

shaman1

The shamans were the first storytellers and the first performers acting out myths to inform the tribes. These first performances were the religious/spiritual rituals in which the shamans led the community.   Theater grew out of  myths, ceremony and ritual which took place in daily life and theatre evolved from the performance of ritual in which the community was not a participant but a spectator. “According to the historians Oscar Brockett and Franklin Hildy, rituals typically include elements that entertain or give pleasure, such as costumes and masks as well as skilled performers.

As societies grew more complex, these spectacular elements began to be acted out under non-ritualistic conditions. As this occurred, the first steps towards theatre as an autonomous activity were being taken.”[5]  The shaman/priest was the magician.  Magician Christian Engblown states, “That when you have the ancient shamanic drawing in a cave depicting the end of the world, that’s magic.”[6]   Now some of you may be saying but magicians are not shamans.  Shamans by definition travel between altered states of consciousness to do acts to the benefit the community or society. (We will come back later to this idea of altered states of consciousness as it pertains to the ideas of art and transcendence.)

Mircea Eliade states, “For of course, the shaman is also a magician and medicine man; he is believed to cure, like all doctors, and to perform miracles of the fakir type, like all magicians, whether primitive or modern.”[7] In ancient Egypt and biblical days  the priests were magicians.  Go back to Moses battling it out with the magicians of pharaoh in his attempts to free the Hebrew slaves. In Exodus 8:7 it states, “But the magicians did the same by their secret arts and made frogs come up on the land of Egypt.”  In Acts 8:9-13 we find the following, “But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, ‘This man is the power of God that is called Great.’ And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic.” Johnny Thompson, has stated that, “At one time we held a lot of power until they caught a guy switching bricks at the last second, a gold one for a real one, you know.  But till then we were held in pretty high esteem now we have had to turn it into an art form instead of  a religious form.”[8]

post44 roberthoudin                                                                 roberthoudin

In the 1850’s Robert-Houdin, the father of modern magic combined magic, religion and politics to stop a simmering war.  The country of Algeria was rebelling led by the Marabouts, a religious sect with supposedly magical powers. They wanted the country to break its ties to France.  By request of the French bureau in Algiers, Robert-Houdin, was asked to prove that French magic was stronger than that of the Marabouts.  “Performing for the local chieftains, Robert-Houdin caused a warrior to seemingly lose his strength. By suggesting that the warrior could no longer lift a lightweight box, the warrior couldn’t. And at the end, the warrior shrieked and ran from the stage. He was secretly shocked with a jolt of electricity.”[9] The rebellion was effectively quelled by Robert-Houdin who was acting in the role of shaman/magician. Magic is the seeming representation of supernatural powers by a shaman/magician.  These representations were elements of religious/spiritual rituals performed for the community.  Religious ritual paved the way for the development of theatre.  The shaman or the magician can be said to have been the first performer, who engaged in a form of storytelling which sometimes made use of magic.

            But how do we define what is art? Art is form and content, which means that all art consists of these two things. Form is defined as the elements of art, the principles of design and the physical materials that the artist uses. Content is idea based and has to do with what the artist meant to portray, what he did portray and the spectators reaction to the work. Art can be painting, sculpture, poetry, music, dance, theatre but not all of painting, sculpture, poetry, music, dance, or  theatre is necessarily art.

These are definitely the components or elements of a work of art and in that sense magic does utilize many of these elements. Magic encompasses all of the performance arts. Dani, DaOrtiz, states magic, “plays with concepts of the arts, plays with colors, music, dance. A lot of art in one art of magic.” [10] A magic show can be visual, use props, music, dance and choreography so in a sense one can say that magic is art but we have also stated that not all so called art is “art.”  What then elevates a piece or a work to that which we call “art”? Tolstoy states that ,  “Art is one of the means of intercourse between man and man. Every work of art causes the receiver to enter into a certain kind of relationship both with him who produces or is producing, the art , and with those who, simultaneously, previously or subsequently, receive the same artistic impressions.”[11] “It is on this capacity of man to receive another man’s expression of feeling, and experience those feelings himself, that the activity of art is based.”[12]

The artist is the person who has the ability to rip out his heart and soul and to place it on a silver platter and with arms outstretched to his audience say, here take this and consume it, devour it.  Think of the art work of Frida Kahlo, who took her pain and transformed it into art. Yes, the ability to transform pain both physical and emotional is the transmutative power of the artist. We take the pain of being in relationship with life and turn it into art–whether in song-poetry-music-writing or magic. We are sharing our pain or our point of view with other’s so that they can go yes–yes that ‘s it what you created is what I am feeling –what I too have gone through but I did not know how to say it……..that is the power of the artist—It is not celebrity or fame —it is the power to connect with another human being on a soul level such that not only are you transformed by the creation of the art–the releasing of the pain into something beautiful but also the observer is too transformed and taken to another level of spirit. That is what I feel artist’s are about—well at least that is what I intend in my art with the end result of looking for the higher spiritual truth that is contained in that pain. Art can then be defined by having the quality of transcendence from the mundane to a higher spiritual realm.

The question then remains is magic an art?  Does magic have within it the element of transcendence?  Brad Henderson states that ,”magic is inherently pornography because it’s so easy to get a WOW or an AHH.  That the lowest form of magic and all magicians care about is reactions. It’s about how you make people feel. And if it’s just the wow, then you are a pornographer, a magic pornographer.”[13] Jay Scott Berry has said that, “Magic is, by its very nature, is a mind expanding art form. Even the simplest illusion demonstrates that the boundaries of perception are not necessarily the boundaries of reality.” Starhawk defines magic as, “the art of changing consciousness at will”.[14] But how would this idea of transcendence translate into magic.  Lupe Neilson states, ” Eventually, the goal of any great performer … is to transcend the mundane and create a sensation of true Wonder.” [15]

dvdmaestro-full

     Such is the art of René Lavand.  If anyone can claim the title of master artist in magic it would be René Lavand. He does with one hand what I could not even conceive of with two.  I had the pleasure of seeing him perform at the Hollywood Magic Castle. I am fortunate that I speak Spanish and was be able to understand him in his native language as his words were sheer poetry and the translator missed the beauty of his words. I was in awe and wonder. I left that show feeling as if the magic was real.

And therein lies the key to art.  Art is the experience that the participant walks away with.  It is that moment in time however brief where one feels connected to the mysterious, to the divine via one soul to the other. Magic is the most ancient and mysterious of arts. It was via the shaman/magician that the tribes connected to the mysterious.  This tradition continues with modern-day artists. Yes, Magic can be an art in the hands of an artist.

The best thing that we can do as artist is to rip off our masks and to expose the soul that lies underneath and there we find the words, the songs, the music, the art, the poetry  and the magic.  And in that communion and sharing we uplift the planet and others. Our experiences are merely the point of reference for our art. It is in that creative space that we find resonance and transcendence  with life.

Ivonne Perez Montijo, M.A.

References:

http://arthistory.about.com/cs/reference/f/what_is_art.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Eug%C3%A8ne_Robert-Houdin

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/houdini/peopleevents/pande03.html


[1] Durkheim, Emile, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, p. 58

[2] Ibid, p. 60

[3] Campbell, Joseph, The Power of Myth, p.85

[4] Campbell, Joseph, The Power of Myth, p.85

[5] Brockett and Hildy (1968; 10th ed. 2010), History of the Theater.

[6] Wilson, Paul, Is Magic an Art? video 2012, ConCam Films, http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=GNGDoroJtYw

[7] Eliade, Mircea, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy

[8] Wilson, Paul, Is Magic an Art? video 2012, ConCam Films, http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=GNGDoroJtYw

[10] Ibid.

[12] Ibid, p. 48

[13] Wilson, Paul, Is Magic an Art? video 2012, ConCam Films, http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=GNGDoroJtYw

[14] Starhawk, The Spiral Dance p. 7

A Magician’s Point of View


mask-of-the-magician--abstract-oil-painting-mark-webster

http://fineartamerica.com/featured/mask-of-the-magician–abstract-oil-painting-mark-webster.html

When my magician friend Johnny Tong, had found out that I had been involved with the illusionist,  he had plenty to say on the subject.  With his permission these are his words regarding the Great and Amazing boy wonder magician.

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I know him, he is everything I hate about magicians. The craft of magic opens you up to the thoughts of people, it is definitely a power. And like the great Stan Lee has said with great power comes great responsibility . Many magicians are dirty sad pathetic lonely men who use their talent to molest and twist with the hearts of many. Sociopaths often love magic, and practice……………….

 

 to continue reading you can buy, The Illusionist by Ivonne Montijo on amazon.com

Here is the post with the world wide links

bookcover-kindle-70-percent-jan-223-4-pm

 

 

The Indecent Proposal…..Part Five, Las Vegas


las-vegas-neon

Hmnnn……It had been thirty years since I have been in the same bed with the magician. I knew of his comings and goings via mutual friends, I dragged my then husband to one of his performances and I have always wondered what my life with him would have been like had I said yes to him 30 years ago…and here he was sleeping next to me in my bed.  It was like a dream come true.

And no longer being the shy, innocent virgin I woke him up…….I reached under the blankets and I started to softly stroke him until he was erect and awake.  I surprised him, no I was not that shy innocent girl and I love morning sex…..I love to be held by my lover, to wrap my legs around his body and with a smile on my face say, “good morning.”  And it was a nice morning……

 

To continue reading go to, The Illusionist by Ivonne Montijo on amazon.com

 

World Wide amazon links here.

 

bookcover-kindle-70-percent-jan-223-4-pm

 

 

 

…dragons & unicorns…..


Are you my prince, I often wonder

I sit here and ponder

And can not say for sure.

 

Why is it that I am so drawn to you?

I see your soul shining bright and pure.

It beckons to me

Like the flickering light

At the end of a long dark tunnel.

Within your light I find warmth and comfort

 

As I  have not found in any other

Yet  I’m sad, what a bother.

 

You speak of dragons

I speak of unicorns

But together we dream of a world

Where wizards live in castles,

And magic and power abides

 

Take my hand and be my friend

 

As we cross the stars on our journey home.

Just maybe, maybe when we arrive

We’ll turn, one to the other and realize

That the magic between us

Was that of two souls who love one another.

~♥ ivonne p montijo ♥~© 2012

Back to the beginning: Summer of 1980…..


 

The summer of 1980 was spent rehearsing for my first legitimate (meaning paid) acting job. I was cast in the play, “Contijo, Pan y Cebolla” by Cuban playwright Hector Quintero at the Bi-lingual Foundation of the Arts. It was also the summer I was learning how to juggle and I was also introduced to the world of magic and metaphysics.

I was an actor and I was learning and honing my craft.  I was also only 18, a virgin and still very naive about life and the world.   I didn’t even know how to drive a car. All that would change before the year was out.

I would take the bus to rehearsals, to juggling lessons, to the Hollywood Magic Store and to Westwood where I would hang out with the street performers.  If I was paying attention I wouldn’t miss the last bus..but if I was having fun I would often miss the last number 12 bus which would take me right around the corner from where I lived and then would have to catch the number 7 bus which would leave me like 8 blocks from where I lived.  Sometimes, I could call one of my uncles that lived next door to us and they might come and pick me up but I do remember having to walk the eight blocks home alone in the middle of the night.  Something that at my age now I would never do but when you are 18 years old it’s as if you are invincible.  That combined with the fact that the part of the brain which can calculate consequences has not fully formed yet in the teenager often makes for some pretty poor choices.

But anything was better that being at home cooped up with a mother who was taking Valium because she wasn’t handling life after divorce well.

The theatre and my performer friends were my escape from the emotionally abusive childhood that I had.

I would rehearse the play weeknights and often Andy Garcia, the Andy Garcia would drop me off in Hollywood at JSB’s apartment…….days were spent with JSB in Hollywood…Saturday nights I spent in Westwood Village…..

It was the beginning of my dreams of life as an artist………to be continued….

back to the beginning…part 4, the magician…..


Professional jugglers at the time I was learning how to juggle use lacrosse balls.  And I was instructed by my juggling teacher that I could purchase lacrosse balls at Hollywood Magic Store located at 6614 Hollywood Blvd.  I dutifully got on the bus to purchase by first set of professional juggling balls.

I walk into the world-famous Hollywood Magic Store, which was quite intriguing with its displays of magic paraphernalia.  I think that there were something like 3 men behind the various counters.  But it was the younger man who jumped out to help me.  He was about my age had curly blond hair and blue eyes. I guess you can say that he was kinda cute.   I was like a child who had never been in a candy store.  I was fascinated by everything in the store.   I had never seen magic in person before and I was dazzled.

To continue reading go to, The Illusionist by Ivonne Montijo on amazon.com

 

World Wide amazon links here.

 

bookcover-kindle-70-percent-jan-223-4-pm

 

 

 

 

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