Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Project 365 (165/365): June Is Street Magic Month

.:165/365: June Is Street Magic Month:.

I think this is going to be a pretty good month, as we revisit the very movement that sparked the unprecedented rise of magic this decade: the (re)discovery of street magic.

As most people would know by now, magic is arguably the only art form that has never been primarily about the art form upon its inception. Music and painting, for example, have had very atheistic origins for the most part, although an argument could be made that it was also made as a way of historical bookkeeping of sorts. In contrast, magic was not something that came about as an art form. Religious leaders who used magic to demonstrate “powers” used it to peddle their influence. Performers used it for profit, whether for busking or for charging for their services. It’s strange when you think about it, but magic was never really about the art form as it was about the money.

In the 80’s and 90’s, magic was relatively popular, and more so in the United Kingdom, where the likes of Paul Daniels and Tommy Cooper could be seen performing magic on television on a regular basis. Despite that, these magicians were generally known as stage or parlor magicians. The popularity of David Copperfield, Penn and Teller, and the Pendragons only emphasized the apparent distance that exists between the magician and the audience.

When David Blaine burst into the scene, he broke all of those expectations. Not that street magic is anything new, but David Blaine did something that not even Copperfield managed to do: he made magic hip, edgy, and accessible. From thereon, many other performers followed suit, including Criss Angel (*shudder), Keith Barry, and locally, Erik Mana and Bearwin Meilly. This newfound popularity for magic came with its own pros and cons, although for now, let us celebrate the reinvigoration of the art form for this month, rather than bemoan its new set of problems.

We’ve seen people do card tricks, read minds, levitate, put their lives at risk, and everything else in between over the last decade. We’ve seen people elevate the stature of magic into something larger than life and one of the most profitable businesses of all time, as Ellusionist and Theory 11 would be all too happy to tell you about. Street magic is magic that draws a crowd immediately and at times, shamelessly. We’ve seen close-up magicians before, but the true performer who takes it to the streets is certainly on a whole different level altogether. In the streets, people are more likely to grab your stuff, to heckle you, to give you a hard time, or to even harass you. Despite that, the best of street magicians have demonstrated that they are seasoned performers who definitely know how to capture the fancy of the average man on the street.

For the month of June, let us celebrate the awesomeness that is street magic month. It’s one of the most colourful, and certainly most aggressively-growing form of magic at present, having seemingly given the “power” of magic back to the hands of the masses rather than in the hands of a stage performer who is far too larger than life for today’s generation to ever truly appreciate (Although personally, I would dispute that.).

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this insane video. It’s not really David Blaine, but I’m sure you knew that already.

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