EXPLORATIONS of “bizarre magick” and an analysis of modern mentalism feature in the latest edition of an academic journal that probes some of the strangest and most intriguing areas of performance practice.
The University of Huddersfield’s Drama Department is home to a Magic Research Group, which brings together both researchers and practitioners. It has published the fifth edition of its annual Journal of Performance Magic, now available online.
The editor is senior lecturer Nik Taylor, who is Subject Area Leader in Drama, Theatre and Performance. He said that the research group and its journal had been established to fill a gap.
“There has been a lot written about magic history – such as people like Houdini – but we wanted to find different, more in-depth ways of examining magic practice and what performance magic might be used for.”
The new edition of Journal of Performance Magic includes an article by Nik Taylor himself, based in part on his own performances in the field known as “bizarre magick”, to differentiate it from more ‘showbizz’ styles. He argues that “bizarre sought to blur the distinction between real and performed magic”.
The journal also has an article by Brian Jay Corrigan, a U.S. academic who also performs under the stage name Professor BC and is a designer and maker of magic artefacts. In the journal, he argues that bizarre magick “seeks to achieve an ‘illusion of reality’ which transcends the traditional performance-magic desire to deceive and rather create a long-lasting impression in the minds of the spectator”.
An article by the Irish-based Edward Dean is titled The End of Mindreading. It claims that advances in neuroscience have ended the possibility of mind-reading as it had long been depicted in popular culture.
“Gone, now, are the tantalizing possibilities of mental radio waves, psychic vibrations, and disembodied minds, frequently brandished by the mediums, mind readers, and mesmerists of decades past,” states the article.
Instead, contemporary mentalists had developed “a new meta paradigm of wink-eye mentalism in which – in contrast to classical mentalism – the lies are less interesting than the lying.”
Todd Landman, who has been Visiting Professor of Performance Magic at the University of Huddersfield, contributes an article title Academic Magic: Performance and the Communication of Fundamental Ideas. It includesan overview of mentalism and mystery entertainment as a sub-genre within performance magic and concludes with a short summary and implications for the future of performance magic that moves beyond mere entertainment.
The new edition of the Journal of Performance Magic has an opening article by Franc Chamberlain, the University of Huddersfield’s Professor of Drama, who writes that: “It would be an error, of course, to assert that magic is either full of supernatural power or it is a shell of empty tricks and that wonder and enchantment (even dark enchantments) cannot co-exist with the knowledge that our senses are being deceived.”