Ideal Effect Vs. Practical Method (Where Should Our Priorities Lie?)By Jay Sankey
"a good performer, “...creates the story that he wishes to tell his audience, and then invents the means of illustrating that story. In that order.”
When dealing with this issue of whether our priorities should lie with the preservation of an ideal effect or with the creation of practical methods, certain matters must be taken into account. One such matter is context. In this case the context is our art form which is essentially illogical. What we do, the weaving of fictitious stories around objects, appears to clash with, and openly contradict, the everyday accepted truths and laws of nature. Thus, the essence of what we do revolves on a series of apparently illogical ideas. If we are to avoid the confusion and misunderstandings that could result from apparently contradictory events, our performances and presentations must be hyperlogical and extremely sensitive to conventions and reason.
For people to accept and comprehend our apparently impossible conclusions, the conclusions must clearly and logically follow from the premises we set-up. But that is a matter of appearances or effect. What of the internal logic and reasoning concerning our application of a method to a given effect? Which should be our prime concern? Effect or method? On this point I agree with Devant when he states that a good performer, “...creates the story that he wishes to tell his audience, and then invents the means of illustrating that story. In that order.
Our art form, though capable of many equally artistic and valid types of expression, is essentially and traditionally a performing art, and it is because of this that our priorities should lie with the pursuit of the purist, most dramatic, and most artistic effects, rather than with the development of ingenius methods.
Our art form, though capable of many equally artistic and valid types of expression, is essentially and traditionally a performing art, and it is because of this that our priorities should lie with the pursuit of the purist, most dramatic, and most artistic effects, rather than with the development of infenius methods.
Effect and method. You cannot have one without the other. The two necessarily interact in a never-ending tug-o-war of priorities and values; the result being the formation of two opposing trends of presentations. The first trend of presentation or effect is one which is designed around the method, catering to it, and thus from its birth it is limited and compromised. The second trend of presentations and effects are born free, pure and unlimited, demanding that the method cater to it, the effect.
To my mind, the second trend is a far more artistic approach to a routine than the first one. The second trend strikes closer to, and therefore has a better chance of achieving, the artistic ideal – i.e., the artist’s originally imagined effect manifesting itself, resulting in a presentation wherein no action, prop, or word alters or compromises the originally conceived idea or effect. Pure, uncompromising, and potent expression.
“The Rabbit In The Hat: - the production of an animal. A classic if ever there was one. In one sense, the idea and image is appropriate, considering rabbits live in dark holes, ad the hat is such a perfect place for a rabbit to be hiding, and yet…what of the thought behind the effect? The hat is shown empty, then a rabbit is produced from it. Therefore, obviously the effect is not the mere removing of a rabbit from a hat, but the apparent materialization of a rabbit in the hat. Why use the hat? This bit of fiction reeks of the same conceptual problems that are inherent in most “box routines, in that the wonderous event takes place out of view, in a container. Even if the box or hat is ungimmicked, it is still a discrepancy, a tainting element. Why conceal the supposedly wonderous materialization of an animal in a hat, and then, as if to offer prollf of the miracle, then, as if to offer proof of the miracle, pull the rabbit out of the dark and into view? Why imply a miracle when you should be showing it unfolding itself in full view for all to marvel at?
Many of the prevalent “toothpick (or pin) through bill or coin” routines are also examples of this ridiculous approach to our art form, for in most of the routines the bill or coin is either partially or totally covered with a handkerchief or card and is therefore out of view during the apparent penetration. Why? Answer: cover. Method ruling effect, with the result being a self-defeating and conceptually horrible routine. Yes, it may entertain and baffle, and that is obviously important to the commercially-oriented performer, but as artists we should not concern ourselves solely with the practical aspects of a routine.
We must stop concealing or implying our fiction when we should, ideally, be performing our fictitious stories so that they are apparent, self-explanatory, and explicit.
Our art is full of routines that are glaring examples of the conflict between method and concept. Take the notorious “matrix’ plot for example. Four coins are individually placed under four cards, and then all four coins are apparently caused to travel, one-by-one, and collect under one card. Like most four ace assemblies, this routine, I feel, has a grave conceptual problem – why are the four coins covered with cards if something amazing is going to occur to them? Answer: it facilitates the method. O.K., several performers give pseudo-explanations and excuses, but they are, at best, lame attempts to justify or excuse a glaring discrepancy in a pure concept – i.e., the traveling of coins. To cover them is counter-logic, and, as was the case with the “Rabbit In The Hat,” the amazing feat is not really displayed, but implied, in this case, by lifting the cards to show the disappearance, and subsequent reappearance, of each coin. The audience does not see the fiction occur, but are forced to deduce it , to figure it out and piece the events together, like a puzzle.
John Kennedy is a thinker whose work reflects the consideration of pure effect. Threads, pouch-cards, magnets, wire; he seems to let nothing stand in his way of attaining amazing, direct, simple, uncluttered, and uncompromising effects. Such considerations as angles, resetting, ease, and marketing options seem to be secondary to his key priority: retaining the raw and pure effect. This is , I feel, the way it should be for artists. Not just money, table-hopping conditions, ease of execution…no, these are all insignificant next to the importance of the effect. The ideal, not the practical, is , to my mind, the prime, and possibly sole, concern of artists.
By Jay Sankey - Be sure to check out Jay's website: SankeyMagic.com
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