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Philoquium 2016

A Philosophy on Card Magic



Card Magic- No matter how overlooked the art form is, it is still able to deceive, surprise and entertain anyone. The process is difficult for the spectator. It does not happen often, not many people seek out this form of entertainment, but when it does, it may begin with "pick a card". From this moment on the spectator watches, carefully attempting to perceive what the trick is, how will it occur, what is he/she (the performer) doing? If performed well, it all looks just so normal, no funny business. The performer may give the deck a shuffle, or even more convincingly, ask the spectator to shuffle. The performer may be telling a story during the trick, drawing eye contact from the spectator. It could be the eye contact the spectator gives the performer that allows the trick to be completed, unknowingly taking their sight off the deck. It could also just be the flawless slight of hand techniques used by the performer to manipulate what the spectator believes he/she is seeing versus what he/she is actually seeing. Whatever it is, the finale of the trick has arrived and the unexpected has just occurred. Hopefully and ideally, the spectator is blown away, confused and baffled yet entertained. It's a powerful moment, but no matter what the trick is, no reaction is the same...

What is Card "Magic"?
It's quite easy for me to run away with this philosophy without explaining specifically what I mean by the term "card magic" because it is specific. There are so many different forms of magic, and while they are able to evoke reactions from an audience or singular spectator, there is no more personal, close up magic than card magic. First things first, it is not actually magic. The phrase "card magic" was termed to convey a sense of mysticism that does not exist. All it involves (typically) is a deck of cards, or two decks, or even two cards. There are no huge spectacles, but rather a very intimate setting. When a card trick occurs right in front, within inches of a spectator, or even in or from their own hands, a different sort of reaction will occur. Unlike in a theater, the spectator(s) won't clap face to face with the performer, but instead react purely from their gut. A unique attribute to card magic is that is must have a spectator, or else it does not exist. The spectator thus, is just as important as the performer because of the necessity of their presence. Because of this, card magic is also more than just the art itself; the relationship between the performer and spectator adds a whole other aspect card magic. The chemistry between the two (or more) will shape the environment and mood. For example, if the spectator is showing interest or positive reactions, this will add to the overall experience of the trick. This contrasts greatly from if the spectator is not showing interest or does not want to be involved in the performance. Card magic, while mainly focuses in on the craft of card handling, also refers to the relationship between the performer and the spectator.

What reactions to Card Magic mean and how they should be understood.
The trick is finished and ideally the spectator is blown away, but it may not seem that way from their reaction. Maybe there is only a humble head nod and a small smirk followed up by a "good job". This would most likely leave the performer a little confused...
What did I do wrong? He/She didn't suspect a thing!
This may not be the case however, instead, the spectator might drop his/her jaw and jump up and down screaming. Grabbing a hold on anything next to him/her to make sure reality is still in tact. The performer is left feeling proud about the work he/she has just done...
Yes! A total success.
What is important to recognize about these two reactions is that they could both be to the exact same trick. Not just the same trick, but the same execution, presentation, and no mistakes. So what makes these reactions different? Before this question can be answered, another key point to note about reactions to card magic in general must be explained: A reaction to magic is not only from the final result. Mannerisms or reactions during the trick are also considered reactions. What is really be discussed then is not just the final reaction, but how the spectator handles themselves during the trick. How does the spectator react to requests by the performer? Does the spectator laugh or carefully look for subtle moves by the performer. All of this can be considered as reactions, no matter at what point it occurs during the trick. With all of this said, it is the individual, the character and personality of the spectator that dictates the reaction(s) to a magic trick. The trick is only the catalyst that allows the spectator to have a reaction. Any reaction given from the spectator however is merely a reflection of their personality or opinion of card magic. To be explicit about what exactly this philosophy analyzes is that the reactions (at any point in during the trick) from the spectator is a characterization of who they are as a person. This means that how they react can be categorized into a certain kind of person, i.e. untrustworthy or curious person.

This idea that reactions from the performer reflect their personalities will be further explored through a series of case studies which will take a look at performances and reactions. The discussion for why reactions reflect a person's personality is also down in the links below.
please read "details and disclaimers" before the case studies.


Details and Disclaimers

Case Study 1: Reaction

Case Study 2: Reaction

Case Study 3: Reaction

Annotated Bibliography