Saturday, March 18, 2017


Stage magician Derek DelGaudio performs what you might call metamagic. Instead of using clever magician's techniques to create some marvelous illusion, he uses clever magician's techniques to do nothing in particular:
The performance was titled “184 Seconds,” and with it, DelGaudio obscured a virtuosic feat within a pantomime of banality. A “second deal” — a hard-to-master maneuver, often referred to simply as a “second” in the world of card magic — is when the magician appears to deal from the top of a deck but is in fact dealing the second-to-topmost card. Seconds usually aren’t tricks in themselves but rather are building blocks for more elaborate deceptions. In “184 Seconds,” DelGaudio set himself a daunting challenge: How many seconds could he execute in a minute? The answer to this question became the performance’s punning title.

“184 Seconds” was anticlimactic by design, privileging invisible technique while eliminating any perceptible effect — all hat, in other words, and no rabbit. In envisioning his work, DelGaudio, who has a fervent fan base among magic aficionados, likes to nod to well-known conventions (pick a card, any card), only to slyly deconstruct them, in a manner that either heightens or thwarts their payoffs. His animating goal is not for observers to ask, “How did he do that?” but, “Why?” For DelGaudio, “184 Seconds” enacted what he calls “one of magic’s defining paradoxes”: that a magician’s slavishly honed talents of subterfuge must by definition remain invisible to others and thus easy for the uninitiated to dismiss as trivial. “There’s something beautiful about that,” DelGaudio told me, “and there’s something heartbreaking.”
Not, “How did he do that?” but, “Why?” – this sums up my attitude to much of what passes for art these days.

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

This is basically the card trick equivalent of seeing how quickly you can play a set of scales on a musical instrument, and he passes it off as artistry?

Talk about your utterly pretentious nonsense.

And that's before you even read his absurd quote about Marcel Duchamp supposedly "breaking" the field of art, and wanting to emulate that for magicianship. But then I guess you'd have to be an unironic Dadaist to dream up this sort of thing, and to then actually bother to practice the action required for all those many, many hours.

I'm sorry, I've just never found technical mastery devoid of any greater purpose to be actually impressive. I'll absolutely always take a soulful and evocative performance by a technically unskilled artist over a bland and mechanical performance by a complete technical master, any day of the week.

Technical skill is a means to an end - not an end in and of itself. You could be the most technically skilled artist in the world, but if you only use your talent to create unsatisfying works of no worth to anyone, what's the point?

It's like memorizing an entire library of books, but not comprehending a scrap of their content. It's like making a twelve foot tall ornate wedding cake, and then throwing it in the trash without any of it being eatten. It's like spending your life amassing a fortune of $100 billion, and never spending a single cent of it.

Perhaps you can argue that if it gives a person enough satisfaction to do such monumentally difficult yet pointless things, then they aren't pointless. But I have a hard time imagining any person could derive an amount of satisfaction from such efforts that could even remotely match the lost opportunity costs of deriving satisfcation from a slew of other options.