Magic that Touches the Real

There are so, so many different kinds of magic. Card magic, coin magic, magic with weird gimmicks and devices that look like no normal object, stage illusions, mind reading, and on and on. More magic than any one normal person could possibly perform (or at least, perform well). People always talk about finding your own style, and finding the material that fits you. Clearly that’s good advice, but I always found it hard to follow. Instead, I always ended up asking myself “what magic compels me?” Not just magic I like, but effects that stick in my head and nudge some little part of my psyche. Effects not just that I wish I could see performed well, but effects that, if I saw them performed well, would change me somehow, and would speak to something deeper. And beyond the effects themselves, thinking about the kinds of dramatic settings these effects would inhabit, or the feelings of the places this magic would be performed. Now go perform that magic. Obviously that’s a tall order, but you have to start at the top, with the ideal, because along the way life will inject more than enough reality to temper your dreams.

So that’s what I strive for.

impossible.png

A lot of people, when going down that road, get tied up in the idea of just performing the most impossible magic they can think of. This is certainly not a bad thing. I will never be against more utterly impossible magic. But for me, I found that impossibility was not my highest goal. Instead, I wanted magic that was meaningful. Meaningful? What does that even mean? It means there must be no veneer of trickery or ‘fooling,’ but instead an authentic willingness to have an experience. It’s not that the participants need to think the magic is real, but experiencing it must really change how they experience or understand something, or even better someone, else in their life. The magic doesn’t have to be real, it has to touch the real. So that when they go on with their lives afterwards and experience that bit of real again it carries with it a faint hint of magic, a little reminder of the impossibility of the word we live in. So maybe I do care about performing impossible magic after all…

—Z.Y.

Four Suits
The Deception Artist at Work, Spyscape Museum, New York City

The Deception Artist at Work, Spyscape Museum, New York City

This coming Monday, January 14, 2019, J.R. will perform a unique installation at Spyscape NYC. Coinciding with a special event, J.R. will demonstrate skills utilized across occupations, from the world of espionage, to the magician, to the street hustler.

If you’re in NYC and tickets are still available for this one of a kind experience, we look forward to seeing you there...

Excerpt from the experience:

… [The Deception Artist] begins to explore some of the psychology and language behind this game, breaking down some of the tells that we humans innately display when we’re trying to hide a secret. The interaction is equal parts deception and secrecy, which are both revealed and concealed sequentially all in front of your very eyes and in your very hands. The interaction concludes with a simple “trick/cheat” that you can learn and perform as well when you leave, activating yourself as a deception artist…

-- J.R.



We Aren’t the Only Ones

We spend a lot of time on this site trying to think about magic differently. Trying to find new ways of presenting it, new ways of giving it meaning, new ways of using it to give other experiences reality. Every once and a while we discover other people on similar journeys, and it can be invigorating to see and hear and experience the things they have learned along the way.

Although these people aren’t magicians per se, their journeys in an allied art are similar, and the lessons they have learned are enlightening, so here’s to the incredible world of avant garde juggling:

Playing with visual and auditory rhythms in time and space. "My attempt is to make visual instruments ."

"Well that’s what juggling is about, right? It's being able to do something that other people can't do or can't understand." - Michael Moschen

Lasting physical representations of momentary sensations. "An object that would leave a concrete path of where it's been as you manipulate it."

And sometimes the just plain strange.

— Z.Y. 

Four Suits
Take a Break!

Happy holidays, whichever ones you celebrate, as long as you’re using this sacred time of vacation-taking and general festivities to take a well deserved break and have some bangin’ parties (and, like, connect with your loved ones, or whatever).

There will be a year-in-review post coming after the new year, but first we just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who we have worked with this year. (There are too many excellent names to call out individually but you know who you are. Especially you in the back. You didn’t think we’d remember you but we did, and we are thanking you specially.)

As J.R. already mentioned in another post, the past month or so have been quite a wild ride for a lot of us here (so expect the blog irregularity to continue at least for the short term). Luckily that wildness (read “stress”) has carried with it a lot of new and exciting ideas and projects we are excited to pursue in 2019 (a year in which, according to Wikipedia, only one person thinks the Apocalypse will occur due to the second coming of Christ, but even he has “expressed some doubts” about it, so we are feeling goood baby!).

So to all of you out there doing good work: keep it up! We are grateful for every single person who is willing to treat magic with the care and thought it deserves. For all of you out there doing bad work: just, like, cut that shit out man… Do good magic. We believe in you.

—Z.Y.

Four Suits
"It's not about how you start, it's about how you keep going."

Dear Reader --

Epiphany time: “It’s not about how you start, it’s about how you keep going.” -- J.R.

I’m happy that with all my nonsense quotes from last week’s post, I’ve made one up for myself. I Duck Duck Go’d it, and the first thing that came up was something about couples therapy, with a loose usage of the quoted words above, and then I Google’d it, and some shit about climbing mountains came up, so I’m pretty happy to say I’ve produced some minorly unique thought here.

Anyways, I get asked the question a lot: “How did you get started in magic?” and I’d always give people what I THOUGHT they wanted to hear, some vague explanation of when I started and what circumstances I started with. However, they don’t really GAF about how I got started, because it’s ALWAYS some variant of: “I saw someone do magic, then I wanted to do it.” like I contracted it like a bad STI (if you have a story any different, please write in, and then I’ll tell you why you’re lying).

Point is, they don’t really care about that. Almost everyone does a magic trick once in their life, just like almost everyone tries homosexuality at some point in their life (or should). Or how everyone slips into their mother’s undergarments and dances to Blondie in their attic (or definitely should). ANYWAYS, they don’t care about that first experimental time, everyone has that time. What they CARE about (and what actually matters here) is how/why you stuck with magic. After you got past that initial surge of instant rapport with strangers and impressing people with a couple days worth of practice on something, why did you stick with this weird art when most people just give up after that immediate gratification of knowing a secret or performing it at a party?

Think about that. I don’t know if I found out entirely why myself yet, but I’m getting close to it.

Happy Holidays,

-- J.R.

Blondie
Wrapping up Shit in a Bowtie

Dear Reader --

The holidays are upon us, which means a lot of gift giving is to be had, and keep in mind your greatest gift of all: that of a dirty diaper. Just kidding, not a dirty diaper: magic. The greatest gift of all is magic. Well, WONDER is the greatest gift of all. “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.” -- Einstein (I’d quote Einstein more but then I’d be quoting more Einstein)

So keeping in mind that your greatest gift is magic, keeping in mind that as the goal, why the ass do I see people giving dirty diapers dressed up in a nice suit acting like it’s magic? Meaning: WHY DO I SEE SO MANY SHIT MAGICIANS?

I was just watching a performer, who strangely is lauded by their peers, and their superiors, perform some diaper magic. That is to say: when someone actually calls out your stack work during a show (didn’t actually think this was conceivable or possible, but I’ve never abused stack like what I saw), don’t you think that it’s time to stop using so much stack work and be literally using 4 decks of cards with literally no other reason than to “change up the color” for one close-up performance? BUT, to them (and to others close to them) none of this matters at all, they’re getting paid, they have a good look, and they’re a sufficient vessel for technical skill.

Now, I understand. I’ve been that shit magician. I wanted money and I was too young to gaf about anything else that wasn’t cash-effective. I had a “nice” suit and “cool” props and had “fun” delivery. But you know what that describes? That describes a nicely dressed prop comic (not knocking prop comics). “However, where TF is the mystery, I ask?” -- Einstein

So you see, this holiday season, with all your holiday gigs and all your money. Keep in mind this: if all you’re doing is covering up your diaper magic in a nicer package, you need to get all your shit together and throw it out. Decide if you’re a prop comic or a magician. “Give me mystery or give me death.” -- Henry. “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for mystery.” -- Hale

-- J.R.

Expand / Contract

It’s been a wild ride for me, and for Four Suits in general, this year. More on that (officially) in the End of Year Report for 2018. But right now I myself preemptively reflect on the year as a whole and, while it’s been great as a whole, I can’t help but lament at some occurrences in the past few months. I can’t stress how much great things have happened this year, and these things are still happening, yet I also can’t help but feel some sort of loss for the relationships, not even necessarily with myself, (but more so in my working groups) that haven’t worked out so much this year.

It’s a funny thing, when you first jump into a group of friends, which is how I end up treating many of my co-workers and collaborators (magic being a very loose profession where social and professional boundaries are often blurred), you’re extremely hopeful for all the things you can potentially do together. Often, here is where our reach exceeds our grasp and we end up falling short of those expectations with some, and going beyond those expectations with others. We grow our influence in some areas, and shrink it in others.

I suppose I’m just coming to peace with this expand/contract cycle in professional entertainment. We’re always so wrapped up in our dreams and amazing visions that sometimes, when we get dropped back into reality, we find it lamentable, when in actuality we should’ve felt blessed to dream such big dreams together in the first place. I think about changing reality and living in a fantasy so often that, sometimes, reality is a very necessary thing to remind me how everything can’t always be fantastic. Not everyone will get along, not every dream will come true.

Yet... still I dream. And I’m grateful for every person in my life, professional, friend, or somewhere in between, that allows me the faculties to realize these dreams. ...And for those of you who I haven’t been in touch with in a while: I look forward to the next time we dream big dreams together.

— J.R.


Thankful: 2018

This year I/we’ve been truly blessed to recognize a wide variety of influential people, magical or otherwise.

This year, I’m thankful for these peoples in the world for what they’re doing in magic:

http://www.thejerx.com
https://www.magicalthinkingpodcast.com
https://lacollusion.com
https://www.pureimaginationprojects.com
http://houstonhospitalityla.com
http://www.magiccastle.com
https://davidblaine.com

I’m thankful for all of you out there giving it everything you’ve got, and working on raising the standard of your passions one level higher. Thankful for those seeking to better their community.

This year is almost coming to a close, and you can look forward to a year-end wrap-up just like last years, we had tons of fun this year, and took on some daring adventures.

Thank you for being here with us through it all.

— J.R.

Selected Notes and Ideas from a Class on Sorcery and Magic

Potlach: the giving of gifts where, by overwhelming the other participant (rival) with gifts, you gain prestige.

 

Paradox of belief AND knowledge of “fraud”/trickery. “At once dupe and cheat”

 

The body as the basic, fundamental canvas for magic.

 

Giordano Bruno – three gates through which to bind someone: the eyes, the ears, and the imagination

“this is very threatening to their sense of reality”

 

“The uncanny is the revelation of that which should not have been revealed.” Sigmund Freud

 

What is a story?

 

“My body, your body, and the body of the world”

—Z.Y.

Four Suits
Let Go

A soft echo of “Let go.” is all I heard as I performed a “floating table” effect for a bunch of kids the other day. It was extremely disturbing, because it’s not like they were all trying to “expose” how the table was “floating”, these were super young kids, but I think they sincerely wanted to see what would happen if I let the tablecloth go. It was genuine desire to see something that went up next level insane. Like, this table is already floating with me holding it, but what will happen when I let it go? Does it fly over everyone’s heads? Does it fall to the ground?

This is something to consider when adults ask to “shuffle the deck” or seemingly attempt to goof up your “tricks” (if you’re a magician reading this), because this response proves that most times, in my humble opinion, you shouldn’t consider performing magic as a series of oppositions between you and the participants/audience members (as some magicians I know do). You should view it as being a tour guide of the impossible. And just like people in a brand new place of impossibility, they just want to see how far this strange new land goes back, they’re just doing their jobs as curious people.

They don’t really want you to fail when you let go. They don’t want you to mess everything up when the deck gets shuffled or they put something where they shouldn’t. They want it to succeed. Because if it succeeds, then the curtain just gets pushed back farther and farther until there’s nothing to “find” anymore, because then there’s no “trick”, then the feeling of magic is really being realized for them.

Honestly, I wondered if it would’ve been better for me to let go of the table and just let it drop to the ground. We would have witnessed a boundary, and we would’ve witnessed something fantastic, a table floating above everyone’s heads, and then we would’ve witnessed something real, something crashing to the ground.

I think about some of the ways I can give the audience even more from my magic performances. I think about letting the magic exist beyond myself. I think about letting go.

-- J.R.

Beauty in Magic & Theatre

Dear Reader —

We’re back after ALTÆR, a public thank you for joining us on that journey… With reflection on performances in general, I give to you this meditation on beauty within art…

We like to view beautiful things.

Because beauty so rarely exists.

Everyday life is ugly, there are struggles we all face. When we watch theatre, when we watch magic, we want to partake in a hyper-curated beautiful reality, we want to see a world in which we do not live. This is why the archetype of the magician has persisted throughout the ages. They are the harbinger of the fantastic. While there may be elements within our falsely constructed fantasy that connect us to daily life, we in no way want to see something that is everyday life.

There may be “ugly” art, but there is no doubt some way in which this art is has the qualities of beauty. Perhaps these ugly beauties exemplify something within us that is painful, visceral and vile, something heartbreaking or moving, however make no mistake that these too are beautiful moments, even though they may superficially harbor pain for us.

Therefore, only put things before an audience in which you have defined the beauty you will share. What are you showing them that gives them a new perspective, what are you giving them that shares some of the beauty from your life? For it is only when we do this, that, in return, you will receive the greatest response of all from them: you will receive their beauty back to you.

-- J.R.

Find Others

Find people you enjoy doing this with. It makes it so much easier, and infinitely more enjoyable. Find people whose sense of wonder you admire. Find people who have a strong sense of what makes something magical, even if it's different from yours. Find people who will listen to your ideas and and tell you when they are dumb but also challenge you to take them so, so much further. Find people who you can explain even your craziest ideas to, because sometimes you don’t even realize how good they are until you say them outloud. Find other people, because you never know who will inspire you, or who you will inspire.


—Z.Y.

Four Suits
ALTÆR: "The Best Halloween Magic Show Experience in Los Angeles 2018"

Step into our altar. On October 20th, a select group of individuals will be gathering for an experience curated by the Four Suits collective, gathering talent and true interdisciplinary collaboration, the likes before unseen in any magic EXPERIENCE quite like this. This uniqueness is explored within the moments of the show, but also in the ritual we ask you to take part in, beginning as soon as you arrive to our Hollywood Hills residence. Ritual, faith, connection. The experience will last for 2 hours, but you will be altered for the rest of your life. This is a guarantee.

-- J.R.

That Has to Stop

“The theater-goer in conventional dramatic theater says: yes, I’ve felt that way, too. That’s the way I am. That’s life. That’s the way it will always be. The suffering of this or that person grips me because there is no escape for him. That’s great art – everything is self-evident. I am made to cry with those who cry, and laugh with those who laugh. But the theater-goer in the epic theater says: I would never have thought that. You can’t do that. That’s very strange, practically unbelievable. That has to stop. The suffering of this or that person grips me because there is an escape for him. That’s great art – nothing is self-evident. I am made to laugh about those who cry, and cry about those who laugh.”

Brecht, “Entertainment or Education?”

Four Suits
A Sober Realization of Performance Context

“And if thou gaze long into the abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.” - Nietzsche

If I could start every blog post off with a Nietzsche quote, I think I’d be happy.

This entry is regarding the impact of the situations you perform upon yourself, the performer. Someone recently asked about my performance history: I started performing at the Magic Castle when I was a teenager, in a set showroom with showtimes and someone introducing me, and a number of people in seats watching me, with controlled lighting and all. I also did charity shows when I was first starting out, but again these were conditions where I had seating and a set audience and a set show length etc.

From there, as I started to become more “professional” I began to take on more and more “walkaround”/”close-up” gigs and quickly found that these were quite lucrative, and I legitimately enjoy the act of meeting new people every few minutes and talking with them, learning about them, and sharing magic in a one to one situation. Carry that through to today, and I’d say that for every 100 walkaround performances I do, I do probably 5 set acts where there’s a proper audience and seating etc. These contexts in which I perform are now reflected within my work.

I used to be much more attuned to crafting a theatrical experience for an audience, creating connections between ideas, and bringing things to a satisfactory conclusion within that theatrical context. Not to mention the technical magical differences of performance handling with a micro-audience compared to a full theatre stage. I’ve become rusty, needless to say, at handling a full audience. I still am able to engage, but I feel myself fighting urges to handle the full audience like a small group, which is wildly ineffective. Frequently, I’ve found myself frustrated with this knowledge, knowing full well that I used to be so damn good at it, now that I’ve actively changed the situations where I’m damn good.

This is all to say, no matter your background in something, no matter where you begin, you’re changing who you are, as a performer, every day, based on the situations you perform in. Every minute spent performing, remain conscious that you’re shifting your direction into this specific area of performance. Take gigs and performance opportunities carefully, which is tough if you’re trying to make this your full-time profession, and understand that every step forward is a step in a specific direction. Success = Time. So be mindful of where that time is spent. While it’s always important to keep progressing and moving onto forward ground, sometimes, it’s important to stop and look around to see where we are.

Wishing you all the best, to all the performers out there, to finding the place where you feel at home.

-- J.R.