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Extending the debate around magic and art’s shared imaginations and strategies, the conference explored ideas of illusion and deception; examining the notion that art can be interpreted as a hi-brow confidence trick, in which a willing audience is deceived by artists who confer value onto hollow objects. Embracing historical and contemporary perspectives the event included presentations by the following artists, theorists and magicians: Jonathan Allen (in conversation with Paul Kieve), Marisa Carnesky, Professor Edwin A Dawes, Dr Mervyn Heard, and Fay Presto and will be chaired by Susan Hiller.

Presentation Abstracts Summaries

Jonathan Allen & Paul Kieve debated the shared imagination of the magician and the artist; discussing their paths to magic, and both the meeting points and diversions in their creative processes. Mapping the relationship between art and magic their conversation highlighted the shared languages and strategies of these practices.

Edwin A. Dawes examined the spectral stage manifestation with reference to the Artist’s Dream Illusion playlet by David Devant, which is the inspiration behind Jonathan Allen’s new work Device and Illusion. The presentation examined the cultural context and technical development of the stage manifestation using Devant’s version and other examples of Pepper’s Ghost illusions.

Dr Mervyn Heard’s presentation, The Mirror of Ink, explored auto-suggestion and the visual image by examining how the impact of an illusion or visual ‘show’ lies not so much in the quality of technical expertise employed, but the ability of the magician, artist or film maker to manipulate the spectator’s imagination by subterfuge or other subtle means. Exploring ideas around auto-suggestion, disorientation, and misdirection- the presentation examined how the magician deploys such strategies to produce great phenomena from simple visual sparks – or even from nothing at all. For “Seeing what is not there lies at the foundation of all human culture” -Tuam, Yi-Fu

Fay Presto performed an illustrated presentation (with tricks) on perceptions of magic and close-up conjuring, examining the role of the performer and concepts of stage-craft and illusion

Marisa Carnesky extended the debate around magic and performance with reference to recent Live Art projects which merge art and magic. Using her own practice as a starting point, Carnesky examined the work of other Live artists who have fused the traditions of magic and illusion, performance and new technology within their practice. This included footage from her work Jewess Tattooess and an exploration of her most recent development project ‘Carnesky’s Ghost Train’, which involves collaboration with an illusionist and combines live art with mirror illusions, video projections, smoke and fire tricks. Carnesky also referenced the work of other live artists who incorporate a mixture of magic illusion, new media, showmanship and real actions.

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