Thanks for the post. I just bought a VIP to Nothing to Hide yesterday. Now I'm looking forward to it even more!
By Hillel Aron
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By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Guimarães and DelGaudio have two separate, perfectly compatible goals. Guimarães wants to find the most impossible mystery — one that'll just blow your mind, engineered for maximum effect. DelGaudio wants to find the most meaningful mystery — one that says something about the world, like art or poetry. Something that makes you ask why it's done rather than how.
So what does DelGaudio's goal mean in practice? One helpful analogy is comedy. A great magician doesn't just do tricks, and the best comedians don't just tell jokes — they tell the truth.
But how can finding a person's card from a deck communicate an idea about the world? How do you convey truth through deception?
One way is through DelGaudio's collaborations with Kaino in the art world. Kaino has had a fascinating array of jobs, including chief creative officer of Napster, but he's best known as an artist. (He shows his work at the prestigious Culver City gallery Honor Fraser and will represent the United States at the upcoming International Cairo Biennale.) He consulted on the Geffen show and is credited as its "artistic director."
Kaino suffered his own crisis of confidence, in 2008, when a visit to an art fair made him feel disgusted about art's relationship to money. He put art aside for a bit to explore magic.
Once Kaino found DelGaudio, they met at a café and ended up talking for four hours. They created an art collective called A.Bandit and performed in such venues as Soho House in West Hollywood and the Kitchen in New York.
In one performance, they went to a Santa Monica art fair, and DelGaudio started taking art from the various booths after handing each gallerist a ransom note. He put all the artwork into a cart he dragged across the floor. When they reached the middle of the fair, Kaino yelled out, "My house will be called a house of art. You are turning it into a den of thieves," as DelGaudio loaded all the art into a box, which was lifted 30 feet into the air. The box exploded and the art disappeared.
In another piece at LAXArt's Annex at Space 15 Twenty in Hollywood, they cut actress China Chow in half and had audience members stroll between her two parts, calling it A Walk Through China.
Some routines DelGaudio created on his own lean toward performance art. He once did an impromptu show on Twitter, but the performance was entirely in his audience's imaginations. No actual tricks took place.
In another routine, called 184 Seconds, he asks someone to set a timer for a minute. He then deals as many cards as he can, one at a time, going through four different decks. Unbeknownst to the audience, each is a second deal — he deals the second card instead of the top one. At the end of a minute, he writes down the number of cards he's dealt.
Then he exits. The end.
It's magic as abstract art, reminiscent of composer John Cage, whose music piece 4'33" has the audience sit in silence for four minutes and 33 seconds.
The first time DelGaudio did it, the audience seemed a little upset. Another time, they applauded wildly.
But when you're not in an art gallery, and you're doing a more traditional magic show — where audiences expect an actual magic effect to take place — merging the trick with art is more difficult. It's not about reciting a poem, or telling killer jokes, or making profound statements. Sometimes that stuff distracts.
"It's an examination of the poetics of mystery, not necessarily trying to make magic poetic," DelGaudio says.
"Because it's already there," Guimarães adds. "Sometimes you don't see it because it's covered in bullshit."
One routine in their show — without spoiling it too much — involves Guimarães doing a card trick and then DelGaudio doing the same card trick, reciting the exact same script. The second time, the expectations of the audience and the connotations of the words have shifted. They think they know what it's all about because they've seen it before — until they don't.
The routine examines preconceptions, the changing meanings of language, the fickle nature of confidence. It's not as if there's an explicit message — but good art doesn't have that, either. It just has to make you think or feel something. It can be open to interpretation. "We don't discuss the idea openly — they feel it, which is more interesting than saying, 'You know what, this [trick] is about preconceptions,' " Guimarães says.
If a trick is successful, DelGaudio says, "They're not asking themselves how that happens. They ask themselves deeper questions."
DelGaudio and Guimarães are not the first magicians to think this way, of course. Penn and Teller, for instance, sometimes reveal the methods behind their tricks to the audience, as a way of calling out magic as entertainment and challenging the value of secrecy. Tamariz has done a routine where he makes a deck of cards disappear but never brings it back, subverting the audience's expectations and letting them wonder. DelGaudio and Guimarães are dragging magic in this direction, in their own style.