I came across this article today (below) and whilst I find myself agreeing with a lot of what is said, there are some implications in the tone of the reporting that are of concern..
Here’s the article as it appeared in MIDDAY..
“In the age of rapid communication, magic can be a medium to spread social messages, says Indian illusionist Gopinath Muthukad, who won a prestigious international award for predicting 10 headlines of different dailies in different metros in India even before the pages were laid out.
“The response (to my prediction) was overwhelming. It showed that misconceptions of people about illusion and magic were changing,” said Muthukad, who will be conferred the magic world’s Oscar, the International Merlin Award, here June 23.
The Kerala-based magician is in Canada for a series of shows.
Muthukad, 47, who founded the first magic academy of Asia at Thiruvananthapuram, told IANS in an e-mail interview that he “had to convince people that the science of magic has a role in predictions”.
The prediction of newspaper headlines won the Merlin jury over, he said.
Muthukad, the second Indian to win the award after P.C. Sorcar junior, has also been using his art of magic and illusion to promote important social causes too for the last two decades.
“Magic is a visual art that penetrates the subconscious mind of people with the language bar. It can be used as a wonderful tool for mass communication. A highly successful mission was the STOP AD, a magical act with which we reached out to youths and adults against smoking, alcohol and drug abuse in Kerala,” Muthukad said.
Muthukad said he has been “using magic for social messages since 1990, when the government of Kerala launched its literacy drive in the state”.
“We designed new illusion tricks and adopted meaningful presentations of existing ones to communicate. The literacy massages had a deep impact,” he said. It encouraged Muthukad to take up new campaigns.
“If we go through the statistics of alcohol abuse in India, especially in Kerala, the graph always grows. It has left our society with a catastrophe of health and family concerns. The Kerala government told us to conduct magical education at the grassroots in all the 14 districts of the state,” he said.
Muthukad said he has managed to draw attention to several issues like “health, communal harmony and fight against terrorism” through magic.
“We have also been trying to propagate Gandhian values and themes of national integration worldwide,” he said.
Muthukad undertook a magical tour in 2002 to spread the message of national integration with roadshows from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.
His institute, Kerala Magic Academy Research Centre, teaches both contemporary illusion and traditional Indian street magic like the “Great Indian Rope Trick”, “Green Mango Trick” and the “Indian Basket trick”.
“India has rich culture and history in magic. It still amazes the western world with traditional magic such as green mango tree and Indian cups and balls. Unfortunately many amazing magic acts have been lost as they have not been shared with the next generation,” he said.
Muthukad’s inspiration is American illusionist David Copperfield, a living legend known for his story telling and illusion magic.
“He (David Copperfield) makes the difficult look easy and impossible the easiest. He adds beauty to magic like music to poetry,” he said. Copperfield created headlines around the world when he made the Statue of Liberty disappear, levitated over the Grand Canyon and walked through the Great Wall of China.
Muthukad himself began as a traditional magician before moving on complicated stage illusions. One of his popular illusion tricks is the “fire escape” trick – in which he disappears through a fire hatch.
“Traditional Indian magic concentrates more on mystery while the West concentrates more on entertainment values. But ultimately both evoke wonder,” Muthukad said.
Like Copperfield Muthukad first performed his tricks in public at 10.
“It was a flop. Then I decided to make my performance a unique one – and my performance was accepted. And I pledged my future to magic,” he said.
I find myself in total agreement with the notion that MAGIC as a relevance and a meaning. There’s a chapter in my book (Mostly Mental) which speaks of the role and power of magic. However, is it me or is there a sense at which the ‘supernatural’ aspects of magic’s mystique is being somewhat overplayed?
The prediction of newspaper headlines could be seen as being ‘supernatural’ and not part of the ‘stock-in-trade’ of the illusionist.
What is a magician really saying when they perform their magic?
Are they creating random and spontaneous acts of wonder with visual displays of impossibilities OR are they perpetuating a belief in ‘supernatural abilities’ through their portrayal as pseudo-psychics?
Magic is not the same as Mentalism!
In Magic it is often clear that the mage is weaving their spell, casting ‘galmours’ and creating illusions to inspire, amaze and amuse.
In Mentalism it is not always clear that the mage is weaving a psychological web of confusion and creating allusions to the possibility of the improbable.
Magic can engage, can communicate at a very deep level and can be used to inspire creative and critical thinking – it can be used to perpetuate cons and pre-scientific thinking.
Are YOU as a magician giving due regard to the empowering messages your magic represents?
Do YOU as a magician care about the art and relevance of our craft?
Should WE as magicians take more responsibility for the things we communicate through our performance?
AND Congratulations to Gopinath Muthukad on his great success and Merlin award – it’s so nice to hear of magicians who are thinking about their work and being rewarded for it!