Ollie Mealing,creator of Control and Recoil, is a consultant for Derren Brown and created some of magic’s most-buzzed about videos on the Internet. On a break, he got a chance to check in about norms and how our magic may be littered with them — at the expense of our creativity.
Norm: A standard, model or pattern regarded as typical.
Within life we all passively fall prey to conformity, a set of behavioural norms that ultimately serve to shield us from conflict, by encouraging us to fit in with our environment. It’s a vast and complex subject that really is worth reading into. For the purpose of keeping this blog short I won’t digress too far, but know that as useful as these norms can be, they impair our creative thought.
Hiding in plain sight, there are countless norms within the performance of magic that have become so deeply rooted we struggle to see them as being questionable — they align so habitually with our performance that we take them for granted, allowing our performances to breathe such elements as imperceptibly as we breathe air.
Still unsure what I’m talking about? This indicates just how veiled and accepted these norms are. Let me quench your curiosity:
- • When we perform we’ve always either sat or stood — what if we were lying or crouching?
- • We’re always facing our audience — how could a different orientation serve the performance or experience?
- • We’re always present in the room — where else could we be and what would be the repercussions?
- • The magic is always in close proximity to the performer and the audience — where else could it be happening?
- • The effect is always performed sequentially and continuously — is that really necessary?
- • There’s always light — could darkness be beneficial?
- • There’s always an effort to acquire an audience — what’s our other options?
- • There’s always a space considered favourable to performance — how could we embrace a different space?
- • There’s always an observable effect — could we experience magic another way?
- • There’s always a desire to delight — what other emotions could we wish to stir?
Aside from their advantages, these and many more commonplace norms restrain our creativity by becoming undisputed requirements. They act as filters, hindering our ability to quite literally think outside of the box that they create. They impose limitations and therefore scope for diversity. Of course there are exceptions to these statements, but overall they remain ubiquitous within performance; we accept them without questioning the consequence of their absence, we lose sight of the fact that they CAN be disputed, resulting in fresh, unconventional revelations.
When it comes to the approach and execution of magic we adopt the norms of those before us, which have evolved through extensive experimentation and time-tested realisation of preferable combinations of circumstances — but collectively those norms are the result of a chain reaction, one which has formed a stratosphere above our creativity by creating the illusion of what magic is.
But really, that’s just one direction and comprehension of it. Of course while within this model we’re in no grave danger of exhausting ideas, but by gravitating towards such norms we effectively solidify a perceptual embodiment of magic. Progress requires change; we should be regularly considering everything we can, asking, “How could this be different?”
Because it always can be different. Art has no limits.
“Empty your cup so that it may be filled; become devoid to gain totality.” -Bruce Lee
There are plenty of factors which are conducive towards good entertainment and anything presented in the right way can of course be entertaining — entertainment in essence is awakening a perspective, you’re delivering information in such a way that it serves to provoke a notable experience. So surely there’s no reason why magic can’t look or feel different to it’s current disposition and yet still be entertaining — entertainment ensues from the delivery of information, rather than the information itself.
With that in mind, I feel that magic has the potential to be so much more than how we think of it today, but to discover (rather than stumble upon) what those shifts could comprise of, I believe must involve mentally inhabiting a new place for what magic can be by parting with our norms and adhering to an unduly, inquisitive cognition, we empower the potential for revolutionary ideas to reach the fore.
Only the curiosity of today conceives the magic of tomorrow.