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Ruth Sergel Advisor: Despina Papadopoulos Interactive Telecommunications Department Tisch School of the Arts/New York University Masters Thesis, Spring 2008
“Hyperboloids of wondrous Light Rolling for aye through Space and Time Harbour those Waves which somehow Might Play out God’s holy pantomime.” -Alan Turing
• Abstract Magicians have played a unique role in exploiting emerging technologies and underlying cultural anxieties to create spectacles so alluring that audiences willingly participate in their own delusion. Alchemy of Light is a multi-media performance work that depicts that history as a mirror to contemporary concerns that surround our relationship with technology and its impact on our human interaction. My research explores pre-cinema devices, automata and wax figures as early explorations of self through the medium of technology. During the 19th century, scientific advance led to a dramatic reconsideration of the boundaries between life and death. Magicians, using the most advanced technology of their day, developed performances that played off these tensions. Alchemy of Light, melds 19th century illusionism with current interactive technologies to relate the tale of the legendary magician, Torrini as a parable of the seduction and limits of technology. The early development Alchemy of Light, from the Magic Box, a physical trailer for the piece, through the early rehearsal process is outlined as well as future steps towards the premiere of Alchemy of Light at the HERE Arts Center in 2009.
• Thesis What we think we see can tell us something about who we are1 There is an aching tension between the promise of technology and our critical need for human interaction and touch. Emerging technologies have the capacity to unhinge what we thought we knew about how the world functions and in that moment of confusion a rush of possibilities both wonderful and terrifying appear; often revealing underlying cultural anxieties. Magicians bridge the world of new technologies and the pulse of communal concerns. As the early adopters of the technology of their day, they have exploited catoptrics, magnetism and pre-cinema illusions to play on our hidden fears and fantasies. Masters of interaction design, they create scenarios so alluring that audiences willingly participate in their own delusion. From the mid 17th century, wax models, automata, magic lanterns and other pre-cinema devices served as tools to explore representations of the self. The radical technological breakthroughs of the 19th century – photography, telegraph, phonograph and cinema – redefined a world in which for the first time people were asked to trust the agency of machines to mediate reality. In this new era, communication could travel across electromagnetic fields, voices and images be preserved and replicated even after death. In the 19th century the confusion surrounding these new technologies focused on questions of mortality and were exploited both by spiritualists and magicians. At each advance there was a palpable excitement that perhaps the breach between life and death might, in some manner, be surmounted. The frenzy that grew around spiritualism and mentalism acts only subsided with the advent of the cinema and the impact of World War I.
Alchemy of Light will meld illusionism, interactive video and physical theater to explore the 19th century as a reflection of current anxieties about emerging technologies and what it means to live in an era in which our most intimate communications are mediated by machines. In the 19th century the concern was the balance of life and death. Today we grapple with human interconnectedness and community. The avid use of machines to connect to other human beings creates an odd contradiction. Our desire for the elusive gifts of human connection only make us ever more tethered to our machines. The technology becomes a stand-in for human interaction, imposters of touch. • Research The 19th century saw radical developments in our capacity to create aural and visual representations of ourselves. For the first time we had the means to reproduce and travel aspects of ourselves across time and space. In previous eras, scientists had to battle the title of necromancer. Now technology appeared to offer avenues for cheating the absoluteness of death. These revolutionary developments grew out of centuries of experiments in pre-cinema devices, automata and wax figures which explored the boundaries of what it is to be human. In the mid 17th century the renowned scholar, Athanasius Kircher, held a public showing of the magic lantern. What he chose to depict with this device was not the world as we and know it but what was fully believed to exist just beyond our vision – devils, ghosts and visions of hell. Kircher’s display defined the language of pre-cinema tools as a portal to those realms beyond our immediate experience - collective consciousness and the realms outside of life.2 Concurrent with Kirchers experiments in displaying the fantastic were expanded attempts at understanding the mechanical workings of the human body as a distinct entity from the soul. Intricate anatomical models were constructed in wax. Eerily lifelike, the figures often sported decorative flourishes; long hair, a pearl necklace, legs casually splayed. One of the most famous is the Wax Venus whose innards could be removed layer by layer to reveal the fetus within.3
By the 18th century, experiments into the nature of life began to include automata, and electricity. Master of mechanical life, Jacques de Vaucanson, gained fame for his intricate automata. The Flute Player not only managed the feat of finger movement but
more critically the difficult task of human breath. Mechanical devices had been popular before, but it was the sight of a breathing android that drew the crowds. Despite the extraordinary intricacy of the mechanism, the device wasn’t fully functional until the fingers themselves were covered in skin. Only then could the instrument play like a human. Vaucanson’s next popular device was a mechanical duck. The most impressive feat of the duck was its capacity to eat and seemingly defecate. Voltaire was rumored to have quipped that without the shitting duck there would be nothing left to remind us of the glory of France.4 By the second half of the century, public displays of electricity galvanized discussions on the possibility of re-animation of life. Giovanni Aldini roused audiences by applying electric shock to the head of a sheep carcass to induce life-like twitching of eyelids and tongue. As these demonstrations grew in popularity, Aldini began applying electricity to the brains of recently guillotined criminals. The movement of the jaw and eyes led viewers to contemplate how soon we might be able to re-animate life.5 During the Great Terror in Paris, Marie Tussaud’s skill at waxworks was in high demand. She was regularly asked to take casts from the newly dead. At Marat’s murder scene, nothing was moved until Tussaud had completed her task. She was often provided with heads directly from the guillotine including those of Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and many others she had known when they were still alive.6 Sensitive to the extraordinary violence of the period, the magician Étienne-Gaspard Robertson, opened his Phantasmagoria on the outskirts of Paris in 1798. A consummate showman, Robertson often traveled by hot air balloon. Settling in an abandoned convent Robertson brilliantly manipulated the tools of pre-cinema to entertain and terrify his audience. For a high price they were treated to visions of Danton, Marat and other famous victims of the Great Terror. Robertson used rear projection by magic lanterns on rails with a rack and pinion lens to create the illusion that the recently dead were rushing towards the audience. Each evening, a plant in the crowd would rush forward and beg Robertson to bring back his dead wife. Robertson would oblige by conjuring her image on smoke. Playing on the collective trauma of the community, Phantasmagoria was hugely successful and only shut down when forced to by the authorities who feared that he might actually revive Louis XVI.7 The 19th century represented a radical break with the past. The telegraph, daguerreotype, phonograph and cinema established an era in which we began to experience our lives as mediated by machines. Our voices and images could now travel through space and time in ways previously unimaginable. Endless replication of these depictions of self was suddenly possible. Spirit photography and other Para scientific endeavors flourished, as the confusion as to what might be possible spread. Magicians and spiritualists exploited the new technologies and played on the sense of wonder, desire and fear of their audiences.
We make miniatures of children and adults instantly…and of the deceased persons either at our rooms or at private residences…we take the greatest pains to have miniatures of deceased persons agreeable and satisfactory, and they are often so natural as to seem, even to artists, in a quiet sleep. – Advertisement for Southworth & Hawes, Boston 18468
With the development of the daguerreotype in 1839, families who could not afford painters, were for the first time able to commission portraits. Albums of the period quickly filled with post-mortem daguerreotypes of children. These haunting images represent a new way of mourning and perhaps suggest a question regarding what of their child remains preserved in light. In 1844 the telegraph was demonstrated for the public. Once the system was in place there was widespread confusion as to how it worked. People began showing up at telegraph offices with letters and gifts that they fully expected to be physically transmitted to the recipient.9 In 1856 the magician Jean Eugéne Robert-Houdin was asked by the French government to travel to Algeria.10 Unrest was being fostered by local shamans who claimed supernatural powers for the Algerian people. Public displays of magic were inspiring the populace to a sense of empowerment and the possibility of rebellion. In a performance designed to demonstrate the superiority of the French, Robert-Houdin invited a local strong man to the stage. The man was asked to lift a small chest off of the ground, which he easily did. Robert-Houdin, calling forth the ascendancy of the French, claimed that he had now removed the man’s strength. Again the man was asked to lift the box but as hard as the man might try he was now unable to do so. Shamed he ran from the theater. Using the little understood power of electromagnetism, Robert-Houdin was able to make a political point and the movement of the shamans was dissolved.11 Edison’s phonograph, in 1877, made it possible for the human voice to be preserved beyond the life of the speaker. Edison, ever the consummate salesman, immediately understood and exploited the possible expectations of his new device.
Your words are preserved in the tin foil, and will come back upon the application of the instrument years after you are dead in exactly the same tone of voice you spoke them in…This tongueless, toothless instrument, without larynx or pharynx, dumb voiceless matter nevertheless mimics your tones, speaks with your voice, utters your words and centuries after you have crumbled into dust will repeat again and again, to a generation that could never know you, every idle thought, every fond fancy, every vain word that you choose to whisper against this iron diaphragm. - Thomas Alva Edison12 Magazine and newspaper accounts expounded on the possibilities of voice after death. They giddily wrote on the miracle for the mother who might once again hear her dead child speak.13 The explosion in spiritualism that occurred in the second half of the 19th century was only an extreme form of a more general confusion. Once images of people no longer living and their voices could be preserved why not actual human beings morphing and breaching the life-death divide? In an age in which we were being asked for the first time to accept a reality mediated by machines, why should one trust an X-ray but not a spirit photograph? In fact, these constructed images may show us a different kind of truth. Spirit photographs and other para-scientific effects depict not what is factually correct but perhaps an emotional or even spiritual reality. When people we love die, perhaps we do in fact feel their presence in ways that the spirit photograph reveals. There is a long history of otherwise rational individuals depending on para-scientific methods to maintain contact with the dead. Descartes called the death of his 5 year-old daughter, Francine, ‘the saddest event of my life’. Long fascinated by automata, it was rumored that he created a mechanical doll named for his lost daughter. Descartes belief that some kind of life force was carried through the body leads one to wonder what he was hoping to achieve in the construction of this android.14 Victor Hugo, also grieving the loss of his daughter, frequently engaged in long discussion with her through the device of an Ouija board.15 When these cameras are made available to the public, when everyone can photograph their dear ones, no longer in motionless form but in their movements, their activity, their familiar gestures, with words on their lips, death will have ceased to be absolute. -La Poste Dec. 30 189516 Centuries of experimentation reached their apex with the first publicly projected motion picture by the Lumière brothers in 1895. Georges Méliès, the magician who now ran the Theatre Robert-Houdin, immediately recognized the possibilities of the new medium. He began to construct films that merged the magician’s art with the cinema. In Méliès’ films people appear and disappear, heads fly and explode, and men travel to the moon. Méliès is at pains to prove that his tricks are not dependent on the tools of a traditional magician. He adroitly swivels his cane under a table demonstrating the lack of a mirror. Instead it is the power of the new medium that a simple film cut can outdo the most sophisticated magic trick.
As cinema developed the market for magic was subsumed. Magicians, who had long been pioneers of the medium, found their audiences swept away by an insatiable appetite for moving pictures. By the early 20th century Méliès was out of favor and reduced to running a toy kiosk in the Gare Montparnasse. • Alchemy of Light They could move an individual through time and space – through the electromagnetic field – and the possibility has fundamentally shaped modes of storytelling, not only in literature and film stories, but in the way we tell our lives to ourselves.17 The rich history of creative exploration of new technologies has led me to the creation of Alchemy of Light, a live multi-media performance that melds 19th century illusionism, interactive video and physical theater to explore the life of the legendary magician Torrini. Alchemy of Light follows Torrini, his wife, Antonia,18 and their child, as they tour the four corners of the globe with their happy display of technical prowess. During the course of a performance there is a terrible accident and the child is killed. Grief soon claims the life of his wife and Torrini spends the rest of his days vainly struggling to conjure his lost family back to life.19 Alchemy of Light weaves together the story of Torrini and the history of the 19th century to expose current concerns about technology. In the past this tension revolved around the malleability of the life-death divide. Currently it is seen in the search for human connection and touch as our relationships often occur in radically disembodied forms. Layering old-fashioned illusionism with cinema and finally interactive technologies, Alchemy of Light explores our sense of wonder and the limits of what technology has to offer.
Last fall I created Magic Box,20 as a physical trailer for Alchemy of Light. On the outside the box mirrors the design of 19th century view cameras with brass viewing tubes on either side and two sliders on the front panel. Peering in either side one can watch a film that is not visible to the other viewer. Through the mechanism of a double Pepper’s Ghost,21 the viewer can see through the film into the eyes of the other participant. A slider on the front panel of the box selects which film is visible to each viewer. If both people move to the far position of the slider, their hands will touch. Two strangers -8-
looking each other in the eye, touching hands, sharing the experience of watching the films are all interactions that reflect the themes of technology, magic and the spark of human touch in Alchemy of Light. In March I traveled to Paris for the first rehearsal with Torrini (Luigi Coppola, Italy), his wife Antonia (Johanna Levy, France) and our dramaturge (Peter von Salis, Switzerland). The success of the project depends upon an intricate layering of technology within the narrative structure. My goal in Paris was to lay the groundwork for a work process which supports the very different development cycles of theater, video and technology. Alchemy of Light uses very little spoken language but instead depends upon an almost choreographic exploration of the narrative. In addition to establishing the basic framework of the larger piece, Torrini’s inability to touch was a focal point for our work as we began to create a physical language between the two characters. During the rehearsal period we broke away to shoot both video and film. The video will be worked into the interactive sections of the performance. In order to take advantage of the international cast, and the possibility that we might end up rehearsing in many countries, we also shot exterior scenes in super 8 black & white. The Père Lachaise and Eiffel Tower provided evocative settings for our explorations.
For each performer I created a specific piece of technology to explore. After the death of their child, Antonia blames herself for the accident. She slams herself to the ground, each time scrambling up and then pounding herself back down again. I constructed a simple device, which placed a sensor on each hand attached to a central XBee radio. A second Xbee, connected to the computer, sent a serial message into Isadora so that at each trigger an amplified sound erupted. In practice the technology worked well. We recorded several options for the sound including cries and a harsh expulsion of breath. We tried a selection of possible sensors and experimented with placement as well as how the device could be designed around the other physical demands of the performance. On the last day of rehearsal we chose not to use the technology. Instead Torrini, who is holding the dead child, cries out every time Antonia hits herself. In practice the impact of his live cry was much more powerful than any pre-recorded sound could ever be. This discovery mimics some of the themes of Alchemy of Light.
For Torrini, I created Butterfly, an image of his daughter flying that haunts him after her death. Using infrared light and Isadora, a small projection of the child tracks his movement, always fluttering on his chest. Luigi found a kind of mesmerizing movement that greatly expanded the impact of the image. One of the joys of Alchemy of Light is the excuse to explore the enticing sub-culture of magic. In Paris we visited the Musée de la Magie and a local magic shop.22 In both places magicians were extremely generous in sharing their knowledge. Practicing magic in cafes gained an instant appreciative audience, reminding us of just how intoxicating an art form it is. Since returning to New York, I have begun an artist residency at the HERE Art Center.23 In June we will have all three performers, including Torrini’s young daughter (Clara Palavesin, US/France), together for the first time. In addition to building on the work begun in Paris, we will be joined by a larger team of collaborators including an aerial choreographer, costume designer, composer, and magic consultant. As we develop Alchemy of Light, I am particularly interested in re-visioning some of the classic magic tricks. In particular, Sawing-a-Woman-in-Half24 and the Moth25. In addition to the Magic Box, I intend to develop more Fantastic Objects, which mix old style illusionism with current technologies. These devices will include Méliès’ Telescope and Belle’s Mirror which further develop the themes of Alchemy of Light. Alchemy of Light will premiere at the Here Art Center in 2009.
• Conclusion The inquiry into individuality and mutual interaction needs to deepen; the biological and neuroscientific line of analysis needs languages to think with. Such an undertaking becomes political, analytical, and constructive, and artists, performers, and writers who are grasping the imaginary fabric that swathes and freights our consciousness today are sometimes answering the call to grasp technologies as the prime shaper of human identity now and recognize their effects, engage with social issues, and revision the seductiveness of illusions as a first step towards dreaming them differently.26 Magicians reflect back to us both the wonder and fear of a changing world. Masters of interaction design, they model playful and unexpected possibilities for engaging with technological developments and re-visioning our dreams.
Resources I must admit I am much in the dark about light -Benjamin Franklin 1752 Books: Adcock, Craig, James Turrell: The Art of Light and Space. Berkeley: University of California Press, 19990 Auerbach, Jonathan, Body Shots. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 2007 **Barnouw, Erik, The Magician and the Cinema. New York: Oxford Press, 1981 Barthes, Roland, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. New York: Hill and Wang, 1981 Burch, Noël, Life to those Shadows. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990 Burns, Stanley B., Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography in America. Altadena, CA: Twelvetrees Press, 1990 Chabon, Michael. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay: a novel. New York: Random House, c2000 Davies, Robertson, The Deptford Trilogy: Fifth Business, The Manticore, World of Wonders. Macmillan of Canada, Toronto Ontario Canada 1987 Dorsky, Nathaniel. Devotional Cinema. Berkeley, CA: Tuumba Press, c2003 Düring, Monika v., Marta Poggesi, Encyclopaedia Anatomica: A Collection of Anatomical Waxes. Köln: Taschen, 2006 Ezra, Elizabeth, George Méliès: The Birth of the Auteur. Manchester ; New York : Manchester University Press : St. Martin’s Press, 2000 Fechner, Christian, The Magic of Robert-Houdin. Boulogne, France: Editions F.C.F., 2 vols., 2002 Gibson, Walter Brown, Master Magicians: Their Lives and Most Famous Tricks. Garden City, NY : Doubleday, 1966 Hammond, Paul, Marvellous Méliès. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1974 Hayes, R.M., 3-D Movies: A history & Filmography of Stereoscopic Cinema. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 1989 Jay, Ricky, Jay’s Journal of Anomalies: conjurers, cheats, hustlers, hoaxsters, pranksters, jokesters, impostors, pretenders, sideshow showmen, armless calligraphers, mechanical marvels, popular entertainments. New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 2001 Jay, Ricky, Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1986 Kember, Sarah, Virtual Anxiety: Photography, New Technologies & Subjectivity. Manchester; New York: Manchester University Press; New York: Distributed in USA by St. Martin’s Press, 1998 Krauss, Rosalind E., The Optical Unconscious. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1993 Laurel, Brenda, Computers as Theater. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley Pub., 1991 Levy, David N. L., Robots Unlimited: Life in a Virtual Age. Wellesley, Mass.: AK Peters, 2006
Mannoni, Laurent, Werner Nekes, Marina Warner, Eyes, Lies and Illusions: The Art of Deception. London: Hayward Gallery; Aldershot: In association with Lund Humphries, 2004 Mannoni, Laurent, Donata Presenti Campagnoni, David Robinson, Light and Movement: Incunablula of the Motion Picture 1420 – 1896. Gemona, Italia: Giornate del cinema muto ; [Paris, France]: Cinémathéque Française-Musée du cinema; [Torino]: Museo Nazionale del Cinema, 1995 Metzner, Paul, Crescendo of the Virtuoso: Spectacle, Skill, and self-promotion in Paris during the Age of Revolution. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998 Moore, Rachel O., Savage Theory: Cinema as Modern Magic. Thesis (Ph.D.) New York University, Graduate School of Arts and Science, 1997 Quigley, jr., Martin, Magic Shadow: the Story of the Origin of Motion Pictures. New York: Quigley Pub. Co., 1960 Robert-Houdin, Jean Eugéne, [Confidences d’un Prestigitateur, English] Memoirs of Robert-Houdin. New York: Dover Publications, 1964 Robert-Houdin, Jean Eugéne, The Secrets of Stage Conjuring. Wildside Press, 2008 Rosenblatt, Paul C., Parental Grief: Narratives of Loss and Relationship. Brunner/Mazel Philadelphia 2000 Selznick, Brian. The Invention of Hugo Cabret: a novel in words and pictures. New York: Scholastic Press, c2007 Shelley, Mary, Frankenstein. Bantam Books, New York, Toronto, London, Sydney, Auckland, 1981 **Simon, Linda, Dark Light: Electricity and Anxiety From the Telegraph to the XRay. Orlando: Harcourt, Inc., 2004 Sontag, Susan, On Photography. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1989 Sontag, Susan, Regarding the Pain of Others. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2003 Stafford, Barbara Maria and Frances Terpak, Devices of Wonder: from the World in a Box to Images on a Screen. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2001 **Steinmeyer, Jim, Art and Artiface. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2006 Steinmeyer, Jim, Hiding the Elephant: How Magicians Invented the Impossible and Learned to Disappear. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2003 Warner, Marina, Fantastic Metamorphoses, other worlds: Way sof Telling the Self. Oxford: New York : Oxford Univeristy Press, 2002 Warner, Marina, No Go the Bogeyman: Scaring, Lulling and Making Mock. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1999 **Warner, Marina, Phantasmagoria: Spirit Visions, Metaphors, and media into the Twenty-first century. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2006 **Wood, Gaby, Edison’s Eve: a Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life. London : Faber and Faber Limited; [New York, NY]: Alfred A Knopf, 2002 Zerubavel, Eviatar, The Elephant in the Living Room: Silence and Denial in Everyday Life. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006 Zerubavel, Eviatar, Time Maps: Collective Memory and the Social Shape of the Past. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003
Films: Beauty and the Beast. Dir. Jean Cocteau. Santa Monica, CA: Voyager, 1991 City of Lost Children. Dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro. Culver City, CA: Columbia TriStar Home Video 1999 Close-Up. Dir. Abbas Kiraostami. Chicago, IL: Facets Video, 2001 David Holzman’s Diary. Jim McBride. New York: Fox Lorber, 1993 Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Ahmed. Lotte Reiniger. [S.I.]: Milestone Film & Video; Chatsworth, CA: Distributed by Image Entertainment, 2002 European Dance Theater. Dir. Harold Bergohn. Highstown, NJ: Dance Horizons Video, 1997 The Gospel According to Phillip K. Dick. Dir. Mark Steensland and Andy Massagli. New York: First Run Features, 2000 Grand Illusions: The Story of Magic. Chatsworth, CA: Image Entertainment, 2003 Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages. Dir. Benjamin Christensen. Irvington, NY: Criterion Collection, 2001 The Illusionist. Dir. Neil Burger. Beverly Hills, CA: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2006 Irma Vep. Dir. Olivier Assays. New York, NY: Fox Lorber Home Video, 1997 La Jetée. Dir. Chris Marker. [France]: Argos Films, 1962 Lunacy. Dir. Jan Svankmajer. New York, NY: Zeitgeist Films, 2007 Magic Hunter. Dir. Ildikó Enyedi. New York; Waterville, Maine: First Run Features; Shadow Distribution, 1996 The Magic of Méliès. Dir. Patrick Montgomery and Luciano Martinengo. Chatsworth, CA: Image Entertainment, 1999 Media Magica. Dir. Werner Nekes. 6 vols. 2004 My Twentieth Century. Dir. Ildikó Enyedi. New York, NY: Fox Lorber Home Video, 1991 Once Upon a Time Cinema. Dir. Moshen Makhmalbaf. Chicago, IL: Facets Video, 1998 Pennies From Heaven. Dir. Herbert Ross. New York: MGM/UA Home Video, 1982 Phantom Museums: Short films of the Quay Brothers. Dir. Brothers Quay. [United States]: Zeitgeist Films, 2007 The Presitge. Dir. Christopher Nolan. Burbank, CA: Touchstone Home Entertainment: Distributed by Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 2007 Purple Rose of Cairo. Dir. Woody Allen. Stamford, CT: Vestron Video, 1993 Richard Bradshaw’s Shadow Theater. Dir. Werner Nekes The Secrets of Magic. Dir. Alan Carter. Fort Mills, SC: Sterling Entertainment Group, 2001 Simon le Mage. Dir. Ildikó Enyedi. Chicago, Ill: Facets Video,  1999 Travellers and Magicians. Dir. Khyentse Norbu. New York, NY: Zeitgeist Films, 2005 Until the End of the World. Dir. Wim Wenders. [Burbank, CA]: Warner Home Video, 1992 Waking the Dead. Dir. Keith Gordon. [Calif]: USA Home Entertainment, 2000 What do Pina Bausch and her Dancers do in Wuppertal? Dir. Klaus Wildenhahn. Germany: Inter Nationes, c1983 Zentropa/Europa. Dir. Dir. Lars Von Trier. [United States]: Touchstone Home Video;[Burbank, CA]: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution
Periodicals: Gopnik, Adam. “Modern Magic and the Meaning of Life” The New Yorker 17 March 2008: 56 - 69 Magic Lantern. [Philadelphia]: Benerman & Wilson, Sept. 1874 – Jan. 1885 Collections: Tannen’s (New York) Musée de la Magie (Paris)
**These resources were particularly helpful in the development of this thesis.
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. – Arthur C. Clarke -14-
Endnotes There is something wrong. We men and women of our day are in a strange, an odd position. Do you know what I think is wrong? We are, all of us, men and women living on one world while we think and feel, most of us, in an old and in outworn world. We are living on one world while we try to think and feel in another. -Sherwood Anderson
Warner, Marina, Phantasmagoria: Spirit Visions, Metaphors, and Media into the Twenty-First Century. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2006, p. 107 2 Ibid., pp. 14-15 3 Düring, Monika v., Marta Poggesi, Encyclopaedia Anatomica: A Collection of Anatomical Waxes. Köln: Taschen, 2006, pp. 70-79 4 Wood, Gaby, Edison’s Eve: a Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life. London : Faber and Faber Limited; [New York, NY]: Alfred A Knopf, 2002, p 27 5 Simon, Linda, Dark Light: Electricity and Anxiety From the Telegraph to the XRay. Orlando: Harcourt, Inc., 2004, pp. 13-14 6 Warner, Phatasmagoria. p. 38 7 Ibid., p. 147 8 As quoted in Burns, Stanley B., Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography in America. Altadena, CA: Twelvetrees Press, 1990 9 Simon, Dark Light. p. 35 10 Robert-Houdin, Jean Eugéne, [Confidences d’un Prestigitateur, English] Memoirs of Robert-Houdin. New York: Dover Publications, 1964. pp. 266-267 11 Robert-Houdin, Jean Eugéne, Secrets of Stage Conjuring. Wildside Press, 2008, p. 57. Robert-Houdin describes here how he was induced to update the heavy-light box as knowledge of electro-magnetism spread. 12 Wood, Edison’s Eve. pp. 129-130 13 Ibid., p. 129 14 Ibid., p. 3 15 Warner, Phantasmagoria. p. 315 16 As quoted in: Burch, Noël, Life to those Shadows. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990 17 Warner, Phantasmagoria. pp. 258-9 18 Much of what we know about Antonia is hearsay from Robert-Houdin’s description of her and her twin brother Antonio in his autobiography. There is an unwritten history of women and stage magic. Prior to the 20th century the on-stage assistant was usually not a woman but a child or another man. Robert-Houdin used his children as on-stage collaborators but he also leaves tantalizing clues in his Secrets of Stage Conjuring on the role of women in his performances. Robert-Houdin discusses the critical role of an off-stage collaborator whose precise performance must always be in perfect sync with his own. He describes this person as “the magic invisible hand which really effects sundry appearances, disappearances, and substitutions, of which magic has the credit.” (Robert-Houdin, Secrets of Stage Conjuring, p. 45) He ends his description by stating “Women perform this duty to perfection (Ibid., p. 45). I have been have been unable to find any further description of who might have worked with Robert-Houdin in
this capacity or if this was a common practice. It’s a fascinating train of inquiry that I hope to follow up in the future. 19 It is interesting to ponder how much of Robert-Houdin’s own experience was conflated into his depiction of Torrini’s life. Robert-Houdin’s first child, Louise Marie, was born in 1845. Less than a year later the she died. Robert-Houdin’s wife, Olympe never fully recovered from the loss. In 1849, after the birth of their sons, the family was performing in England. They became close to Henry Knight, a man of limited means, who had a 7 or 8 year-old daughter named Henriette. The family became close to the girl and soon took her in & raised her for the next ten years until she came of age. In 1859 she was returned to her original family. I have been unable to find any more details on the relationship or what became of Henriette after being returned to her birth family. 20 More on the Magic Box can be found on my ITP blog: http://itp.nyu.edu/~rs2639/RuthITP/category/fall-2007/performing-technology-fall-2007/
Pepper’s Ghost is an illusion developed in the 19th century, which creates an image projected on glass in front of a performer. 22 In New York it is the venerable Tannen’s (45 West 34th Street, Suite 608, New York City), which serves as a locus of magic resources. The ambiance is decidedly pedestrian, but stay a while, watch the demonstrations, listen to the patter and soon you’ll find it difficult to peel yourself away. The Conjuring Arts Library (www.conjuringarts.org) is another local resource. 23 Here Art Center: http://here.org/who/artists/alchemy/ 24 On stage, the classic position of the pretty female onstage assistant didn’t begin until the 20th century. Particularly instructive is the development of the sawing-a-woman-inhalf trick. Torrini is rumored to have created the trick for Pope Pius IV in 1809. Originally it was most often performed with a man being bisected to produce twins. It was only in the 20th century, with the advent of the radical suffragette movement, that the trick of cutting a woman in half gained a wild popularity. Sensing the unease caused by the new role women sought, P.T. Selbit embellished the trick with ritualized binding of ropes around the woman and having his associates dump blood red water in the streets between performances. He offered 20 pounds a week to the infamous suffragist Christabel Pankhurst if she would participate. She declined, but the publicity was huge. (Steinmeyer, Jim, Art and Artiface. p. 85) 25 Steinmeyer, Jim. Art and Artiface. pp. 49-76 26 Warner, Phantasmagoria. p. 381