Alluding To Illusions

When something unexplainable happens, you could spend a lot of time exploring scientifically and logically how it could have happened. Or you could just say magic! and move on with your day. When there was an illogical (and terrible) ending to Mass Effect 3, some people got really angry and infuriated that Bioware would leave so many things unexplained. And some people simply said oh well I guess it’s… umm… space magic!

So essentially, magic is the inexplicable. Another way to look at it is to say, every time the human mind stumbles along something it doesn’t comprehend, it calls it magic and thus able to bend the laws of our understanding. Because it’s far easier for our brains to believe in magic than to believe we are not capable of understanding something.

And so, illusionism was born. Not weird perspective art, the street magic kind of illusionism (why is it called street magic when it happens on stage a lot?). The kind of mind fooling trickery that’s called magic but is just someone with a bit more know-how on how to confuse your little brain.

It’s at this point I turned to O Hansen and I asked who’s your favourite illusionist O? and O said this. Basically anyone who makes a TV show, you think they’re going to zig and they zag, leaving you with one shitty series finale and a terrible after taste… I was under the illusion I’d have a happy and or coherent ending, it was all lies.

I on the other hand am slightly better at answering the question. While I enjoy the mind boggling spectacle of magicians such as Dynamo and David Copperfield, my interest always seems to lie in the more subtle psychological jedi mind tricks of Derren Brown. And Derren Brown is yet another perfect example of how easy it is to manipulate our little minds.

The majority of Derren’s shows involve him astounding us with his ability to guess exactly what we are going to do, choose and say. Of course as there are no scientifically proven examples of people with mind reading abilities, it’s all tom foolery. Derren uses subtle suggestions and subliminal messaging to force us into choosing predetermined outcomes and results.

A simple example of Derren Brown’s “magic” is his ability to force us into predicting what card he is holding.

Now in one sense this didn’t work, for both me and O he was foiled because we were thinking of a card as soon as he showed us the back. It was difficult for us to think of a new card. Then there’s always the problem of us being determined not to be fooled.

But what he actually does is very cleverly, and quickly, narrow down our thought processes. He starts by telling us to ‘make the colour bright and vivid’ so we’ve already excluded black, half the deck gone. Then he makes a diamond shape with his hands, while talking about a screen, misdirecting you while giving you the shape. Finally he indicates three several times in a couple of ways, gestures and audio. Until our minds ready to accept the three of diamonds.

There was another show where he got the entire audience to guess which musicians would be performing at the end. Throughout the whole show he’d been dropping words and symbols to encourage the audience down the right train of thought. His power of suggestion doesn’t always work perfectly but it’s powerful none the less.

He’s also a darn good hypnotist, another way in which our minds can be manipulated. I once watched him convince a man (with the help of hypnotism) that they were holding a lovely cup of cola, when in fact it was a pint of vinegar… Even after drinking a mouthful they still thought it was cola. And then there was the lady who after a “lovely” chat with Derren had red and black swapped in her mind. So she no longer recognised her own car…

Our minds are weak is what I’m saying. Some people are more susceptible to this kind of manipulation than others. I think I once read that the further back you can roll your eyes the more susceptible you are to hypnotism. Which would mean I’m not very susceptible. And would also explain why stage hypnotists carefully look around the room for people to work on, while gesturing upwards. However that could have been a bunch of bum waffle and I’ve just tricked you all…

Maybe I’m an illusionist. I would just have to make something appear to be what it is not in order to be an illusionist. Aren’t we all capable of that?

S. Hansen


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