new magic

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Over the past eight years, the field of magic has had enough of rabbits and .... Roy, David Copperfield or. Criss Angel ..... A king of card tricks, which he has been ...


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Circostrada Network dossier from stradda #16 / page 1



THE EMERGENCE OF A CONTEMPORARY ART Over the past eight years, the field of magic has had enough of rabbits and virtuosic sleight-of-hand tricks. It has been affirming itself as an independent artistic movement aiming to get back in touch with the feeling of magic.

be giving new life to the creative act, using magic as means of endlessly transforming the world. Balls flying over the heads of the audience, shadows that take on a life of their own, a floating cloud beneath a glass bell...

While we often may remember magic as mere entertainment, the discipline also contains several other elements. It is often used in ritual, traditional, religious and medical domains and it deals with the great human fantasies (flying, resurrections, mindreading, etc.). It is essential to reinvest this creative potential with issues that, although they are contemporary, have been neglected for many years.

Through its ability to divert the real within the real – by making the imaginary tangible, by giving life to the invisible, by playing with our perception – the language of magic is as diverse as the artists who put it to use.


Determining the grammatical structure of this language, studying the real in all of its forms in order to take hold of it, making use of old techniques along with new technologies: the idea is to always

Five thousand years of enchantment

p. 2

“An ability to infinitely transform the world”

p. 5

Training. The transmission of a language

p. 6

“All of our research can be helpful to art”

p. 7

The heralds of the magic revival

p. 10

Thierry Collet. The primitive concern

p. 11

Kurt Demey. The mentalist city

p. 11

Cie 14:20. The spectacular at the service ofsensations

p. 13

Olivier Poujol. Answering history with magic

p. 13

The great illusion

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An active principle

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Distribution. From Rouen to Rome, enthusiasm is on the rise

p. 16

Who’s who in new magic

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New magic videos can be found on the website

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Just as the initiators of this movement are compiling the “For a new magic” manifesto, Stradda is transmitting the tools necessary to appreciate this artistic movement, which allows for all new fields of possibilities. ★ DOSSIER COORDINATED BY JULIE BORDENAVE.

Five thousand A few historical landmarks to understand the ★ The term magic is the result of an initial ambiguity: for your average person the word has a symbolic connotation to charms, spells and the sublime. The term magic appeared in 1535, formed out of the Greek mageia, the Latin magia and implicitly related to magi, a caste of Persian priests who were worshipers of Zoroaster. A cluster of magical practices then became generally noticeable. The Inquisition would associate magic with witchcraft, closing it up within a defamatory model that would remain until the disappearance of religious tribunals in sixteenth century France, and in 1831 in Spain. The terms of conjuring and illusionism appeared conjointly at the end


years of enchantment context that has led up to new magic. of the Inquisition and formed the vocabulary of modern magic. During the same period we find the appearance of the terms medium, shaman, spirit: these words allowed for the separation of fake and “true” magic.

★ The first traces of magic, 3000 years

BCE, accentuate the close relations between illusion and survival. The practices of mimicry that allowed archaic societies of hunters and gatherers to incite the gods to provide them with game (trapping techniques, covered traps, leaves, caves with trap doors...) were all precursors of a necessary form of magic. By mimicking nature and exploiting the

limits of common perception, humans forged a creative magic subject to the view of the other.

★ We find uses of magic as enter-

The danser Fatou Traoré, in “Vibrations”, by Cie 14:20.


in pharaonic Egypt. The Westcar papyrus tells of the exploits of the magician Dedi, who was at the service of the pharaoh Cheops, who reigns at around 2550 BCE, suggesting the rulers’ interest at the time in the development of the magic arts. A juggler sculpted on a bas-relief on the tomb of Beni-Hassan (around 2500 BCE) suggests a link with subterfuge and manipulation, important elements in the portrayal of the themes of magic. ➜ dossier from stradda #16 / page 3



★Performance magic

first appears in ancient Greece. The theatre of the day would develop a repertory where trapdoors and secret passageways used as special effects would become central to plot developments. In the sixth century BCE we find examples of flight. A certain effect allowed actors playing gods to take to the sky within the theatre and to move about through the air, as if by magic. The function of the Master of secrets of medieval mysteries originated from the same source. The idea was to transpose and transform the real upon vast plateaux, where angels and devils require a different kind of attention but incite the same fascination.

★ The


which was implemented in France in 1234 by Pope Gregory IX, would stop the development of magical practices for nearly six centuries. The condemnation of heresy would spread to all phenomena considered to be paranormal or supernatural, causing a scarcity of magicians throughout the West.

★ In the rest of the world, however, other practices of traditional magic were available to curious travellers. In 1535, the tireless pilgrim geographer Ibn Battuta observed and related in his “Road Journal” the spell of the “magic rope”, a future object of fascination for a generation of magicians. ★ In Europe, modern magic emerged in the nineteenth century as a skill of illusion: a term that goes back to the period of modern arts, indicating a discipline that uses technical progress as much as it uses the interest in physical sciences at the time. In 1845, the Frenchman Robert-Houdin, an ingenious watchmaker and scientist, opened his Théâtre des Soirées Fantastiques. Dressed in traditional eveningwear, he prefigures a new relationship with magic, which was theatrical and elegant, but above all which dossier from stradda #16 / page 4

denoted a space where the magic arts would soon be able to thrive. The opening of the Egyptian Hall in England in 1873 at the behest of Jonh Nevil Maskelyne was also a part of this notion of holding gathering places for practitioners of a modern magic destined to become increasingly spectacular.

★ A repertory of gestures,

codes and conventions governs modern magic. The close up, which favours the manipulation of cards, coins or cigarettes, is intended for a very small audience. Salon magic is practiced for about a hundred or so spectators. The magician then uses ropes, scarves, doves and playing cards... The great illusionist work performed on stage in the large theatres develops a repertory based on the use of boxes and spectacular theatrical techniques. The woman cut in two, the zigzag woman, the magic trunk and the many transformations that reveal wild animals and elephants appearing on stage, all allowed some magicians to become true stars: Siegfried & Roy, David Copperfield or Criss Angel amaze and fascinate millions of spectators from the four corners of the globe. © FRAMEDARTPICTURESCOM

The magic rope, which Ibn Battuta spoke of as early as 1355.

★ Seven main categories of effects can found in the realm of human fantasy: levitation, appearance, disappearance, transformation, teleportation, invulnerability and mentalism. From these main ideas magicians are endlessly inventing new tricks or new ways to perform them. ★ New magic came to life in 2002, wanting to free the discipline from its familiar and formal limits. Echoing the definition of modern magic proposed by Robert-Houdin – “the magician is an actor who plays the role of a magician”, new magic evokes “an art whose language is the diversion of the real within the real”, called to make use of the different functions taken on by magic throughout history, to become its own artistic form. ★ PASCAL JACOB

“An ability to infinitely transform the world” New magic offers a way to get back in touch with the feeling of magic. Its creative principle appears independently, but also within dance, the circus, theatre... Raphaël Navarro and Clément Debailleul, both initiators of this movement, talk to us about the foundations. Stradda: What is new magic?

Raphaël Navarro: It’s an art whose language is the diversion of the real within the real. Magic is a way to situate oneself in relationship with the real – space, time, objects... – in a specific kind of way. Movies and painting divert the real in the physical space of the image. Theatre and literature suggest it within a metaphorical space. New magic plays with the real within the real: that is to say, within the same space-time offered by perception. Images no longer correspond with an illusionist act. They make up a proper order to reality. Clément Debailleul: Magic has always existed and conceals many realities other than the form of the modern performance, which was born in the nineteenth century, when it was limited to a repertory of objects, effects and attitudes. New magic asks questions and opens up pathways: stepping out of the limits of the performing arts, imagining effects without a magician, going beyond the visual domain to address the other senses – smell, hearing, touch, taste... ; asking questions about the dizziness of the perception of space and time... a square rainbow, a meat-flavoured strawberry, an object that falls in silence... are all new images offered up to the imagination of artists and capable of taking on new life and meaning. We suggest getting back in touch with the feeling of magic. Being in the country of the new wave, new cuisine and the new novel, and coming from the new circus ourselves, it seemed logical to us to call this movement new magic. What do you thing the feeling off magic recovers and what place might it have in our time?

R.N. : It’s an ancestral and healthy emotion! Since magic is a threshold to the invisible, its goal is to bring into existence what does not exist. As an artistic form, it represents an ability to infinitely transform the world. C.D. : If one defines contemporary art as an appropriation of a vision of the world by the outlook of the artist, magic is an eminently contemporary form. It suggests another approach to reality. And

as a first form of human creation, it is also intrinsically popular. R.N. : The idea of this movement is to develop and to showcase magic, to reveal its different approaches, to support artists looking for innovative practices and to grow together. We also want to offer support and tools for a demanding kind of composition and efficient means of distribution for new and current creators as well as for those to come, who are speakers in their own right. New magic also offers a different approach to modern magic, complementary and precise, so as to make the magic arts a specific and independent form of language.

“If painting diverts the real in the space of the image, new magic diverts the real within the real.” Raphaël Navarro “To represent the impossible, new magic uses existing techniques or creates new ones.” Clément Debailleul

What are the specificities of this language? How do they influence the creative process?

R.N. : A language defines a way to express the world. There are certain things that one cannot translate into another language, because each one carries within it, in its vocabulary, its grammar, its dialectics or its history, a way of situating itself in relation to the world. This is also the case in the language of magic. It is governed by technical constraints, grammatical rules and a certain number of psychological, mechanical, material, bodily or scenographic principals that influence the way in which a show is written. A magic effect never works ➜

Raphaël Navarro is a scenographer, juggler, magician and theorist. Clément Debailleul is a scenographer, juggler, magician and multimedia artist. In 2000 they created Cie 14:20, now associated with the Hippodrome in Douai, and began working for the emergence of an original artistic form: new magic. In 2005 they opened the first training programme in the magic arts, recognised and supported by the Ministry of Culture through the Cnac. The “For a new magic” manifesto, drafted by Clément Debailleul, Valentine Losseau and Raphaël Navarro is due to be released in 2010. http://cie1420. fr

dossier from stradda #16 / page 5

“Solo S”, by Cie 14:20.

➜ on its own. It must be coupled with processes that play with the attention or respiration of the audience. These processes must have an influence on the pace, the creation of movement. They can inflect the entire scenography. But beyond its specific written form, the language of magic is the vehicle of issues that are all its own. C.D. : In this language, the technical gesture takes on new meaning. The imbalance of the real is envisioned as an artistic question. In order to represent the impossible, new magic uses existing techniques or creates new ones, but it does not lock itself up in a repertory of effects, a single message or aesthetic, nor does it reduce itself to one single form of artistic expression. Clouded perception is a creative principle that can reach other fields. This is why we think of new magic as an artistic movement and not as a form of internal, aesthetic revolution.

How does that translate concretely?

C.D. : For example, cubism corresponds to an aesthetic revolution within painting. Its principles are not transferable to other forms of expression. Inversely, a movement like surrealism of course involved literature during its time, but it also involved pain-



“Les Impromptus 2009”, by Cie 14:20, at the Académie Fratellini.

ting, sculpture, photography, film and theatre... Likewise, new magic – as a language based on the diversion of the real within the real – can be a valid creative principle within many domains: theatre, circus and puppetry, as well as painting, cuisine, haute couture, land art and architecture. That is the kind of artistic movement that it is. R.N. : Magic can influence and inspire a number of creations, for it allows one to make the invisible visible, to animate the inanimate, to materialise or suggest the unreal, to create doubt, to work on our identity and our perception... It’s also one of the rare techniques that are not embodied from the start. It can take on any form, as long as it manages – within the real – to embody that which does not exist. Paintings remain pictures, choreography a body in movement... Magic recovers the field of all that is not real: its space is, by definition, broader than the real and has no predefined appearance. Its images cannot be contained within any list, as exhaustive as it may be. It gives birth to images, processes and emotions that are all its own. That is what makes it an art in its own right! ★ TEXT COMPILED BY JULIE BORDENAVE

Training. The transmission of a language


n a domain where the secret is king, a gesture of open transmission is already an indisputable sign of progress. Five years ago, Raphaël Navarro and Clément Debailleul put into place, at the Centre National des arts du cirque in Chalôns-enChampagne, the first new magic training programme. This course can be followed as part of the general training programme, through writing and composition workshops, or as part of ongoing professional training (as a dossier from stradda #16 / page 6

350 hour course). Classes discuss theory, practice and creation – from the history of magic to stage work, including technique and direction – allowing students to master this “language” and to enrich their compositions. This is accomplished with the help of instructors with backgrounds in performance and in theory – along with ten or so magicians. There are also anthropologists, historians and criminologists, as well as the choreographers Kitsou Dubois and Philippe

Decouflé, the dancer and actor Pierrick Malbranche (the Philippe Genty company), the architect and scenographer Pascale Lecoq (daughter of Jacques), the actress and director Coline Serreau, one of the co-founders of the Cirque Plume, Jean-Marie Jacquet, the jugglers Etienne Saglio and François Chat... This instructional programme proves that magic can be more than a simple cabaret attraction. It can build bridges between the arts. In parallel, and as a sign of its

commitment, the Cnac, is putting into place the largest European resource collection on magic. Elsewhere, and on a more theatrical note, Thierry Collet also intends to support the renewal of codes, aesthetics and dramaturgy. He trains professional artists, most notably at the Conservatoire national supérieur d’art dramatique, and also offers classes to amateur actors, teachers, prisoners and architects... ★ ANNE QUENTIN



“All of our research can be helpful to art” Let’s travel to India to find street magicians, collaborations with philosophers, ethnologists, searches through old archives, work on current technologies... new magic can lead to all different kinds of studies. Stradda: New magic is also interested in the humanities. Can you tell us about your areas of research? Raphaël Navarro: A first section concerns research techniques, which include several components. The historical field – based on the means by which magic was conceived in relation to different time periods and geographic zones, notably in search of forgotten thought patterns – is coupled with an ethnological and anthropological aspect, in collaboration with Valentine Losseau, (doctoral student at the laboratory of social anthropology at the Collège de France), a scholar in constant contact with new magic. She carries out studies in the field with Lacandon Mayas in Mexico. The question of magic in different parts of the world – whether its function is religious, pre-scientific, esoteric or traditional – is for us a crucial element of understanding the role of perception of the real. Could you describe for us your fieldwork on traditional magic? R.N.: Our movement also works to build bridges between modern Western magic and traditional forms of magic. For example, India is a case in point: traditional street magicians represent a separate caste. We conduct on-site research regarding lost or forgotten tricks, not only to give them back to the magic community, but also to understand the elements behind these tricks and what kind of symbols they put into use. Yearly trips are made to India, to which we invite modern

French magicians in collaboration with the Fédération française des artistes prestidigitateurs. Conferences are also organised in France to encourage exchange between the network of subsidised performance spaces and artists from variety shows or traditional magic, who do not know each other. For example, in 2008, such a gathering was organized near Paris at the Chaufferie of the Compagnie DCA – Philippe Decouflé. Are these field activities accompanied by academic research? R.N.: We do draw from the philosophy and history of religions through exchange with scholars like Xavier Papaïs, a lecturer at the École Normale Supérieure, or Jean-Pierre Warnier, co-founder of the group of researchers Matière à penser. The academic network is essential for us. The erudite points of view that develop there put forth aesthetic or social proposals that can nourish art. Is there another study section for different techniques... R.N.: We work on the history of techniques, both magic – by looking at old engravings, theatrical machinery or optical principles – and mechanical, in the nautical domain, for example. The resurgence of all of these forgotten procedures since the arrival of motors or of electricity add to the current experiments – on new material or new technologies – to perfect innovative magic techniques. We are thus in partnership with many state-of-the-art companies

for the first aspects, and we are creating software for the second. Would you say that you are trying to outline the perception of the real by multiple entry points so as to better divert it? R.N.: These various experiments are inspired, lastly, by research on the workings of perception of the real from a mental and physiological point of view: brain activity, memory, social psychology, psychoanalysis... We thus open pathways alongside ethology (the study of animal behaviour) to try to understand if magic is an innate principle of life – since animals use techniques of illusion and mimicry in both the hunt and seduction – or to know if animals might have some kind of perception of the surreal. All of this research can be helpful to art; these domains are still very airtight, but they have a lot to offer each other. How is the research formalised? R.N.: The transmission takes place through training and public events: conferences, seminars, exhibits... We also carry out legal work with the jurist and magician Guilhem Julia, aiming to propose copyright laws for magic. In the end, we would like to create a research centre for new magic. Because aside from being a creative movement, it is truly an independent artistic principle: a motor that is becoming the vector of different expressions, aesthetics, or even techniques regarding the arts, carried out by many artists and companies. ★ TEXT COMPILED BY J.B.

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Coordination graphique : L. Athanase / E.V.A.C.

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Whether it is part of a story or the centre of the creative act, magic is used today to represent the invisible, to perform the impossible, or to bring an imaginary world to life. Here is an encounter with a few artists among the thirty or so companies that practice a new approach to magic today in France.


oing beyond the simple demonstration has already been an objective for years in the work of some magicians, including those from the traditional milieu. A king of card tricks, which he has been working at since the 80’s, Bebel, as early as 2000, was putting on “a simple mini-play” with the member of the Oulipi literary movement Jacques Jouet, putting the cards on stage as marionettes. Nostalgic for the magicians of yesteryear, who carried entire worlds in their carriages, Bebel is currently looking for an author to formalise the composition of his travelling project, “La Vie Secrètes des Cartes.”


The heralds of the magic revival

“I look to develop a relationship with the object before doing the trick, to bring the spectator into a surrealist poetry. My ambition is to tell the story, without having to prove anything.” Xavier Mortimer

Writing tool

Contextualising the effects of magic so as to make them part of a story is also the concept behind the work of Xavier Mortimer, who – since his first encounters with the world of modern magic in his adolescence – has worked to transform magic into an emotional force. “I look to develop a relationship with the object before doing the trick, to bring the spectator into a kind of surrealist poetry. My ambition is to tell a story, without having to prove anything.” His “Ombre orchestre”, which was created in 2003 in the Latvian terrain [email protected] and has already been performed over six hundred times, brings to life the fantasy of a solo musician who invents an orchestra dossier from stradda #16 / page 10

through the sheer force of his imagination. On the screen, shadows give life to subtle and crazy images, in a poetically old-fashioned aesthetic that uses the classical repertory of modern magic in honour of its more traditional forms. The magic of the Compagnie Décalée is a collective practice on stage, and serves as a writing tool, just like juggling or music. The trio shares with Jani Nuutinen (Circeo Aereo) – who will offer an outside perspective on their first creation “Living” (2006) – the desire to “include magic in a natural way, without diverting objects from their main func-

“Keskusteluja” by the WHS -Ville Walo & Kalle Hakkarainen company. “Partons pour Pluton”, by the Compagnie des Femmes à barbe.


tion: their presence is justified.” Here magic is a way of developing a situation within a codified or routine framework, such as that of hearing for “La Parade des hiboux” (2010). The musicians’ agony takes shape through a rebellious piano or a fabric that transforms into a ghost to haunt the thoughts of the pianist...

“Influences”, by the company, Le Phalène - Thierry Collet.

Thierry Collet The primitive concern

Contemporary psyche


Because of the fantasies that it taps into – reading minds, telekinesis... – mentalism is rooted in contemporary issues. In the vain of modern magicians demystifying fake spiritualists at the end of the nineteenth century, Gwen Aduh, from the Compagnie des Femmes à barbe, scoffs at “the paranormal and its impostures”, from the sale of fake miracle pills (“Les Gélules 4 couleurs de M et Mme Li”), to the telepathy of ufology (“Partons pour Pluton”), or the simulacra of shamanism (“Amanita Muscaria”). The artist uses techniques of magic – illusion, physical conditioning – in fully thought-out worlds

agic should be a contemporary form, in touch with the political, social and religious questions of its time”; as early as his first encounter with magic – and his discovery of the visual theatre of Philippe Genty or Mummenschanz in the 70’s – Thierry Collet was driven by the desire to give meaning to a discipline that seem to sorely need it. After his training as an actor and four shows of narrative magic, his last two creations have centred around mentalism: “We manipulate thoughts, not objects. Something very profound about magic is expressed: the relationship to power. The frame of the show is, of course, harmless. But the idea is nonetheless to represent a mental authority that takes control over a group with its tacit permission.” The societal angle, which was outlined in “Même si c’est faux, c’est vrai” (2007) with the theme of the mindset of the consumer, continues with “Influences.” Playing the role of the expert, the professor and the sales representative, the artist offers a series of shared experiences, indicating the mechanisms at work in the manufacturing of consent. Beyond a denunciation of these methods, there is also a desire to question its roots. “I bring together the feeling of magic and a primitive concern. I am interested in looking for the need that sets off the desire for enchantment, utopia, the will to hand oneself over to a mental authority.” ★ J.B.

Kurt Demey The mentalist city

that always offer a double interpretation: “For me, magic is an extension of religion. In the end, I am always confused by human credulity, the enthusiasm for paranormal phenomena... which all help me to create my shows!” For Scorpène, mental magic is a way of playing with one’s points of reference to allow a different perception of reality. Sharpening an astute observation of the other acquired in a career as a chess player, then looking to destabilise the real by bringing the visible and the subliminal together in live video performances, the artist makes use of three major pillars – “alchemy, quantum ➜




t is the most fertile terrain for cultivating illusions.” That is how Kurt Demey, the Flemish multidisciplinary artist describes the public space. After “L’Homme cornu” (2008), he is again using, in “La ville qui respire” (2010-2011 creation), mentalist techniques as artistic tools and thus makes magic a fundamental ingredient in his dramaturgical work. The spectator, taken in by five short sequences with a minimalist aesthetic, is plunged into “small urban rituals that destabilise their usual context of references”, provoking confusion and uncertainty. Such is the case in the enigmatic scene where a liquid contained in a glass jar turns out to be flammable... while a spectator has just taken a drink out of it as if it were water. For Kurt Demey, the city is full of tales and stories hidden in its recesses; invisible remains of past lives. Magic is an opening toward this invisible element, the fault line from which poetry springs out, when logical deductions fail. ★ A.G. “L’Homme cornu”, by Kurt Demey / Rode Boom. dossier from stradda #16 / page 11



“Le Soir des monsters”, Compagnie Monstre(s) Etienne Saglio

➜ physics and ‘The Songs of Maldoror’” – for his new creation of mentalist magic, “Réalité non ordinaire”, in which word games of the language of birds and magic effects aim to plunge the spectator into a receptive state, making room for intuition and improvisation: “Mentalist magic mixes performance and mystery: the strange, the being-out-there, this thing that reaches us all.”

Through the specificities of its composition, put into emphasis in new magic, the language of magic guides the creations of certain artists to make them “authors of magic.” By stepping onto the road of new magic at the Cnac in 2005, the juggler Etienne Saglio discovered a way to formalise the artistic intentions of his first creation, “Le Soir des monstres.” A character surrounded by cumbersome objects – monsters – compensates for his loneliness by bringing them to life. His mental switch-over is made concrete for the audience: “Magic allows me to perform, within the real, this mise en abyme in relation to the creative act of the artist: moments of illumination and moments of total solitude where the mind can wander.” Presiding over the writing of the show, the language of magic imposes three dramaturgical different realities: normal reality, wherein the character is developed; magical reality, expressing in a tangible way the distorted activity of the mind, with, for example, a pipe that transforms into a snake; and emotional reality, creating timeless bubbles with suspended sketches, like a juggling sequence with a plate of polystyrene. Instilling itself even in the reality of the spectator (the house, the wings of the theatre), magic guides the scenographic choices: “From creating movement, to the choice of lighting, the whole thing is set against the idea of navigating between different strata of reality, which is the very heart of the message.” Etienne Saglio has continued his technical research in the performing arts (slow-motion diabolo with Antoine Perrieux) and the visual arts. He thus created two installations, a mini-couple of paper dancers, spiraling into a furious tango on an old wooden table, and levitating clouds under bells made of glass. “From this apparatus there is a relationship with frozen time, we work to create movement, like by making the cloud rain...” An encounter with new magic also allowed the director Olivier Porcu (compagnie Pentimento) to bring to life ideas that had for a long time been dormant within him, “about the small death, about absence.” Located in the future, the world of “Manipulation(s)” – uchronia in the vain of Orwell, Kafka and Calvino – depicts a totalitarian universe. Transformed into a digital population, dossier from stradda #16 / page 12


Parallel realities

“Movement, choice of lighting, the whole [scenography] is set against this navigation between different strata of reality” Etienne Saglio the audience has its papers examined by the actor playing a public servant of the future. Magic, through the manipulation of objects and predictions, puts into place this omnipotent and omniscient matrix, where the actor and the spectator are placed within the same momentum. The author is currently working on an adaptation of “Dans la solitude des champs de coton” by Bernard-Marie Koltès, revisiting the famous dialogue between the dealer and the customer through the hologram: “The direction of an actor simultaneously portraying two characters on stage allows one to look for more intimate elements.”

The impossible instant

Magic can also be extracted from a story to seize on an impossible instant. Romain Lalire plants his “Instants magiques” within the city, like in situ mini-performances, which also work on the

Cie 14 : 20 The spectacular at the service of sensations


reated in 2000 by Raphaël Navarro and Clément Debailleul, Cie 14:20 explores new magic. As early as 2004, “Solo S” placed magic in resonance with poetry and painting, juxtaposing the presence of two jugglers to put into play the randomness of the echoing collapse of the words of Michel Butor, the ephemeral of suspension as seen by the durability of the line set on a canvas. The 2009 creation “Vibrations” centres around four solos, creating spectacular images to bring into play the movements and the states of the body: free from gravity, the dancer Fatou Traoré explores a new, gestural language, levitating two metres above the ground, before encountering her holograms, immanent alter egos revealed by fixating a movement in space, like fragments of residual memories finding independence so as to become partners in their own right; the juggler François Chat starts up a sensual double act with his shadow, which eventually will literally absorb him; the juggling of Etienne Saglio follows the movement of the stars, inciting a spiral of twenty-five phosphorescent balls in exponential rotation above the audience; the movement is instilled in a visual work, through a picture with shifting visual content. Magic techniques and digital arts are put into use to create states of global immersion, nestling in the spectator’s sensations so as to generate memory. The nomadic structure inaugurated for “Vibrations” is the company’s Monolith (a black cube, 8m x 12m x 8m), which is presented as an itinerant laboratory on new magic, placing itself within the public space so as to host distribution events, residencies, or gatherings.★ J.B.

Confusion of sound

Confusion can also be expressed through the domain of sound. With the duet Kristoff K. Roll, the musician Jean-Christophe Camps has, since 1990, been carrying out research on the natural theatricality of sounds: “Making the object produce a sound is already to give it another meaning. Magic also allows one to play with the potential of set sound: substitution, de-synchronism...” Demonstrations with listening stations and the creation of ➜

Olivier Poujol Answering history with magic


livier Poujol has been at the head of the Élan Bleu company since 1995. This enthusiast of classical authors like Shakespeare and Flaubert paradoxically does his best to get away from the text: dance, circus, new technologies... all ways of expressing emotion while stepping away from the word alone. He is versed in the exploration of identity and its metamorphoses and his work on the heteronyms of Fernanado Pessoa as early as 2007 called for an apparatus of optical magic so as to render the interior world of the writer in its many incarnations. New magic is at the source of his latest creation, a “Faust” transformed for the age of the Internet. “I decided to rewrite the play and to start with the possibility of magical effects that inflect its constructions. My focus was to respond to history with magic effects.” A way of recognizing the calibre of Mephisto: “I wanted this character to surprise us constantly, without making him a magician doing tricks. I wanted the audience to see him in one place and all of a sudden he pops up elsewhere, even in the house with the spectators. Creating tricky moments without really identifying them, switching over to a somewhat frightening malaise.” Magic is also a way of bringing out what can’t be said: “Materialising images from our unconscious, from our fantasies that we often hide. Seeing them appear before our eyes creates very strong emotions.” ★ J.B. Compagnie l’Elan bleu “Faust”, Compagnie L’Elan Bleu.


magical gesture of sign language with the deaf actor-magician Bastien Authier. An enthusiast of visual theatre, the Finnish Kalle Hakkarainen offers, as a duet with the juggler Ville Wallo, and with the WHS company, performances with a refined aesthetic, alternating between incongruous or anxiety-ridden instants; interaction with the actress of an old Russian propaganda film transformed as a romance; bullfight with the images of a bus on the run... The important thing is the impact of the created image: a confusion of the senses resulting from the association of incongruous images, like oxy-morons of the senses, such as “the delicacy of a nearly imperceptible movement – a piece of paper that crumbles up right away like magic, for eight minutes – accompanied by an incredible sound, that is heavy on the bass.” For his next solo performance (“Nopeussokeus”, 2010), Kalle will try out magical effects that play with the perception of speed.

dossier from stradda #16 / page 13



“It is the modification of the real in the time of the encounter with the audience that interests me, not the illusion in terms of effects.” Marco Bataille-Testu

Modified spaces

New magic allows the Théâtre du Signe to pursue, in an original way, its questioning about the representation of the real in theatre. Since 1992, the company has used new technologies to address societal or philosophical questions meant for a young audience (absence, borders, the origin of the world...): “Through the research taken on by Alain Bonardi, composer and researcher at Ircam, we have explored, for “Les petites absences” (2009), the tension and the impact of the emotional state of the actor-performer on the elements of the performance in real time”, explains Marco Bataille-Testu, co-director of the company with Sylvie Robe. “We envision magic as a sum of tools and processes aiming to open our perception of the real. It is the modification of the real in the time of the encounter with the audience that interests me, not the illusion in terms of effects. Our goal is the resonance of crossed compositions, which allows the spectator to reconstruct the space. The intrinsic strength of the magic tool also allows one to go further in the performance of modified spaces.” As part of its next creation (“J’ai brûlé mon nom d’enfance et je suis parti”, 2011), the company will begin research sessions on the fields opened up by new magic. Eventually, professional gatherings in Caen will provide the opportunity to invite artists, theorists and technicians to discuss the theme of the representation of the real. ★ J.B.;;;;; dossier from stradda #16 / page 14


➜ tandems all offer alternatives to the traditional codes of the concert: music with no musician – an echo of magic without a magician, one of the themes proposed by new magic, which plays a role in the research carried out for the Kristoff K. Roll’s next creation, “L’Egaré.” “The idea will be to plunge the magic of the phenomenon of sound into the world of visual magic, where the objects can have their own autonomy of movement and the thoughts of a visual materialisation.”

The great illusion From the Théâtre de Chaillot, to the Théâtre de la Bastille, magic has been infiltrating, invisible but powerful, into the diverse forms of the performing arts. “Sombrero”, by the compagnie DCA, Philippe Decouflé.


ach beginning of a movement can be observed through the growing interest that other artists may have for its techniques. Just as one sees more and more circus artists in theatre performances or choreographers in the public space, today magic can be found in a growing number of productions. Certain creators are interested in this new tool, in this language, and integrate them into their creative world.

Fantastic images

The result is images that cannot be forgotten... the body of a dancer that struggles between the giant shadow of nimble fingers (“Sombrero”, Philippe Découflé, 2007); an actor in a raincoat and a hat that flies away on large paper planets (“Boliloc”, Philippe Genty, 2008), the bust of a woman who

Opening the doors

At the service of these illusions, a handful of shadow artists are contributing to the larger presence of magic within the cultural space. Philippe Beau is one of them, as are Abdul Alafrez and Thierry Collet. While they develop very different artistic worlds, they share a similar approach to magic. Their magic blossoms when in contact with other arts. Abdul Alafrez is a Beaux-Arts graduate and, early on, became very interested in music and art in its most contemporary forms. He “quickly pulled away from a rather dusty old way of doing magic”, so as to explore other possibilities. The list of his collaborations attest to his open-mindedness: from the jazz collective ARF (Association à la recherché d’un folklore imiaginaire) to the stage director Dan Jemmett (for “La Grande Magie” by Edouardo De Filippo at the Comédie Française), not to mention his current work with Julie Brochen on Chekov’s “The Cherry Orchard” (at the Théâtre National de Strabourg). We find the same atypical profile with Philippe Beau, who has made shadow work (magic work with shadows and hands) his specialty. After a few fateful meetings (with, among others, Philippe Découflé and Robert Lepage), he now focuses on collaborations, and is driven by a desire to “bring magic and shadow work to arts that would not have thought to use them.” In magic, “everything is possible. To say that to stage directors or choreographers, it opens up doors for them....

Exchange of good practice

The key to collaboration is in exchange. The magician puts his skills and technique at the service of the project. In return, he finds new means of exploration. “I work in close detail with my hands”, Philippe Beau tells us, “Collaborating with dancers, I can explore ideas that their bodies make possible. They become shadow performers.” According to whether he is present on stage or not, the demand and the time available, Abdul Alafrez intends to “permanently reinvent the trade. When I arrive at a theatre, everyone has his place. I don’t, I have to find it, create it. It’s a fulfilling experience every time.” Each show is a chance to invent or to test new effects, but also to advance the art of magic itself by putting it in contact with other artistic disciplines. These magic effects must transcend their technical side to insert themselves as well as they can into the dramaturgy, the ➜

“Le Défilé”, an exhibit by Jean Paul Gaultier and Régine Chopinot at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, in Paris.


lifts up into the air, leaving her legs on stage (“Sur le fil de minuit”, Luc Petton, 2002). When one speaks figuratively of the “magic” of these shows, one could not put it any better. There most certainly is something magical about them.


“39GeorgeV”, a giant trompe-l’œil by Pierre Delavie and Frédéric Beaudoin, 2007.

An active principle New magic wants to build bridges between artistic disciplines. Outside of the borders of the performing arts, it is already taking its place as the active principle of ritualised moments like the haute couture fashion shows: weightless collections, metamorphoses of models in plain view imagined by Cie 14:20 for the exhibit “Le Défilé”, by Jean Paul Gaultier and Régine Chopinot at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in 2007. It is also present in the transformable clothing of the designer Hussein Chalayan. Another ritual moment to approach is the meal, as much for its proceedings as for its performance of textures and flavours. Ferran Adrià, chef at the restaurant El Bulli, in Catalonia, speaks of magic as one of the emotions promoted by his culinary language. His work gives birth to flavours of carrot or electric cakes... At the crossroads of disciplines, the chemist and visual artist Laurent Duthion offers molecular music, sub-aquatic tastings in an aquarium and other bubbles filled with Antarctic odours of flowers. But the fields of application for magic are infinite. Its processes are found within several artistic approaches. They can also be found in the work of video artists (the optical theatre of Pierrick Sorin, slow-motion performances by Julien Maire), painters (anamorphose on sidewalks by Julian Beever), photographers (floating images on abandoned buildings, by Georges Rousse), or sculptors (impossible, three-dimensional figures by Francis Tabary)... Fleeting architecture plays with illusions, such as giant optical illusions to create a soft apartment building in the middle of Paris (39GeorgeV, 2007), an “act of urban surrealism”, according to its creators Pierre Delavie and Frédéric Beaudoin. At the crossroads of automation and design, the work in progress is already turning heads; interactive installations (research on the musical gesture by Blue Yeti; installations for museums or hospitals by Mine Control...), enchanted lights by Ingo Maurer, modular furniture by Kerdema Design, and the jacket of invisibility by Professor Susumu Tachi, promising the eventual creation of transparent walls or virtual windows... ★ J.B. dossier from stradda #16 / page 15



➜ story, the narration. “I never bring a purely technical performance”, Thierry Collet explains, “it’s also a matter of participating in the meaning, of offering a stylistic or thematic interpretation.”

The key word of this incursion of magic into the performing arts is illusion; an important theme in the stage arts. After having solicited Philippe Beau for “Kà”, a creation of the Cirque du Soleil, Robert Lepage called on him for a sequence of shadows in the opera “The Nightingale and Other Short Fables”, by Stravinsky. As for Thierry Collet, he recently explored the links between magic and film in a “Cinderella” by Massenet in the Opéra Comique. He is also at the side of Jean Lambert-Wild for a hybrid creation mixing together texts, images and objects, presented this summer in Avignon. These are all creations where magic inserts itself into a multi-facetted context that fascinates the spectator. “When events take place as if by magic”, writes Philippe Genty, “the spectator is propelled into a world where not everything is logical. A small door opens up. Surely, some will refuse to get involved. But most will tell us ‘We don’t need any explanations... We entered into the images as if in a dream!’ The idea is not to use magic for the sake of magic, but to reinforce what’s happening on stage.” ★ ANNE GONON


At the Opera (Philippe Decouflé) ; ; ;

Abdul Alafrez abounds in collaborations, from the Comédie Française to jazz.

Distribution. From Rouen to Rome, enthusiasm is on the rise New magic is quite certainly creating a distribution network for itself. It can now be found on national stages in Dieppe, Douai, Marseille or Poitier, in the ring in Amiens or Elbeuf, in festivals in Auch, Paris or Rome...


he fascination surrounding new magic can be found in the programming of an ever-growing network. The Hippodrome, the national performance space in Douai and a major supporter of the movement, partnered up with Cie 14:20 for three years because, as its Director Gilbert Langlois explains it, “their movement brings out thought and meaning. Magic crosses over civilisations and cultures. It resonates with everyone.” On the programme we find shows, exhibits, films and conferences on new magic. Modern and new. In Marseille, Le Merlan is extending the worked it started last season. In October it will be organising a 10-day festival to bring modern and new forms of magic together. It hopes to make a regular occurrence of these gatherings up until Marseille 2013. dossier from stradda #16 / page 16

The Norman stage, where this movement began, has since been a staunch supporter. DSN (Dieppe Scène Nationale) and La Foudre in Rouen have taken on the work of new magicians. In Paris, the Théâtre National de Chaillot will open a pavilion on magic in July 2010, during the festival Imaginez maintenant (put in place by the Council for artistic creation) and has called on Cie 14:20 for its next season. On the circus end, Roger Le Roux in Elbeuf has programmed several events based on new magic forms (magic shows, gatherings and meals). At the Cirque Jules Verne in Amiens, JeanPierre Marcos is organising an evening of discussion between modern and new forms of magic. In the Paris region, the Académie Fratellini is actively supporting the movement. It regularly hosts the “laboratory” of experimentation and

of residency for new magic. And in Auch, Circuits will be offering several shows coming from this movement. The Festival mondial du cirque de demain created a new magic section in 2009. Brothers of Calcutta. Abroad, Roma Europa is including a wide range of magic for its autumn festival. The Indian Brotherhood of Magicians (Delhi) and the Magic Research Society (Calcutta) will, on an increasingly regular basis, host new magic artists for their festival. The Big Apple Circus from New York aims to create American exposure, bringing its help to the work of Cie 14:20. A growing and composite network reflective of the kind of work and potential found in the field of magic, or rather a rhizome with both visible and underground roots, all promise a wonderful flourishing, necessary to give life to this emerging form. ★ A. Q.

Who’s who in new magic


Here are a few artists whose work subscribes to the concepts proposed by new magic (non-comprehensive list):

Cie 14:20 Cie Décalée Cie La Torgnole Cie L’Elan Bleu Cie des Femmes à Barbe Cie Mobilobadour Cie Pentimento Circo Aero Antoine Terrieux Bastien Authié Bébel Dis Bonjour à la dame François Chat Kristoff K.Roll (J-Kristoff Camps)

Kurt Demey Le Phalène (Thierry Collet) Les Décatalogués Monstre(s) (Etienne Saglio) Porkeno Romain Lalire Scorpène Théâtre du Signe Tide Company Tour de Cirque WHS (Kalle Hakkarainen) Xavier Mortimer Yann Frisch Yvan Gauzy


Through key events that are made part of their performance programme, supportive actions or gatherings, these structures have expressed their interest in new magic: IN FRANCE ★ Académie Fratellini, La Plaine Saint-

Denis. The Académie Fratellini wishes to play an active role in supporting the new magic movement and the recognition of magic in the broadest sense of the term: regularly hosting the Compagnie 14:20’s Monolith, an itinerant, new magic laboratory; conferences; classes available to apprentices of the CFA (Conservatory for the circus arts); the booking of magic shows in the future... ★ Bibliothèque Municipale de Lyon. ★ La Chaufferie / Cie DCA. ★ Circuits, state-recognised performance space, Auch. ★ Cirque Jules Verne, Amiens. For this new season dedicated entirely to the circus, the Cirque Jules Verne in Amiens will be setting up a special event for magic on May 11 with a new magic conference, followed by a magical evening: “a panel of acts representative of the way in which New Magic has presented itself as an independent artistic movement, with a very strong link with modern magic, at the crossroads of all disciplines, form the arts of time to those of space, the visual and the performing arts.” Among the artists present, there is Bebel the magician, Cie 14:20 – Kim Huynh and François Chat, Norbert Ferré, Gaëtan Bloom, Philippe Beau and Olivier Porcu, with the special participation during the week of Jacot the Illusionist. ★ Cirque Théâtre d’Elbeuf, Elbeuf. ★ CNAC, Châlons-en-Champagne. Since 2006, the Centre National des Arts du Cirque has offered a unique training programme in new magic. It is intended for all professionals of the performing arts wishing to broaden their knowledge or to perfect a new approach to magic (artistic aspects, technical aspects, etc.). Furthermore, a writing and composition workshop is offered to students of the CNAC: theoretical tools for comprehending the structures of circus creation, as well as the aesthetic and performative notions that they imply; with a practical application of new magic tools and the compositional potential that they offer, all taking into account the specialities of the students. The resource centre of the CNAC constitutes a unique source of information on new magic. It currently includes 250 reference works - and

some are very rare, as most of them have been released in only a small number of copies. These are the only open-access resources for magic professionals, artists interested in object manipulation and scholars. ★ DSN Dieppe Scène Nationale. ★ Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain. ★ FFAP (Fédération Française des Artistes Prestidigitateurs). ★ L’Hippodrome, Douai. This national performance space of Douai persistently offers a multi-disciplinary performance programme (theatre, dance, concerts, circus...) and is a strong proponent of new magic, with a three-year partnership with Cie 14:20 (on-site artistic and cultural education), the creation and distribution of shows, exhibits, cartes blanches, seminars, conferences, itinerant research laboratories... The Hippodrome has also partnered with the universities of Artois to develop research on new magic. ★ Ay-roop [production group] ★ Le Cube, centre of digital creation (creation hub). ★ Le Rayon Vert, subsidized performance space of Saint-Valeyen-Caux. [email protected] ★ Le Merlan, scène nationale, Marseille. ★ TAP, Scène nationale de Poitiers. ★ Théâtre de la Cité Internationale, Paris. ★ Théâtre National de Chaillot, Paris. ★ Théâtre de La Foudre, scène nationale Petit Quevilly/MontSaint-Aignan. ★ Théâtre Romain Rolland, state-recognised performance space,

Villejuif et du Val de Bièvre. ★ The City of Tremblay-en-France.

ABROAD ★ Big Apple Circus, New York. ★ Indian Brotherhood of Magician, Delhi. ★ Magic Research Society, Calcutta ★ Roma Europa, Rome. dossier from stradda #16 / page 17


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a quitté Paris pour sʼinstaller en bord de Seine et sʼintégrer à lʼéco-quartier des « Docks de Ris » à Ris-Orangis (Essonne), à 30 minutes de Châtelet (RER D). Ce nouvel espace de cirque contemporain, direction artistique Adrienne Larue et Fabien Demuynck, accueille sous ses chapiteaux des compagnies en résidence, des artistes, et lʼatelier Cirque pour les amateurs Rissois. Créations 2010 C ie Arts des Airs, Armance Brown/Bruno Krief Sieste cubaine les 11,12 et 13 juillet C ie Rialto Fabrik Nomade, William Petit Préliminaires C ie Etokan, Dan Demuynck, Fabien Demuynck, Daniel Buren Nord/Sud C ie Avek, Ludivine Narès ANIMAL(s)

Les créations dʼAdrienne Larue Le tarot des destins croisés (reprise) Les baraques foraines (création) qui mettent en piste ses personnages de magicienne très décalée. ● [email protected] Nouveau téléphone : 06 83 63 20 94 K2CIRK/FABIEN DEMUYNCK

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dossier from stradda #16 / page 20

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication [communication] reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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