The Magician

'Walking a fine line between trickery and divinity'

"I don't think I ever saw [a magic show] as a kid. It wasn't until I was an adult, probably in America... But I've been reading about magic and its theatrical manifestations for years now and always thoroughly enjoyed histories of the lives of magicians. It's a curious business because illusionism is a popular art form but it also deals with death and resurrection. It's an entertainment that deals with darker issues, which has parallels with the horror genre. When the magician saws the lady in half and sticks her back together again he is presenting us neatly with an image of death and resurrection. The image we are presented with, if you think about it, is extremely gruesome. Though no blood hits the stage, it's a very distressing image. You put a woman in a coffin-shaped box and you saw the body in half, and then there's two parts of a woman and magic is performed and the woman is put back together again. What we are being presented with is a very old shaman trick in the form of a piece of popular entertainment. You're performing something that is actually a very ancient ritual in which the shaman says, 'I can transform death'. One of the things which we go to this kind of entertainment for is the faint belief that this time it might go wrong. Maybe you don't hope it will go wrong, but it's the trapeze act. It's the 'supposing this time...' There's always that edge, that question.Let's look at the roots of the magician tradition. You'd have to go back to the shaman figure. You'd go back to the man or woman in the tribe whose dream journeys are ways by which the tribe better understands itself. The shaman takes the dream journey, sometimes under the influence of drugs, sometimes under the influence of meditation or chanting or drumming, and returns from this journey having spoken to the ancestors, having spoken to the deities, having better comprehended the future because he or she has walked with the gods, or among the dead sometimes. Now, in our spiritually debased culture where the priest figure is more likely to be a pederast than someone who's likely to walk with the dead; when the Vatican is this vast, crumbling, hypocritical empire; when the spiritual wisdom of The Bible has been turned to shit because the people who 'interpret' it - in heavy inverted commas - use it as a means to beat up everything they don't like, or don't want, or don't comprehend, people are looking to different places for spiritual inspiration and one of the places they look is works of fantasy."

The Magic Show

By Nick Vince, Clive Barker's Hellbreed, Vol 1, May 1995

"The difference between magic and illusion isn't just at the heart of what this movie [Lord of Illusions] is about, it's also at the heart of what my fiction is about. It's certainly a preoccupation of mine. In short, it comes down to this: we all like to be deluded - as consumers of entertainment, as churchgoers, as voters... There's a part of us that enjoys the sleight of hand and is reassured by someone coming up and saying, 'Look at what I can do.' "

Clive Barker - Lord Of Illusions

By Nigel Lloyd, SFX, No 16, September 1996

"I've seen every 70mm spectacle there is to be seen and I've sat with my teeth chattering while THX has made the whole theatre shake and I'm still a three year old in the face of magic acts. Partly it's the extraordinary skill with which the trick is executed, but partly it's that you are reminded of how much you want to believe. It reminds you of how eagerly you will run into the arms of the miraculous if it's offered."

A Kind of Magic

By Maitland McDonagh, The Dark Side, No 45, April/May 1995

"It's something that I've always enjoyed. But seeing Siegfried & Roy in Las Vegas, and seeing David Copperfield a couple of times, made me aware that the theatrical part of it is exceedingly cinematic. The pizzazz, the showmanship - the spectacle of it is very watchable. I thought that would be a cool thing to dramatise: to show the story behind the story.
"The subtext of magic shows is so often death and resurrection. They're entertainments which contain very profound primal symbols. The magician cuts the lady in half and she's dead. He then puts her back together again; she's alive. The magician cuts himself in half, as Copperfield does, and his guts fall out, and then he sticks himself back together again - and, boy, he's whole! That's a very plain, almost shamanistic symbol. It interests me that in this form of popular entertainment we're being presented with these images of the miraculous. In fact, one magician in the movie says , "We walk a line." And Harry says to him "Oh, a line between heaven and hell?" And the magician says, "No, a line between trickery and divinity." And I think that is what's going on. The illusionist on the stage has almost godlike powers. And yet we all know it's an entertainment, we all know it's a trick, we all know it's being done with smoke and mirrors. But at the same time, we're delighted that this illusion works.But in a sense, isn't that one of the things that we go to a magic show to see - to see it go wrong? Supposing this time the magician couldn't stick the lady back together again? Supposing she just wouldn't stick? That's what's going on in that: We're sort of delivering to our cinema audience one of the things that I think audiences for magic shows fear constantly - which is, maybe this time something terrible will go wrong.
"I don't know any of these people closely enough to say for sure what makes them become magicians - nor would I wish to inquire too closely. But some of it has got to be about having power over an audience. A great magician, for a moment, suspends everything you believe about the world. It's an extraordinary power: They stand back with that smug smile that says, Look what I did - I'm a miracle worker! As a writer and director, I understand that. I'm trying to do exactly the same thing to my audience - make them believe for a moment that these miracles are real."

Clive Barker's Lurid Fascination

By Dan Lamanna, Cinescape, No [ ], January 1995

"The distinction I want to make between magic and illusion is that I believe people are constantly being fed the idea that a Walt Disney film is full of magic. Bullshit! So many of the wonderful, magical, poetic possibilities of fiction and imagemaking have been degraded by this culture, have been reduced to tricks to sell hamburgers. So the distinction I want to make in my fiction is essentially the difference between the trick that is used to sell more hamburgers and what it really means to look in your dog's eyes."

Addicted To Creativity (Part 2)

By Bill Babouris, Samhain, No 71, January 1999

"Magic is a very serious subject for me but I wouldn't be playing fair with what I know to pass any of that along. Being, by its very nature, outside language, some of this stuff has to remain unsaid and unspoken . It's a very serious study for me."

World Weaver

By John M Farrell, Hot Press, No 13951, 1995

"In the traditional version of the shaman, the magician, the one who walks between the worlds, one of the things that make it possible to walk between worlds is a wound. The perfected body, the perfected soul is in a higher place. In the unperfected wounded self, the wound is an ability which grants you the power to look outside the conventional, luxurious, hedonistic, the sensual things which preoccupy us in this world into some other place. I think it's one of the reasons why very often artists are wounded, are psychically wounded in one way or the other. I think actually the truth is everybody is psychically wounded, the issue is whether you own up to it or not.
"I think what I'm trying to do constantly is when I have these kind of journeys into empowerment, is that there is always a price for a that empowerment. It's the yin and yang; without paying the price, you can't have the empowerment, but the empowerment to some extent may even cause you to pay the price. You have to grasp something very painful, you have to have to open yourself up to very painful experiences. The pain of the world if you will. And I think that one of the things that artists do, that magicians do, religious figures do is open up the place in us which we seal off very quickly as children, because we realize if we open up too much, it hurts too much. The world is full of hurt. People die, people leave, the world changes radically, unpredictably; things that we love finish, things that we hate begin. The experience of the world from an early age is primarily, I think an experience of loss and pain and despair. In order to heal those feelings paradoxically you have to put yourself up to them.
"My books are very often 'Look it's okay to be wounded, it's okay to be imperfect but be aware that the wound should not just be suffered, it should be used. It should be a way to become the richer, more loving more constructive more articulate human being."

Explorer From The Far Reaches Of Experience

By Kim August, Pharr Out! 1998

"On the crassest level, the lady gets into the box, the lady is sawn in half, the lady is in two pieces, the box is put back together again and the lady is whole. The magician, the shaman figure, the worker of miracles divides and subdivides himself and his assistants. He's drowned, is bound, is filled with swords, and comes out whole.
"Houdini was an extraordinary showman but also believed in supernatural powers. For Houdini this wasn't contradictory: you could dedicate yourself to doing tricks and wowing people with illusions, but you could also believe in the dead speaking to you... I was actually at one of those seances where they tried to get him back and he didn't show. I was really pissed, though maybe he has better things to be doing... "

A Kind of Magic

By Maitland McDonagh, The Dark Side, No 45, April/May 1995

"Magic is, for me, the transformative capacity. In the Walt Disney version, this means that you point at a teapot and it becomes a carriage. I mean it in terms of transforming the psyche, in making our bland and mundane vision of the world into something wonderful and insightful. The magical process is, at least in part, a re-sensitising of the adult, returning the adult to the condition of wonder of the child, who sees things as fresh and clean and new."

Magic Barker

By Alan Morrison, The List, 24 October - 6 November 1991

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