Editorial: Magic

Amber McCulloch

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AmberMcCulloch Amber McCulloch

DAVID COPPERFIELD! I must see him! Who can give me freebies?

03 August 2009


AmberMcCulloch Amber McCulloch

Dammit. I throw this out to the group: I need freebies to David Copperfield. Needed.

03 August 2009


And such was my frenzy* upon hearing that master illusionist David Copperfield would be appearing for one night only. Thankfully, my freebies did arrive, and it was with no small amount of curiosity that I joined several thousand punters at Sydney’s Acer Arena.

As expected, the world’s best paid contemporary magician dragged gormless members of the Aussie public from their seats and onto the stage to take part in a show replete with pyrotechnics, radio mikes, big hair, disappearing and appearing objects, swishing cloths, death defiance and, most importantly, constant patter. For what was most awe-inspiring about Copperfield’s show was not the Ford Thunderbird suddenly ‘materialising’ on the stage (although that was pretty good), it was the illusion of the illusionist himself.

You see, Copperfield’s portrayal of a vocational magic man—his self-deprecating, nostalgic, disarmingly genuine style—is where the real magic lay. In his ability to make an audience of reasonable people actually want to be duped, to give over their perception of reality, irrespective of what they know to be true.

With this in mind, I wonder if the role of the artist is all that different to that of the illusionist. Both create something that prompts the beholder to forego reason, to allow the mind to wander, to be receptive to new ideas or new modes of discovery. Art and magic are equally expansive—they make the world larger, while existing in a microcosm of technique and methodology.

In this issue, we explore magic’s myriad forms as exemplified by the diverse practices of a selection of contemporary artists. Simon Yates is a kitchen-table alchemist, one who makes something wonderful from base materials and ‘scientific’ hoodoo. The esotericism and eccentricity of Jonathan Hochman’s work suggests the concept of ‘gnosis’, in that it appears imbued with secret knowledge. Hossein Ghaemi’s performances embrace the mysticism of devotional rituals, while Pia Van Gelder embraces the magic of machines.

We hope that you enjoy this kaleidoscopic view of magic and the magical, and that, like a member of David Copperfield’s audience, you come away enriched with just a little sense of wonder. And remember … Magic Happens.

*Not frenzied enough to actually pay $118 to see him, mind you.


Amber McCulloch is a writer, editor and arts administrator, whose experience spans both publishing and the arts, with occasional happy crossovers. Amber has worked as...


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