The Development of Socialist Magic: Reflections on the Place of Power and Ideology in Magic Performance

Abstract

The author seeks to establish a historical context for his own performance practice, which combines radical left politics with magic tricks and ventriloquism. A survey of the iconography of magic performance from the time of Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin onwards reveals an ideological underpinning which reflects hierarchies of class, gender and race in society. However, the magician’s role is complex, as he (or less commonly she) practises an art which is part of ‘low’ culture, despite its association with the rich and powerful. Moreover, the modern magician is associated with rationalism and scepticism, which sometimes puts the conjurer on the side of a progressive view of society. The author examines his own attempts to overcome this disjunction in his practice and explains why, for him, the combination of agitprop and magic performance can only be effective through the use of humour.

How to Cite

Saville I. (2013) “The Development of Socialist Magic: Reflections on the Place of Power and Ideology in Magic Performance”, Journal of Performance Magic. 1(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.5920/jpm.2013.112

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Ian Saville

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0

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This article has been peer reviewed.

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