Posts Tagged ‘mentalism’

Magic Menagerie

I am really excited for my new show, which draws on my lifelong love of magic and my deep appreciation of historical mysteries, the unexplained, and the unknown.

Coming in 2015, The Magic Menagerie is a parlour show steeped in mysteries from a bygone era, where lives crossed paths, people disappeared from social life, and deception was commonplace.

The show will have its debut on 7 February 2015 at the Milton Theatre in Huddersfield, a perfect venue housed in a converted Victorian church with an intimate seating arrangement for full participation.

 

Academic Magic comes to life!

Yesterday I had the honour and privilege of performing my show Then and Now as part of the alumni weekend and launch of the 50th Anniversary of the University of Essex.

I performed twice yesterday for a total audience of 400 people in the magnificent Lakeside Theatre. The show was designed around the idea of highlights of our academic strengths over the last 50 years, including politics, mathematics, memories, history, literature, human rights, and philosophy. The show covered a wide terrain of ideas reminiscent of times at university, as well as enduring themes and concepts that have importance in our everyday lives.

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The audiences comprised Essex alumni from the last 50 years, staff and colleagues (current and past) and current students. We had wonderful interactions, laughter, surprises, uncanny demonstrations of mind reading and precognition, and downright magic which will be hard to repeat. The atmosphere was electric and filled with what has become known as The Essex Spirit.

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By combining academic thinking with magical performance I have sought to challenge convention, create a platform for metaphysical plurality and bring edutainment into the lives of the Essex community. It was superb to learn of people’s experiences at Essex, the subjects they studied, their friends and their favourite professors and lecturers.

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I have been at Essex since 1993 and it has been a wonderful foundation and steady firmament for an academic career that has taken me all over the world. The University was founded as an experiment with ‘fierce’ architecture filled with open squares, tall towers, and a research mindset that provides an extraordinary educational experience for all our students.

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We continue to expand and improve the University (with the highest recruitment to date) while strengthening our commitment to excellence in eduction and excellence in research.

I am grateful for our newfound confidence and the popularity of our offer to students. Celebrating our history through magic gave me a great opportunity to reflect on my time at Essex (42% of its history as I mused last night) and look forward to a very bright future indeed!

I know it will be bright, I am a mentalist after all!

Then and Now: A Magical Celebration of Essex University at 50!

 

 

Then and NowThe University of Essex is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year. The year launches on our Alumni Weekend 12-14 September 2014.

As part of the celebrations I have been honoured to develop a magical celebration of our history in a dedicated stage show with music, visual images, and a wide range of uncanny demonstrations of coincidence, synchronicity, precognition, predictions, and direct mind reading.

The show explores topics such as politics, math, history, and philosophy which are wrapped in a magic carpet ride of highly interactive fun. The show runs from 4pm to 5pm (public show) and again from 6pm to 7pm (for alumni). It will also be staged again in December.

The University’s Lakeside Theatre is the perfect venue for the show as it allows raked seating, a huge performance area, and state of the art audio visual equipment.

This potted history of such a special University is serious fun with an academic twist and enjoyable for all. Tickets are FREE and can be booked by clicking HERE.

In Praise of Christian Cagigal

He bustled into the chamber in his coat, hat, and scarf and carrying his tattered leather case. Evocative of the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, he scurries about muttering about being late and begins to take things out of his case and setting them out on what is available in the room. Two small table cloths are draped over some furniture, a metronome is set out and turned on, a sand timer is positioned carefully on a small table, and an antique stereoscope is taken out and set on another table.

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So begins the enchanting and emotional one-man show from renowned San Francisco magician Christian Cagigal. Entitled ‘Now and at the Hour’, the show explores a wide range of themes around time, deja vu, and our inability to achieve resolution and closure with our parents. The show combines inexplicable moments of magic and mindreading with deep reflection on a childhood growing up with a father deeply affected by the Vietnam War.

The staging of the show took place in Hitchin Priory in Hertfordshire as part of the 14th Tabula Mentis meeting of Psycrets: The British Society of Mystery Entertainers, an international association I helped co-found in 2007.

I met Christian on-line and then spent a day with him in San Francisco in April 2013, when I invited him to come to the UK to share his performance with us. The room was transfixed as Christian made us gasp, laugh, sigh, and fall silent into a deeper and perhaps darker moment of contemplation. This is the kind of magic that moves us, where the ‘tricks’ are a fantastic medium for a much larger narrative. This is no holds barred stuff.

The show is exactly one hour, and when the last grain of sand fells from the top to the bottom of the timer, Christian jumps up, gathers his things back into his case, puts on his coat, hat and scarf and leaves in a nervous bluster once again.

The show is a must see and has won a number of accolades across the US at various fringe festivals and theatres.

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It was a true honour and a privilege to witness such artistry, and in my view, a quintessential exemplar of the new wave of performance magic that is making its way into the public.

Exploring the Outer Edges of the Mind

I had the good fortune last week of working with the School of Music, Humanities and Drama at the University of Huddersfield last weekend. The event is part of my role as a Visiting Professor of Performance Magic, which involves contributions to the Journal of Performance Magic, working with drama students, and performing my own material in evening shows.

This year, I worked with Nik Taylor and David Wainwright (FRSA) during the day with drama students in filming four short videos that explored a little known syncretic religion from Mexico, the medieval symbolism of the Tarot, the power of history through inherited objects, and the magical morality of Plato’s Ring of Gyges.

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La Flaquita explores the Mexican cult of Santa Muerte through offerings, transformations, and yielding to important messages. I had been exposed to this phenomena while in Mexico last January and became further intrigued after reading Andrew Chesnut’s fascinating Devoted To Death. I arranged for Andrew to give a talk on his book at Treadwell’s bookshop this summer and developed my own magical exploration as a result. A connection is made through the use of a pendulum, a coin mysteriously vanishes, tobacco transforms into wine, a prayer disappears over a candle to leave an uncanny message, and concerns of a young woman are revealed through direct  communication with La Flaquita.

The true origins of the Tarot are unknown, but many believe that the cards evolved from a game of the court to a set of medieval archetypal images that represent different phases in our development (the Major Arcana), accompanied by ongoing forces relevant to our daily lives (travel, health, romance, adventure, material wealth, etc. as articulated through the Minor Arcana). My own exploration of these ideas involved two young people, free choices and contemplation, which made themselves known to me, perhaps from the shared community of human minds. In the event, a the radiance of The Sun and the compassion of the Queen of Wands were revealed in a truly inexplicable fashion.

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I explored the power of history through a set of inherited objects: a small book, a silver coin, a key, a ring, and a gold watch. These objects are introduced in the context of my grandfather from Leiden and accompanied by his photograph and letter. The letter explains that each object has a deeper set of meanings that transcend their immediate physicality. The book is a miniature version of The Tempest and signifies knowledge and magic, the silver coin is a Morgan dollar and signifies material wealth, the key signifies secrets, the ring symbolises trust and commitment, and the watch stands for time, order and progress. My helpful participant ordered them thus: watch, key,  coin, ring and book. He was keen to focus on the orderly aspects of life before using the key to unlock opportunities, before looking at issues of wealth, trust and commitment, and the hidden world of knowledge that awaits him. Other participants made hidden selections which were divined, and the final selection was predicted in the letter, but nonetheless chosen by our final participant.

ring of gyges

Deep within the pages of Plato’s Republic is a thought experiment on morality called the Ring of Gyges. The ring is found within the belly of a bronze horse and renders its wearer invisible. The question for Plato centres the kinds of immoral acts one would commit while invisible and the temptation to wear the ring knowing the immoral acts that are possible under such circumstances. Two participants were given the choice to put the ring on (out of sight) or to leave it in the box (and shut), while my own powers of perception divined their true intentions.

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The day was capped off with a performance of my show Lifting the Veil of ignorance. The Milton Theatre was full for an evening of magical exploration of fundamental ideas such that concern us all: epistemology, morality, justice, human rights, language, the nature of the modern state, and the role of practical wisdom. The evening was hugely enjoyable with many wonderful surprises from the audience as they made choices, imagined outcomes, and engaged with my mind games with a view to delivering a serious message about what constitutes the good life.

 

Reflecting on 2012 & Looking Forward

My year was topped and tailed by quality time with mother. In January I spent a week in Virginia with her catching up on life, love and politics while sampling many musical delights and taking in the southern charm of Norfolk. The end of the year saw her come to our home here in England to enjoy the best that country life in Suffolk can offer.

My mother is what I would describe as a ‘quiet feminist’ who battled against deep patriarchy in corporate America in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, first by returning to University to get a BA and then MA, and then in the world of health insurance. She worked hard, put her head down, and achieved great success despite the odds. While the glass ceiling was there, it certainly needed to be raised after her career and I am immensely impressed by her and hugely proud of her. She is a bedrock of wisdom in difficult times and a sheer joy to be with.

Family life has been a joy this as my eldest daughter continued in high school, my stepson finished primary and entered secondary school, and my youngest started in reception. Three kids in three schools makes for a hectic but rewarding schedule, while our menagerie of animals at home keeps us quite busy!

My year’s activities involved travel, publishing, teaching, business development, institution building and of course magic! In many cases, these activities were not mutually exclusive, but reinforcing and interdependent in ways that have enriched my experience.

Travel

The travel schedule was heavy this year with international obligations taking me to the United States, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Austria, Mozambique and Ukraine. In each location, I have met truly wonderful people and made new friends, while nurturing old friendships. Work involved lecturing, training, and giving key note speeches primarily on global trends in democracy and human rights, as well as the value of systematic research and evidence-based advocacy and policy making. Downtime in these venues allowed for a little sightseeing and walking as well as bit of magical entertaining.

Publishing

2012 saw a lot of work come out in books and articles, with some pending publications coming out in 2013 that have been completed from my desk. These include:

Books

Articles

  • Bent Flyvbjerg, Todd Landman and Sanford Schram (2013) ‘Tension Points: Learning to Make Social Science Matter,’ Critical Policy Studies, forthcoming.
  • Bent Flyvbjerg, Todd Landman and Sanford Schram (2013) ‘Political Political Science: A Phronetic Approach,’ New Political Science, forthcoming.
  • Todd Landman, David Kernohan and Anita Gohdes (2012) ‘Relativsing Human Rights,’ Journal of Human Rights.
  • Todd Landman (2012) ‘Projecting Liberalism in a World of Realist States: David Forsythe and the Political Science of Human Rights’, Journal of Human Rights, 11 (3): 332-336.

Chapters

  • Todd Landman (forthcoming 2012) ‘Social Science, Methods and Human Rights’ in Mark Gibney and Anja Mihr (eds) The Sage Handbook of Human Rights, London: Sage.
  • Todd Landman (forthcoming 2012) ‘The European Union and the Promotion of Democracy and Human Rights’.
  • Todd Landman (forthcoming) ‘Measuring Human Rights’ in Michael Goodhart (ed) Human Rights: Politics and Practice, 2nd edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Todd Landman and Anita Gohdes (forthcoming 2012) ‘A Matter of Convenience: Challenges of Non-Random Data in Analyzing Human Rights Violations during Conflicts in Peru and Sierra Leone’ in Taylor Seybolt, Jay Aronson and Baruch Fishoff (eds) Counting Civilian Casualties, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Todd Landman (2012) ‘Foreword’ in Bethany Barratt, The Politics of Harry Potter, London: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Todd Landman (2012) ‘Framing the Fight: Public Security and Human Rights in Mexico’ in George Philip and Susuna Berruecos (eds.) Mexico’s Struggle for Public Security: Organized Crime and State Responses, London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 99-118.
  • Todd Landman (2012) ‘Narrative Analysis and Phronesis’ in Bent Flyvbjerg, Todd Landman, and Sanford Schram (eds) Real Social Science: Applied Phronesis, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 27-47.
  • Bent Flyvbjerg, Todd Landman and Sanford Schram (2012) ‘Introduction: New Directions in Social Science’ in Bent Flyvbjerg, Todd Landman, and Sanford Schram (eds) Real Social Science: Applied Phronesis, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1-12.
  • Bent Flyvbjerg, Todd Landman and Sanford Schram (2012) ‘Important Next Steps in Phronetic Social Science’ in Bent Flyvbjerg, Todd Landman, and Sanford Schram (eds) Real Social Science: Applied Phronesis, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 285-297.

Papers and Reports

  • Anita Breuer, Todd Landman and Dorothea Farquhar (2012) Social Media and Protest Mobilization: Evidence from the Tunisian Revolution, Paper prepared for the 4th European Communication Conference for the European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA), Istanbul, Turkey, 24-27 October 2012.
  • Todd Landman, Alejandro Quiroz-Flores and Dorothea Farquhar (2012) Democratic Governance and Sustainable Human Development, United Nations Development Programme, Oslo Governance Centre, Oslo.

Teaching

I was honoured to teach a methods course in Vienna for human rights students, a comparative methods course for the Essex Summer School in Social Science Data Analysis, and my course The Comparative Politics of Human Rights.

Business development

My work as the Director of the Institute for Democracy and Conflict Resolution at the University of Essex has me engaged with partner organisations from the public and private sector as we seek to generate new high value content for a wide range of users. We developed a pilot mediation training course, and delivered other forms of training as part of our work in parliamentary strengthening. Our research capacity was used for a wonderful UNDP project on democratic governance and sustainable human development and we engaged with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance on staff training.  Our work with the Mackman Group has been excellent and culminated in the launch of our ESRC-funded Human Rights Atlas.

Institution building

The year has seen continued development of Institute for Democracy and Conflict Resolutionand Psycrets: The British Society of Mystery Entertainers. The IDCR goes from strength to strength as we engage in a variety of challenging and rewarding projects across training, research and policy analysis. Psycrets has expanded its international network and celebrated its 5th Anniversary with an amazing volume entitled Liber Mentis, edited by Steve Drury.

Magic

Finally, the world of magic continues to inspire me and push my capacity for creativity and innovation. I have enjoyed performing with Pool Voodini in our show The Edge of the Unknown. I have performed around the UK and further afield as I never leave home without a little magic. The highlight of the year has been my appointment as a Visiting Professor of Performance Magic at the University of Huddersfield where I conducted a drama workshop entitled The Magician, the Mentalist and the Mystic. I have joined the editorial board of the new Journal of Performance Magic, which will have its inaugural issue in Spring of 2013.

While 2011 was the year of the Arab Spring, 2012 featured the prolonged and inclusive struggle in Syria that has taken so many lives, a regression in the positive steps taken by Egypt, and another unfortunate conflict between Israel and Palestine. A large proportion of the world breathed a collective sigh of relief with the re-election of Barack Obama in the United States, but he faces many challenges not least of which his increasingly worrying drone policy, the fiscal cliff solution (which may or may not happen tonight), and the on-going battle over gun control after yet another mass shooting (this time in a primary school).

Life under austerity will continue and the struggle in the Eurozone will continue for 2013, as European democracies search for long term solutions for failed economic models. I have stressed this year and will continue to stress that the financial crisis in Europe is a problem for democracy not a problem of democracy.

On a positive note, we all survived the Mayan Apocalypse and as 2013 marches on, may we agree with Daniel Pinchbeck and see a shift in global consciousness towards more peace, more understanding, and empathy for our fellow humans instead of over self-centred egotism and maximisation of material self-interest. The New Year brings many challenges, but the human spirit and capacity for overcoming adversity is strong. My new book Human Rights and Democracy: The Precarious Triumph of Idealsis guided by a simple belief that humans have incredible desire and capacity for demanding a better life and to challenge oppression wherever it may manifest itself. While 2011 saw the election of Dilma Rousseff the first female president of Brazil and former prisoner of the military regime, 2012 saw the election of Ayn San Suu Kyi to the Burmese Parliament. These examples and others serve as positive reminders of what is possible, which is why I welcome the new public and open letter from 73 Chinese academics calling on the new regime to accelerate the much needed political reforms to complement the otherwise impressive economic progress that has been achieved.

No doubt 2013 will be another roller coaster ride, but let’s hope the net experience is a positive one!

Happy New Year!

What an interesting week…

April has been a funny month with long school holidays, many bank holidays and a Royal Wedding to boot!

This week found me giving two very different lectures in two very different venues for two very different audiences.

On 26 April, I gave my lecture Making Magic Meaningful at The Magic Circle weekly Club Night. The headquarters of The Magic Circle has a wonderful 150-seat theatre upstairs with all the trappings for putting on a show or a lecture. My lecture consists of six performance pieces drawn from my two shows An Evening of Metaphysical Magic and An Evening of Enchantment that are broken up by a short discussion of my own approach to magic and the evolution of my own style of ‘theatrical mentalism’. I thoroughly enjoyed the event and have been getting wonderful feedback from those who attended.

On 28 April I delivered a keynote lecture entitled Global Analysis of Human Rights: Trends and Future Directions for a conference on the political economy of globalisation. The event took place at Goodenough College in the Churchill Room, which was a fantastic room with wainscoted walls and Georgian windows.

So, two days after appearing before a theatre full of magicians, I was lecturing to a room full of economists on the spatial diffusion of human rights; a research area that I have been working on with colleagues from Middlesex University and the University of Loughborough. We call our programme The Political Economy of Human Rights.

Across the two lectures are common approaches to public speaking, highlighting the main features of the argument that I am advancing through animated PowerPoint slides, and (hopefully) giving people something to think about. I do believe that the skill set for both events is very similar in the abstract, and you might be surprised to know that in the magic lecture I covered metaphysics; free will;  Marx, Weber, and Freud; the history of jazz; Mongolian currency; Tarot theory; and Jungian synchronicity…

The various distinctions between the two worlds of academia and magic are thus highly blurred, and long may they stay that way!

Principles of Mentalism

A few years back, I was in hospital and had the good fortune to read Scott Grossberg’s wonderful book Bauta, which helped to no end in getting through my ailment and recovering.

Presently, I am recovering from a little operation and again had the good fortune of receiving a great book in a very timely fashion: Richard Osterlind’s Principles of Mentalism.

Drawing on a lifetime of performing, developing products and writing essays, Principles of Mentalism is a wonderful, concise, well-written treatise on mentalism that will sit on my shelf with pride next to Annemann, Corinda, Hickok, Cassidy and Weber.
 
Richard writes in very direct sentences and it seems that every paragraph has a hard hitting aphorism and valuable insight that every mentalist really needs to ingest and embed in their performances and thinking.

As I read this I wondered what level of mentalist would get the most out it, and I quickly concluded that this is appropriate for those who are new to the genre and those who are veterans. Moreover, it seems that this is a book that needs to be read at all stages of one’s professional development.

Principles of Mentalism is just that, a book of foundational and fundamental principles for those of you who would like to deliver meaningful, artful, and enjoyable mentalism performances for a wide range of audiences and settings.

This is simply a must read.

Magical Lessons from 2010

2010 has been the busiest magic year yet with a wider range of experiences than ever before. I took my magic to China, Mexico, and Chile, each of whch presented different challenges. The whole pace, structure and timing of routines changes in response to these different cultural contexts. The Chinese were delighted to see all sorts of things and loved mentalism, which is not as well known there. Chance routines, peeks and Jim Critchlow’s wonderful Whitestar were all well received (I had many emails abou this effect once I returned to the UK). The Mexicans and Chileans are more closely aligned culturally but also different enough to present certain challenges. I had a great evening with a full mentalism set over dinner with hypnotic trance induction and offbeat revelations from peeks and forces, which all went down very well.

The year also so the staging of my second one-man show An Evening of Enchantment. The show was conceived around the idea of my own quest for deeper understanding of magic and philosophy. The first set was framed around the idea of growing up and the experience of unobserved worlds: a trio of mental card routines that showed how I moved beyond the physical properties of cards; a series of routines based on Dracula and Sherlock Holmes; and my Victorian couplet of Luna and Whitestar. The second set is framed around the idea of Journeys and featured trips to Mongolia, China, my own travel gear (credit cards, cash, phones and a passport), and then ended with a routine framed around the idea of The Fool’s Journey that used my own childhood puppets in a mental riddle that involves giving life to one of the puppets. The show also features music and powerpoint slides, as well as a stage full of curios that enhance the magical ambience. The show sold out at the Headgate and then travelled to Southend and London. It will also be perfomed in Huddersfield in February.

I have to say that none of this show would have been possible without the assistance of Evie Harris, who has helped in co-creating routines; assisting in stage set and layout of props, and assistance with music and powerpoint. We have had long conversations about all aspects of the show and she takes copious notes and gives me fantastic feedback. I hope that I have also contributed to her developing work on The Smoke and Mirrors company. I have used her products in my show and have really enjoyed working with her this past year. The key lesson for me has been the discovery of a trusted friend and colleague with whom I can develop my ideas. I have been burnt in the past in collaboration, but this is one that has worked very well indeed.

In addition to these activities, I had a lot of bookings with so many different audiences and had the honour and pleasure of working on the Magic is Real for Haiti charity event with Ian Rowland. Butley Priory in the deept forest of Suffolk has proved a wonderful venue, and as led to bookings with wonderful clients incuding the Aldebrgh Musc Festival as well as Richard Curtis and Emma Freud. The key lesson here has been the need for total flexibility of material, the willingness to enagge in loss leader activity, and pursuing all leads as they present themselves.

Work on Psycrets and the Tabula Mentis events continued apace with the Banachek event in April and Lennart Green in November. Psycrets continues to grow in the UK and internationally. We are delighted to welcome Barrie Richardson in April for Tabula Mentis IX, which will take place on the 16th and 17th at Huddersfield University (many thanks to Pyscrets member Nik Taylor). I am always impressed by the good will and genersoity of spirit in Psycrets and the comradarie at the events themselves.

My new book Metaphysical Magic: Essays for the Discerning Mystery Entertainercame out this year and has been received well. I learned a great deal working with Lulu and I am grateful to Steve Drury or all the great artwork. I also combined my parallel worlds of academia and magic in ways that have opened up new opportunities, new markets, and new clients. I am grateful for the folks at The Mackman Group (www.mackmangroup.co.uk) who assisted in branding and web design (www.todd-landman.com). 

Finally, I had the honour of working on a number of magical projects including some essays for Bill Cushman, Thomas Heine, Labco, and the Talea project with Christo Nicolle.

In all of these ventures, I took many lessons away concenrning collaboration, team work, staging, scripting, the use of music (and the need for copyright free sources), powerpoint for performance anhancement and the unbelievable good will that is out there in the magic community.

Looking forward to new verntures in 2011!