Art & Magic As Illusions Of Society

Art defines what is real in society even when that art is a lie, an illusion. What art does for those who experience it, is something primitive; it captures and cultivates astonishment. Illusions twist the concrete and open windows of potential. A powerful enough illusion can shatter monotony and create new experiences.

The art of illusion, or magic, is the art of astonishment. The basis of magic is to astound spectators and force them to think twice about everything they know to be real—matter cannot be created or destroyed and yet is done so before their very eyes—making magic a viable art form. Just as an actor can create emotions in an audience, so too can a magician. Magician David Blaine describes the power of illusion in his book Mysterious Stranger. He says, “magic strips away logic, it confronts fears, and brings us to a place of constant wonder and enchantment” (Blaine 7).

Paul Harris, one of the most respected magicians in the world, elaborates on the idea in his book, The Art of Astonishment. Harris says, “Astonishment is not an emotion that’s created. It’s an existing state that’s revealed…In a nutshell: You’re using magical illusions to dissolve cultural illusions in order to experience a moment of something real. The art of astonishment, when pushed into the wildest edges of edges, is the art of doing real magic” (Harris, 6-7). Harris is getting at something that transcends the art of illusion and is true of other art forms as well. Artists aren’t necessarily using art to express themselves or to surpass reality, but rather to show the truth. The human response, when confronted by art, is that of wonder that what they are seeing or hearing or reading is real.

In my experience, nothing is more vivid than one of Ezra Pound’s two-line poems. It goes:
“In a Station of the Metro”
The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet, black bough.

These two lines of text create something visceral and powerful inside of me that was present, but not evident. That is the power of art. I can also recall my early experiences with magic. I remember being in an airport when a magician took an ordinary playing card and tore it into pieces. He put the pieces in my hand and waved his hands and the card was restored in my own fingers. That moment of magic was real. For that moment, I felt removed from of the artificial, material world. This simple miracle that the magician created in my hands made me feel the same way I feel when I read Ezra Pound’s poetry. Magic and poetry achieve the same end. Both create something that is unreal—something intangible. Yet, both are real in that what they create is real to their respective audiences. Just as Marcel Duchamp’s “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” boldly proclaims “this is not a pipe,” does the audience recognize it as something real—a picture of a pipe. So too, do magic and poetry create lies that are accepted to be real.

The world needs art. Society, especially American society, has become artificial in what it wants and what it appreciates. For example, romance novels are written to give instant gratification and to make fast money. Popular music is filled with cookie-cutter copies of the last popular song, with each new “artist” attempting to emulate another “artist.” Even people are making themselves artificial, both physically, and in how they act towards one another. So, what if art is all that’s real? Art can be a reality check. It objectifies reality by stripping away preconceptions of society.

Art is the window that looks out from the shelter of society into the real world.


Thank you for reading! Love you for that!

Have an amazing weekend, I’ll see you all in my next blog post.

May I say, “be the magic, not the illusion.”

—–Have Hope.Keep Faith—–


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EclipsedWords by Aishwarya Shah || March’2018 || All rights reserved ©

26 thoughts on “Art & Magic As Illusions Of Society

  1. Wonderful post A, and a wonderful perspective. Blaine is one of my favorite modern magicians. I have seen him ‘throw’ cards through glass, and even levitate himself and others. Truly remarkable.
    Thank you for your previous ‘like’ to my post, but thank you more for taking the time to share with us.
    I used to say that a smile was magical, transferring and transforming one person to another.
    Words were secondary to me, yet you have combined the two through this presentation.

    1. You being able to connect with it so well, makes me happy and content in knowing my work as a writer is not so bad afterall. Thank you so much, and yes, I love your blog!

      Keep smiling! 😊

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