Have iPhone, will amaze

Technoillusionist Marco Tempest isn’t scared to reveal his devices

Marco Tempest

Lots of magicians use technology in their acts. Many do so secretly. A magician might use a hidden calculator to simulate superhuman math skills, for example. Other magicians use technology openly. At the iTunes store, you’ll find all sorts of magic trick apps. (Fun fact: The good magic trick apps get the worst ratings because magicians are hoping to dissuade others from buying and performing the tricks.)

Some magicians shy away from tricks that openly utilize technology, for fear audiences will give credit for such effects to the device and not the performer. But other magicians embrace the technology, none more so than “technoillusionist” Marco Tempest. We chatted with Tempest, who’s racked up 31 million views on his YouTube channel and was recently featured at TED Talks and on CNN.

Is there a danger in relying on technology?

I don’t think a magician’s tools are relevant to his audience unless they reflect the performer’s true personality and passions and help develop his character. Some magicians think that they have to use technology to reach modern audiences. But a silly trick with an iPhone is still a silly trick. It doesn’t help them or the art. The same can be said for a large multimedia spectacle. Putting massive screens into your show doesn’t help unless they develop the characters and your stories. Magic is always about stories—and they better be good ones if you want your audience to re-tell them.

What do you hope to accomplish with you act?

I think of creative practice as a form of research, and I create my own tools that use computer vision, thermal imaging, pattern and face recognition and Augmented Reality. To me technology is “stuff that doesn’t quite work yet”—something that has not yet become fully integrated into our culture. My magic gives audiences a glimpse into possible futures, and sometimes it even gives them hope.


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