Performance Magic Essay

1312 words - 6 pages

In comparison to text-based performances, those of a non-text based nature can illustrate the unity between cultures with less difficulty due to universally understood practices and semiotics in an increasingly globalised world. Non-text based performances provide both beneficial and critical elements when compared to text-based performances and this will be analysed and demonstrated with the example of ‘performing the dark arts’. The will ensue performances of ritualised purposes, conjuring shows, illusionary performances, stage trickery and what is identified as ‘magic’ (more-so than supernatural phenomenon or witchcraft) in order to theorise how non-text based performance has shaped modern cultures, partially through globalisation, whilst creating a comparison to performances based on text.
The type of ‘magic’ researched is noted as what Simon During calls ‘secular’ magic – that of the kind which is not associated with religious or spiritual matters. It is instead an act of performance, mostly for entertainment purposes. It is no less of a performance simply because it does not follow the rigid boundaries that often come with text-based performances. There is a thin line between what is and is not classed as performance as Richard Schechner defined performance as ‘a broad-spectrum or continuum of human actions ranging from ritual, play, popular entertainment, the performing arts (theatre, dance, music) in everyday life performances to gender, race and class roles, and onto healing (from shamanism to surgery)’. He continues to mention that ‘there is no historically or culturally fixable limit to what is or is not a performance. Along the continuum new genres are added and others are dropped. The underlying motion is that any action that is framed, presented, highlighted or displayed is a performance.’ (qtd. in Mangan x). Although this is a broad definition of performance, it allows the entire breadth of what is classified as ‘magic’ to be looked at in a performance studies context. The mention of new genres constantly being added shows there is a vast amount of performance work far beyond what is just based on text or scripts, and by suggesting ‘there is no historically or ‘culturally fixable limit to what is or is not a performance’ suggests that all this work, outside the boundaries of written text, is able to cross the boundaries of culture, history and language in order to convey a meaning or form of entertainment to an audience as non-text based performances do. As the performance of illusion and ‘secular magic’ does so already.
Secular magic, being of a non-text based nature does not, as previously mentioned, follow such rigid performance boundaries as text-based performances that stem from plays or scripts, for instance. A dramatic text can often represent eras, time periods or a social or political message that can be taken in reference to that era or time. Not to say that non-text based performances do not, but somehow...

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