“It’s not like TV magic, this is happening right in front of me!”
“On TV and the Internet they could be using CGI special effects, or editing. But here I’m watching it happen with my own eyes!”
Magic, it seems, has to be seen live to be fully appreciated. Down with TVs, screens and recorded images; long live theatre, horray for the live event.
So far so good.
What’s left out of this argument is that by seeing magic live – by seeing a coin melt through a table, for example – in effect reality itself becomes a CGI trick. In a magic show matter itself is shown to be a kind of computer-generated simulation; time and space are effectively code-written, and the magician’s job is to remind us of this code-writing, by imputing an alternative line of code.
So in a live magic show the supposed ‘liveness’ of theatre is shown to be illusory. Through the act, it is as though the magician were reminding us:
'Watch closely. For what is happening now, in fact, is not happening now…’