The following document is an abstract of a paper accepted for presentation at the Visual Delights III — Magic and Illusion conference at the University of Sheffield, July 15-17th 2005.

Throughout the centuries, magic performance as been an art of visual illusion, employing a variety of devices for concealing certain processes (those by which the trick was actually achieved) and displaying others (apparent supernatural transformations, disappearances or substitutions). I want to trace the manner in which the devices of early cinema were adapted to this visual regime, relating it to traditions of both legerdemain and theatrical magic. The relation between performers' gestures (both dexterity of manipulation and techniques of misdirection) as well as devices that manipulate the point of view of the audience, and the devices of the cinema as discovered and refined by a variety of motion picture showmen/ magicians (Georges Méliès, of course, but also John Stuart Blackton and G.A Smith among others). The transformation in visual experience that occurred in the modern era (from photography to X-rays to motion pictures) will also be discussed as well as theatrical use of such devices as new technology of lighting and other uses of electricity.


3 May 2005