Last Tuesday our MCA Artist Educators enjoyed a workshop with a touch of fairy dust, when we invited magician Adam Mada to the Creative Studios to teach a special Brown Council Inspired Magic Workshop.
In their practice, Brown Council draw on legacies of visual and performance art, street theatre, amateur magic, vaudeville and stand-up comedy. Their new work; Performance Art, created especially for the 2014 Bella Commission, is an interactive installation which encourages viewers to participate directly with the work by following a series of prompts.
The training session was inspired by a group of educators who work on our hugely popular under 3’s program Art Play, who thought that a magic training session would be a great way to enhance children’s experience of the work. Performance Art has a strong primary colour scheme so it was important that the tricks were very visual and much like the work itself, highly interactive.
We caught up with Adam after the workshop to learn about art, life and magic.
MCA: What first drew you to magic?
Adam: The mystery, the science, the wonder, a world where perhaps anything can happen. Magic is very seductive to a young boy with a big imagination. I have always been fascinated by how magic and wonder connect people.
MCA: Do you think there is a connection between magic and art?
Adam: Magic is a vast subject employing all the performance disciplines as well as various sciences coming to together as a very powerful craft. Ultimately “magic” is the emotional result when various illusion elements have been employed successfully. One of my favourite quotes by Arthur C Clarke; ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is magic’. Think about the reaction to photography when it was first being experimented with or more importantly, films by French illusionist and filmmaker, Georges Méliès
I’ve always thought that art has done its job, when it inspires an emotional response. Many well-known artists throughout history have used the devices of illusion, magic and conjuring within their work to create particular effects, or as the subject itself. Anish Kapoor recent exhibition at the MCA had some great pieces based on perception and illusion on a huge scale.
MCA: Have you ever worked with artists in the past, if so how?
Adam: Yes I’ve had the pleasure of inspiring several artists as well as being a subject in multiple installations pieces and some short film works based on my performance of magic. Notably, my work as a magician was dissected in two separate video installations by Kathryn Gray for her exhibition Contingency Plan at Art Space. I’ve used my magic skills to create illusion effects for many performance artists and entertainers as well as build and design several large light installations for the first ever Vivid Festival. I’ve also worked with Alex Davies and Carol Barosso on a number of video works. I’m quite proud of an illusion I created for the Australian art house feature film Sleeping Beauty, where I had to re-create the effect of a Bronchial test. The result was a gag worthy opening scene, to a very interesting film.
MCA: How can magic be used to inspire/engage people?
Adam: When performed well, magic is extraordinarily successful in engaging people. Inherently a visual trick, especially with colour, will automatically draw your attention. Unique to magic, most people who see a great trick want to either know how it’s done or to want to learn to be able to do it themselves. The old ‘A magician never tells’ saying is the biggest lie magicians ever created. By sharing and teaching others it is possible to create true inspiration and connection.
MCA: Why did you choose to teach the particular tricks that you chose for the Artist Educator workshop?
Adam: The workshop for the MCA educators was themed to co-inside with the Installation by Brown Council. The installation itself also appeals to natural instinct of young children concerning performance, facial expressions, movement and bold colours. This was also the first time the seven educators had been exposed to the workings of illusions and some basic concepts in magic, so the routines and props had to be easy to understand and perform within the bright, fully surrounded and possibly chaotic environment with in the education environment. The tricks we taught, will also appeal to very young children whom do not have a fully developed sense of logic, all the routines involved bright primary colours with surprise transformations, appearances and vanishes. One of the highlight routines I created was a wonderful interactive piece, where participants tear up coloured tissue paper and place them into an empty bag, with a little jiggery pokery, the bag would be emptied and the coloured paper would turn into beautiful coloured silks. We also had fabulous black scarfs worn by the educators which would turn into a flurry of colour with a flick of the wrist!
MCA: How can magic be used to inspire people with special needs?
Adam: Often people with special needs or whom may be disadvantaged in some way, experience a loss in power. Very specifically, if your able to share a secret method or trick with someone in this position, then in turn, when they perform it to someone else, not only do they connect by sharing some wonder, but they also gain some power with the effect. In 2012 I set in place a national magic program for the Captain Starlight’s for the Starlight Foundation. My program teaches professional magic to the amazing captains, whom then share this magic in hospital wards around the country to extremely sick children, some terminally ill. The work they do with their performances bedside is truly inspirational, and the smile you see on those little faces when a magical ball appears in their hands, really brings a tear to your eye.
Art Play is part of our Kids & Families program and takes place every Wednesday, 10am-12 noon. This is a drop-in event, and we welcome a $5 donation.
The MCA Bella program was established in 1993 through the generosity of MCA patrons Dr Edward Jackson AM and Mrs Cynthia Jackson AM, and the Jackson family in memory of their late daughter and sister Belinda.) Bella is designed to engage and inspire people with specific needs to explore contemporary art. Bella is available for children and young people with specific needs aged 5-18 years.
Images courtesy and © Museum of Contemporary Art.