Stalled Illusions: Bragging About Magical Technologies

Cirque du Soleil, ETH Zurich (a Swiss university), and a company called Verity Studios published a clip on YouTube yesterday titled “SPARKED: A Live Interaction Between Humans and Quadcopters.” Friends who know that I love magic sent me the link:

One problem:

There’s something missing here — mystery.

As much as I love this very creative idea, the work of Cirque du Soleil and the music of Danny Elfman, I was not — not for one instant, sadly — swept up by a sensation of magic while watching this. At no point did I experience wonder or astonishment as a viewer, because my mind was completely focused on thinking about drones rather than the imaginative world of the clip. The title of this clip “A Live Interaction between Humans and Quadcopters” results in the spotlight being on its method.

I actually feel bad writing this critique, because I love this kind of creative and experimental work. But as someone who is still enchanted when watching the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” scene from Fantasia or live performances of Peter Pan’s magical ability to fly, I had to disagree with the “likes” of the masses on YouTube. If this team had produced the two magical masterpieces just mentioned, they might have titled them: “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: The magic of thousands of hand-drawn images, high-tech recording devices and a synchronized classical score” and “Peter Pan: A live interaction between state-of-the art stage-riggers, steel cables and an acrobatic actor.”

Titles can kill the magical mood of a piece, particularly if you’re seeing it for the first time. This clip, for me, demonstrates the power of the title and its influence upon the viewer’s reception of a performance that promises magic. Change the presentational frame to focus on the clever methods of even the most magical performances in recent memory and that framing destroys the ability of some viewers to willingly suspend disbelief. Next time, please don’t brag about your artistic application of new technology first. Let me, as a viewer, fall into the dream of your storytelling and your art first. Then, if I really love it, I’ll be curious enough to watch the “making of” documentary.

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One Comment

  1. Posted October 1, 2014 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    So try. I had never thought about why I like magic, and the allure of the unknown. The excitement and childlike wonder is part of the enchantment. I guess I never thought of why magicians secrets are so powerful, probably because when fully understood their is not return to innocence or rather ignorance.

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