Smearing the Queer

I had planned to talk about a concept I call "Reps" today, but that will wait until next week, probably Monday, because I want to build on Wednesday's post with an example from an early post in this blog's history. This concept of smearing the magic into their life is something that is interesting me a lot lately. And I think it's something that may come off as either too abstract or too obvious to some people, and I don't think it's either of those things, so I don't want to move onto other things just yet. 

I feel like I'm coming to this backwards, in a way. I've been creating material with these elements for a while now—and recognizing these elements in the work of other people—but it wasn't until recently that I've really begun to be able to break it down conceptually.

The Smear Technique is something that you can really only employ in non-professional performing situations. If you're performing in a theater or in a club then your "performance" has a beginning and an end that is clear to everyone watching. While you certainly want to perform magic that stays with people, that's not what I mean when I talk about smearing the magic into their lives.

So, let's look at an actual example.

Effect: I turn over the top card of the deck, it's the Ace of Spades. I turn it face down, snap my fingers, and it changes into the Ace of Hearts.

That was the trick I started with. Now, if you haven't read it yet, or haven't read it in a while, go read Multiple Universe Selection.

That trick started with me wanting to do the strongest card change I could. How do we make a card change stronger? I think traditionally you would say that it should be more visual, done away from the deck, maybe faster, things like this. But all of those concerns are adjustments to the effect only. They only change what goes on in that original black box from Wednesday's post.

What I've found is that the difference in reactions that are generated by messing around within that black box are minimal. If you have, for example, a Collector's routine that fools people already, working on another Collector's routine that you think will fool people a little more is almost always a poor investment of time. But changing things in a way that affects the edges of the black box can have a profound effect. The difference in reaction you get with a normal card change and with the Multiple Universe Selection is hardly even comparable. It's the difference between a peck on the cheek and getting fucked on the beach in front of everyone at your family reunion. It's a completely different experience. And that's before the denouement happens days later. I'm just talking about the card change itself, even though that change is less visual, slower, and generally veers away from what we think a card change should be.

Let's look at some of the ways we smear the effect out from the black box in Multiple Universe Selection.

The Imp - The card doesn't change from the snap of a finger, the card changes based on a visualization process (a visualization process that rockets you into a parallel universe). This is a process that you are introducing that isn't really about the "effect" at all. It's the impetus that generates the effect, but it has nothing to do with playing cards. And you tell them this is a visualization process they can use in their life outside of this moment. So this smears the beginning of the effect, blurring where it begins and has the potential to carry on past the end of the effect. 

The Buy-In - There is a "time buy-in" to this effect. "Come with me and let's go drop a letter in the mailbox." This requires an expenditure of energy on the part of the person you're performing for. Buy-Ins are almost always part of the smearing the effect and this one is a clear example of that. Mailing the letter isn't part of the trick (at least not part of the trick that happens that night) and it's not even part of the Impetus for the effect. It's just an activity that you are having them partake in to broaden the experience. This smears the effect vertically. It gives the effect a greater depth. And sets us up for something that will smear the effect well past the end of the card transposition.

The Coda - There is something of a twist ending that happens with this effect a couple days later. This is a literal re-emerging of the effect itself. It lays their dormant for a few days, like the herpes virus, and then your spectator is thrust back into the effect. It's an interesting moment. This is not, obviously, a trick I've performed hundreds of times, but I have performed it a handful of times, and when they get that letter it always generates a dumbfounded text or phone call from them. But the reaction is somewhat different than you might expect it to be. It's not about how they got that letter and what happened to the other one (which would be the rational response) instead they just seem thrilled that the effect echoed in their life again. It's a "Magical" moment, not a magic trick.

Think back to the card trick in its original form. Imagine yourself as the spectator. I take a card and change it into another card. This is an isolated event, disconnected from your life, and the world. It's just... neat. "Oh wow! Crazy.... So... should we order breadsticks too? Or is that too much carbs considering we're already getting pizza." Like, you have so little to grasp onto that you almost have to move on with your thinking. Most magic is designed to be a temporary amusement. And temporary amusements are great. So are pecks on the cheek. But sometimes you want to give people a more intense experience.

So how does Multiple Universe Selection take the same basic trick but make it mean something else? It's not the presentation, per se. If I change the presentation, but stay within the original box, the experience doesn't change and doesn't get any stronger. If I say, "Look, I turned over the Ace of Spades. When I snap my fingers, we'll jump to another universe in which this card is the Ace of Hearts" <SNAP> That's not going to mean anything to anyone even though the presentation is different.

It's only when you smear that presentation into their world that you change the nature of the trick into something formless and less definable. The blurred edges prevent them from knowing exactly when the trick started and ended. What they can dismiss as "just a trick" gets muddled. And when a trick gets enmeshed with someone's real life, that's when it becomes their experience as opposed to just your trick.

Multiple Universe Selection is obviously an extreme example of these techniques. I'm not suggesting this is a presentation you can pull off frequently, or would necessarily even want to. The more immersive an effect is, the more likely I am to want to save it for special people and special occasions. But I do think it serves as a good example of the "smearing" I mentioned in Wednesday's post. And I believe you can incorporate some of these ideas in the material you perform regularly on a smaller scale. More to come on that.