Tuesday 4 March 2014 – Devon Elliott – Magical experiments: levitation in the golden age of stage magic

Harry_Kellar_toasts_the_Devil,_performing_arts_poster,_ca._1899Devon Elliott (University of Western Ontario)

Venue: Athlone Room (102), 1st Floor, Senate House, Malet Street (or live online at Live Stream)

Time: Tuesday 4 March 2014, 5.15 PM (GMT)

Abstract: Digital tools, such as desktop fabrication and physical computing, afford historians the opportunity to experiment with the experiential and subjective past. We can make tangible things only described in documentary evidence and put them into action. The history of stage magic is a useful topic to experiment with these tools given the ephemeral and momentary events of performed illusions, and the role of secrecy with respect to the knowledge of how those methods functioned. Levitations have been a popular effect for stage magicians since the late 1800s following innovative methods by British magician and inventor, John Nevil Maskelyne, and popularized in the United States by American magician, Harry Kellar. In this talk, I discuss how magicians learned to fly in the 19th century, and new hands-on methods we can use to learn about that today.

Image from the Performing Arts Poster Collection at the Library of Congress.

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