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Atlanta Magician – Mentalist – Speaker Joe M. Turner | News and Comments from the Chief Impossibility Officer

Foreground, Background, and Perspective

Posted by Joe M. Turner | TurnerMagic.com on May 23, 2011

Amazing Randi Face Vase Illusion

The Amazing Randi
Face Vase Illusion
created by Victoria Skye

Last week I tweeted: “Hobby Lobby: where others see a craft store, I see a magic shop!” My friend Jeff Glaze (of MostCool Media) commented that he sensed the beginning of a blog post on perspective. Turns out he was right.

A major theme of my recent writing has been that reassessing and recombining the skills and resources that you have right now can uncover new, creative ideas and capabilities that you never suspected you had. Part of the process of finding the new capabilities is to change your perspective.

There are dozens of familiar optical illusions where different ways of looking at the image produce vastly different interpretations. One of the most famous of all is the face/vase illusion in which the contours of two faces in profile create the boundaries of a vase. By alternating your perspective with regard to which parts of the image you consider to be the foreground and background, the image looks like either a vase or like two faces. (The illusion was developed by Danish psychologist Edgar Rubin in 1915, and you can find out more about it here.)

The optical illusion to the right is a variation on the face/vase theme. It was created by a magic friend of mine here in Atlanta, Victoria Skye, and features the face of famous magician and author James Randi. Victoria’s illusion was used as the background art during one a recent performance by Mr. Randi, and a photograph of that event appeared in an article in the May 2011 issue of Scientific American Mind. Victoria’s creation is clearly visible in the photo, but alas the article is not available online. Fortunately she agreed to share her creation with me and gave permission for it to appear on my blog. (You can contact Victoria to find out more about her illusions and impossible objects by emailing her.)

Whichever version of the illusion you view, it illustrates my point with regard to giving a new look to the skills, interests, and activities that you may have neglected, ignored, or completely forgotten about over the years. By putting some attention on those things that you have considered part of your background, you can cause new things to suddenly pop into the foreground.

Hobby Lobby

Hobby Lobby: Craft store and Magic shop!

Hobby Lobby looks like a craft store because art-and-crafters have a specific idea in mind about the use of the objects they find in that store. Thread and fabric, various adhesives, different varieties of wooden blocks and rubber balls and silk flowers… these common items have uncommon impact when their properties are applied in ways that the manufacturers probably never contemplated. Putting those contours in front of a different background emphasized different attributes and uncovered new capabilities and applications. Because I know that, Hobby Lobby doesn’t just look like a craft store; it also looks like a magic store.

Your skillset is much the same. By looking at your combination of skills and occasionally putting emphasis on skills you might have left in the background, you are likely to find that the labels you have put on yourself are woefully insufficient to describe the true and expanding depth of your real capacity.

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One Response to “Foreground, Background, and Perspective”

  1. Joe, great blog post. In today’s economy, we(magicians) have to come up with new and exciting, and inexpensive, ways to amaze people. We must utelize the less often thought of means of creating the journeys that we take our clients on. Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, and other craft stores allow us to do just that. And anyway, creating your on tricks and illusions from scratch brings us even more enjoyment to our craft, pardon the pun. Thanks for the lesson.

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