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

Posts Tagged ‘mentalism’

Turner Magic Named Best of Atlanta 2012 in Corporate Entertainment

Posted by Joe M. Turner | TurnerMagic.com on October 10, 2012

Turner Magic Entertainment named Best of Atlanta 2012 for Corporate Entertainment.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Turner Magic Entertainment Receives 2012 Best of Atlanta Award

Atlanta Award Program Honors the Achievement

ATLANTA October 10, 2012 — Turner Magic Entertainment has been selected for the 2012 Best of Atlanta Award in the Corporate Entertainment category by the Atlanta Award Program.

Each year, the Atlanta Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Atlanta area a great place to live, work and play.

Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2012 Atlanta Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Atlanta Award Program and data provided by third parties.

About Atlanta Award Program

The Atlanta Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Atlanta area. Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value.

The Atlanta Award Program was established to recognize the best of local businesses in our community. Our organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to recognize the small business community’s contributions to the U.S. economy.

SOURCE: Atlanta Award Program

CONTACT:
Atlanta Award Program
Email: PublicRelations@awardprogram.org
URL: http://www.awardprogram.org

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Changing the Model: The Real Experience of Magic and Mentalism, part 2

Posted by Joe M. Turner | TurnerMagic.com on May 3, 2012

In the last article, I described a mechanical model for interpreting the experience of magic and mentalism. I contend that the mechanical model presents a flawed picture of what is really happening.  Another model for the interpretation of the magical experience is seen in Figure 2.  This model, while similar to the first model in basic structure, has some important differences.

Figure 2 - The Experiential Model of Interpreting Magic

Figure 2 – The Experiential Model of Interpreting Magic

The concept of method has been expanded to include not just the external tools and actions of the performance, but also some the internal perceptions of both the performer and the audience.  Restricting the idea of method to only the physical action ignores two key concepts.  First, the attitude and mental state of the performer can play a key role in the ultimate experience of the audience.  Second, there are many important techniques which allow the performer to influence the perceptions of people in the audience.  While not as easy to manipulate as physical objects, the attention and therefore the perception of the audience can be directed both physically as well as through intangible means such as the construction of the script.  By this reference to the script I don’t mean the dynamics of the spoken words, which are physical events, but rather the architecture of the plot itself which can direct and manipulate attention.

The key element of this model is the refocusing of attention on which part of the overall interaction should be labeled as “magic.”  This label has been shifted from the method to a portion of the inner perceptions and experience of the audience.  This is the real stage on which magicians and mentalists perform.  The ability to make changes to the audience’s perceptions and to create experiences in their minds is precisely the work of the magician or mentalist.

The most important consequence of refocusing our interpretation of the overall magical interaction on the created experience is that it puts our attention on a real and relevant part of the communication.  Instead of focusing on gimmicks and secret moves and strange apparatus, the emphasis is on the emotions and experiences of the viewer.  Gimmicks and moves and props, whether poorly made or crafted by experts, are still only tools.  Because they may be described as fake or phony in some way, the entire interaction may be labeled as fake because the emphasis is placed, wrongly, on the tool.  The thoughts and emotional responses of the viewer, while intangible, are never considered fake by the person who thinks or feels them.

Despite being presented in a novel way, this isn’t an altogether new concept.  Magicians and mentalists have long written about their art in terms of “method” and “effect.”  In magic books, the effect is what the audience sees and experiences during a single trick or illusion.  It is often explained in a sentence or two.  The method is the set of actions that the performer must execute in order to do the trick.  While many great performers and writers have emphasized the importance of effect over method, most magicians are enamored with method because it is there where their physical skills are developed and tested.  There is no substitute for excellence in method, nor any excuse for failure in technique, but the real secret of magic – and the secret of real magic – that the greatest performers have always understood is that effect is ultimately more important.

In the end, the most useful interpretation of magic experiences is not as merely the combination of props or tools or techniques that are used in the performance.  Nor is it best seen as the pretended outcome of whichever imaginary power is on display.  Understood more constructively, magic is the resulting experience of the impossible that happens inside the mind of the audience member.  The real magic isn’t the physical disappearance of the coin or the lady or the tiger.  Magic is the intangible but nonetheless real experience of that impossibility in the mind of the spectator, no matter how that perception is achieved.

To be clear, this is not intended as a restatement of the well-worn adage that “perception is reality.”  Advertising professionals, marketing experts, and communication gurus have covered that idea and how it relates to business many times before; you probably have books on the subject in your own library.  This concept of the nature of magic as a real experience is based on the simpler and far more modest proposition that perception is a real thing.

View of a performance from the wings

Magic and mentalism are a form of theatre. Effective magical performances lead audiences to focus on messages and experiences rather than props and methods. Our craft is a tool to create the show, not the show itself.


By rethinking the essence of magic, not as a pretended supernatural reality but as the real experience of a constructed perception, most people can relate to magic as something that actually happens, even in their own lives.  Most of us have experienced something that seems beyond explanation, at least for the moment it takes to perceive the experience as astonishing or impossible.  That pen appeared in your jacket pocket; you realize later that it must have been brushed off the table into your pocket when you sat down, but at the precise moment you saw it there and didn’t know or hadn’t yet deduced how it could possibly have gotten there, the experience of magic occurred.  It is a real thing.  It is a real experience.  It is a valuable experience.  It is, in fact, an experience that people will not only remember, but one that they will pay to encounter over and over again.

Magicians do create real magic, then, not by using special supernatural skills to manipulate the physical world, but by using special theatrical skills to construct perceptions that result in the real experience of the impossible.

So, is magic real?  Maybe in the context of a tenth-century understanding of science and religion it’s not, but in a twenty-first century theatrical context?  Absolutely.  The psychological experience of magic is real, and the different aspects and implications of such experiences are worthwhile to explore.

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Changing the Model: The Real Experience of Magic and Mentalism, part 1

Posted by Joe M. Turner | TurnerMagic.com on April 11, 2012

Let’s start out with the obvious. Perhaps the most glaring question for a speaker who uses magic, mentalism, or other kinds of illusions as a way to deliver messages is this: “Why on earth should I make real-world decisions based on make-believe illusions?”

That exceedingly reasonable question is the corporate-speak version of a familiar dismissal that anyone who has ever performed magic has encountered.

“It’s just a trick.”

Change the perspective

A change in perspective could drastically affect the way you perceive value in the performances of magic, mentalism, and other illusion arts.

This kind of comment is usually driven by a combination of factors, some of which are frustration, annoyance, a desire to save face, and even plain old fear of the unknown. Many people enjoy the feeling of astonishment and the sense that something impossible has just happened, but there are others who strongly dislike that sensation. When presented well, the experience of magic leaves an audience not merely without an explanation, but without even a foundation on which to imagine constructing an explanation. That feeling – sort of a “reality free fall” moment – is both disconcerting and unpleasant if it is interpreted as a threat.

Before we explore the principles we can learn from seemingly impossible experiences and apply to real-world issues, let’s rethink the fundamental premise of the modern theatrical magical experience.

The performing art of magic is a unique form of theater and should be approached as such by the performer and the audience. It has been centuries since magic has been presented as any sort of real supernatural event by mainstream performers or perceived as such by general audiences. Some charlatans, mediums, “psychic surgeons,” and other con artists have abused some of the principles and tools of the art in their scams, as has the occasional spoon-bending television personality. The vast majority of magic, however, is presented in a theatrical context. In fact, it is the theatrical performers of magic who are frequently most active in debunking the scams; Houdini himself may be the best known example of a performer who actively exposed such frauds.

So let’s set aside the negatively charged criticism that magic is fake, and let’s consider instead the more positive and useful idea that magic is fiction. Fiction can have a purpose and an application to real decisions despite the fact that the characters and events didn’t take place. Fiction can be as simple as Aesop or as intricate as Shakespeare. It can be as feathery as a fairy tale or as profound as a parable. It may have no purpose other than to entertain, or it may be so imbued with message that the author’s intent leaps from the page or the stage into the psyche of the reader or viewer.

If you ask the general public to discuss intent, message, or profundity in the arts or literature, you’ll soon no doubt be engaged in discussions of important novels, drama, film, music, poetry, and perhaps dance. Rarely is magic perceived by laymen as a legitimate vessel for communicating meaning, but that is not the public’s fault. Magicians themselves are to blame because most magic performances are presented without any intent other than to amuse themselves and to fool the audience, save perhaps a more specific additional desire to look clever while doing so. Most performers of magic never consider making intentional choices about the potential meanings of their performances. In the absence of explicit choices, though, those performers nonetheless make tacit decisions that empty their performances of meaning or purpose beyond producing a puzzling, momentary distraction.

Yet even in that most meaningless, purposeless state, I contend that magic is not “just some trick.” Even at the level of being merely an amusing entertainment, there is still something profound going on when magic is performed. Something real is happening, and grasping that will change the way you interpret illusions both as entertainment and as springboards for meaningful communication. What is happening? No less than real magic.

Magic, as I would have us think about it, is indeed a real thing. It’s a useful thing. It’s just not the thing we thought it was. To explain this, let’s contrast two models for interpreting theatrical magic experiences, both of which are based on classical interpersonal communication theory. There are certainly many more ways to analyze this or any form of theatre, but this comparison identifies a key concept that will change the way you think about the relevance of magic as a form for relevant, real-world communication.

In Figure 1 we see a representation of a traditional model for interpreting theatrical magical experiences, within which category I include most visual magic, mentalism, and some optical illusions.

Figure 1 - The Mechanical Model of Interpreting Magic

Figure 1 - The Mechanical Model of Interpreting Magic

In this model, the intended message begins within the mind of the communicator, or in this case the mind of the performer. It proceeds outward through the set of filters that every communicator has. These can be biases, moods, thoughts, or any other internal factors. The action or performance then happens in the space between the performer and the audience. It then enters the audience member’s filters where it is further molded by each individual’s perceptions, and ultimately it results in some received message, or experience, in the receiver’s mind. (For the sake of this discussion, we’ll ignore the presence of noise or distractions in the environment, though they are a legitimate concern for all communicators, not just performers.)

Most people, including many if not most magicians, interpret the term “magic” as describing the various physical actions that the performer takes in the space between the performer and the audience. Magic, in this model, is essentially considered a synonym for the collection of techniques and props and secret tools. Whether executed skillfully or not, the interpretation is that the “magic” is the sum of the actions, or simply “the method.” Notice also that in this case the magic and method are considered to be entirely external in relation to the performer and the audience. When magic is perceived in this way, the performer and the audience may seem interchangeable if not completely irrelevant – any performer, and any audience, connected though a given method, would have the same magic experience.

That is obviously not the case, but because method is so often the focus, an audience’s unpleasant experience in a performance of magic or mentalism is often brushed off as a shortcoming of the art rather than considered more deeply as having roots in the both the skill of the performer as well as the audience’s conditioning and habits regarding how to interpret the experience. (It should be noted that the truly skilled performer either purposely or instinctively pushes audiences to reduce their attention on method and to focus more on the experience; more on this later.)

Performers, too, are often prone to dismiss poor magic or mentalism performances as functions of external factors rather than to examine their own contributions to the experience. Ego plays a part in this, of course, but many are completely blind to the fact that their own emphasis on the method as the magic is undermining their ability to create an amazing experience for their audience.

In this model, then, the concept of magic is physically mechanical and psychologically external to the performer and audience. Because it is perceived as only a word for “how it’s done,” the emphasis is placed completely on the processes and paraphernalia. This emphasis is heightened by the fact that those tools are generally guarded as secret knowledge, and human nature is tempted by nothing so much as forbidden fruit. With all this energy and attention focused on the least meaningful aspects of the communication experience, it is little wonder that so much of magic and other illusion arts is perceived as fake, phony, and trivial.

Next time we’ll explore a different way of looking at things!

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What is Mentalism?

Posted by Joe M. Turner | TurnerMagic.com on February 23, 2012

My clients know that I perform a variety of illusions in different genres, depending on the specific needs and character of their event. Many of them have encountered the term “mentalism” in conversations with me, or they’ve heard it from others, or they’ve seen the popular show The Mentalist on CBS. Many people still approach me with the question: just what is mentalism, anyway?

Theatrical poster for a mind-reading performance, 1900

Theatrical poster for a mind-reading performance, 1900 (via Wikipedia)

Mentalism, simply put, is the branch of illusion arts that deals with psychological experiences more than visual ones, though there is sometimes some overlap. Mentalists present their audiences with experiences that seem like mind-reading, mental influence, predictions of future events, and occasionally the ability to move or affect physical objects with the power of the mind.

Modern mentalism has roots in ancient times, where soothsayers and mediums performed acts that would be related to some kinds of mentalism today. In the 1800s, psychic entertainers became popular and some of the feats they performed would still be part of any mentalism performance today.

Some mentalists strongly resist any comparison to magicians, preferring to think of the art as an entirely separate one with no pretended “supernatural” elements. Given that some mentalists have overtly made claims of “supernatural gifts” as the source of their abilities, that distinction holds little sway. Another common approach to performing mentalism today is to offer it in the context of using highly developed observational skills and an ability to read body language as the theatrical premise for the performance. This premise is, however, sometimes largely an illusion in its own right. It is generally a contrivance intended to persuade audiences that what they are experiencing is less a theatrical experience and more an actual ability to perceive people’s specific thoughts. While this claim is not supernatural in nature, in my view it is only slightly less dishonest.

My personal approach to mentalism is to recognize it for what it really is: a truly mystifying branch of the illusion arts focused on experiences of the mind. Just as a skilled sleight-of-hand artist can make a coin appear to melt into nothingness, a skilled mentalist can seem to make a thought appear in your mind. The first illusion is visual; the second is psychological. They rely on some techniques that are similar, and some which are different. Likewise, the performer who makes a tiger appear on a stage relies on some techniques that are similar, and some which are different. All of the experiences are illusions to an audience.

It can be fun to leave the line between reality and performance a little blurry for an audience. When that blurred line becomes a means by which someone attempts to sell products or services through the perception that the theatrical premise represents legitimate expertise on the part of the performer, then another line is also being blurred: the line between honest performer and scam artist.

Interestingly, when the television show The Mentalist premiered, the Atlanta CBS affiliate contacted me about coming on the news for a feature on “Atlanta’s Real Life Mentalist.” In that segment they profiled me and my work as a speaker and mentalist. The interview itself is linked just below the image. Enjoy!

Atlanta's Real-Life Mentalist | Joe M. Turner

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Evaluating the Quality of Unique Services

Posted by Joe M. Turner | TurnerMagic.com on December 14, 2011

One built-in characteristic of delivering a unique service is that most people have never experienced what you do. Unlike more familiar services – lawn care, office cleaning, computer repair, legal representation, etc. – most people haven’t got a meaningful point of reference from which to evaluate the services of a mentalist, magician, or a professional keynote speaker. This often puts them at a disadvantage when trying to select an appropriate, high-quality provider.

More Data Points Needed

Most people don't have enough "data points" to evaluate providers of unique services in relation to others in their industries.

Consider magic and mentalism. Most people have never experienced a live performance in these unusual theatrical genres. Among those who have, most have only seen it within the context of a children’s party or a Las Vegas show – rarely anything in between. If a person sees one performer one time, that single experience often colors their opinion of the entire art form, for better or for worse.

Most people have plenty of experience listening to, say, bands or singers. Music surrounds us in our everyday experience. If someone hires a singer and they give a bad performance, the next time the question comes up then most people will say, “That singer was bad – let’s get a different singer.” This is because they have enough experiences with music to know that the one experience they had was of poor quality, but that better experiences are certainly out there to be had.

That’s not the case with mentalism or magic. In those cases, people who have a bad experience often conclude not that the performer was merely sub-par, but that the entire art form is largely of similarly poor quality. Because most people don’t have everyday experiences with these arts, many clients react not with “I didn’t care for that performer,” but rather with “I don’t like magic – let’s do something else.”

Likewise, most people probably will not see more than a dozen professional speakers in a lifetime. Meeting planners and convention committees deal with professional speakers and entertainers regularly, but most people have never had to consider what might make one a better fit than another for a given audience.

Because there are so few points of reference, it can be difficult to establish a scale for evaluating quality. Here are six tips you may find useful.

  1. Ask for specifics about experience. People who claim they are perfect for “all occasions” probably aren’t. Your budget will bring a better return when you discuss the specific event with the provider, ask about their specific experience in that environment, and follow-up on the references they give. When the performer or speaker takes a bow, how will you feel if they thank you by name for hiring them?

  2. Consider awards and credits with a grain of salt. The words “award winning” are suspect. If an award intrigues you then ask about it, but so many awards are available and offered to performers in so many circumstances that it’s almost impossible to find a performer who can’t claim to be “award winning” in some way.

  3. Check for online reviews. Do a Google search on the person’s name and look for reviews. Look beyond performers’ web sites themselves; check their LinkedIn and Google profiles. Check other sites like Kudzu, Meetup, and Yelp. Fifteen minutes of internet research can save your event as well as your reputation.

  4. Analyze the promo video. Do they provide footage of performances in front of a variety of audiences in a range of venues, or is their entire promo kit built around a studio shoot and a set of photos from one event? Check their YouTube videos, but consider whether it was shot at home, in a studio, or in front of real clients.

  5. Don’t fall in love with a low quote. The performance you’ll get from the undercutters is only going to result in a poor experience for your audience and a blot on your reputation. I’ve written before about the high price of cheap entertainment, and it’s worth remembering that even when budgets are tight, quality counts above all. It’s better to stretch on the entertainment budget than to have beautiful lighting and decorations around a performer or speaker you wish your audience would someday forget.

  6. Be honest and ask for a referral. When you find the speaker or performer who’s right for your group, work with them about what you really can and cannot afford. Most of us are willing to make mutual concessions in the course of good faith negotiations. If the numbers just won’t work, ask that person for recommendations of other quality performers who might meet your budget constraints; then trust their advice. Remember – the experienced performer knows how their unique service has fit into a variety of events and venues, and they also know the quality of other artists and speakers in the marketplace.

I have always found that it only enhanced my own reputation and client relationships to help clients find suitable alternatives when I’m out of range or unavailable. I hope these tips help you navigate the sometimes-confusing process of evaluating unique services.

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“One Enchanted Evening” in Vicksburg Sept 8

Posted by Joe M. Turner | TurnerMagic.com on August 18, 2011

Mississippi Native Turner Brings Magic, Music From Atlanta to Vicksburg

Joe M. Turner's "One Enchanted Evening"

Atlanta speaker and entertainer Joe M. Turner performs in Vicksburg on September 8

NOTE: Listen to a radio interview about this upcoming appearance!
Interview by Annette Kirklin on The Directors Report, WVBG Radio, Vicksburg, MS (8/17/2011)

Atlanta speaker and entertainer Joe M. Turner will perform “One Enchanted Evening” at the Southern Cultural Heritage Center on Thursday, September 8. Turner, a Brandon native, will present a unique show of sleight-of-hand illusions and music performances.

The Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation takes immense pride in welcoming acclaimed international speaker, corporate entertainer, and Brandon, Mississippi native Joe M. Turner back to his home state for a one-night-only, one-of-a-kind theatrical performance on Thursday, September 8th at 7:00pm in the SCH Auditorium.

Turner will present a multi-faceted evening of variety entertainment including unreal sleight-of-hand mysteries, uncanny psychological illusions, and unforgettable piano and vocal classics, all woven together into what some consider “a 21st-century one-man vaudeville.” Don’t miss this unique entertainment event! This limited engagement will sell out, so don’t miss out!

Tickets are $25 for SCHF Members, $30 for Non-Members and $225 for a Corporate/Private Table. Ticket price includes heavy hors d’oeuvres, punch, a cash bar, and an unforgettable evening of magic, mentalism, and music! Tickets are on sale now at the SCHF Business Office, Paper Plus or charge by phone at (601) 631-2997. You can get tickets and directions online at http://www.southernculture.org

Joe M. Turner combines seven years of corporate experience in training design and development, business communication, human performance development and change management initiatives at Fortune 100 clients with extensive theatre experience and magical talents to create customized magical presentations for his clients.

Joe is a member of the National Speakers Association, the Academy of Magical Arts at The Magic Castle in Hollywood, the Society of American Magicians, the International Brotherhood of Magicians, The Magic Circle in London (A.I.M.C. with silver star), and the Fellowship of Christian Magicians. He is also a popular speaker, onscreen and onstage talent, a professional pianist, an accomplished vocalist, composer and playwright. Visit his website at http://www.turnermagic.com

Space is limited and an advanced ticket purchase is suggested. For more information or to purchase tickets, please call the SCHF office at 601-631-2997 or email info@southernculture.org

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Based in Atlanta, Georgia, professional speaker, mentalist, and corporate magician Joe M. Turner delivers unreal entertainment and keynotes for corporate meetings, events, trade shows, conferences and private events worldwide.

Category Entertainment, Event, Arts

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