The Magician Who Wants to Break Magic…

The magician Derek DelGaudio sat in a Hollywood art gallery with several decks of cards before him. It was a February evening in 2011, and he faced a well-dressed audience of art-world people, whom he was keen to impress. Dressed in a black suit and matching Converse All-Stars, he instructed an attendee to “time me for a minute.” As the countdown commenced, he began dealing the cards wordlessly, with such force and rapidity that they soon overspilled the table. He finished off one deck and started on another, then another. When time was up, DelGaudio announced, “184 seconds in one minute — thank you very much,” then stood and walked away. Trick, as it were, over.

The performance was titled “184 Seconds,” and with it, DelGaudio obscured a virtuosic feat within a pantomime of banality. A “second deal” — a hard-to-master maneuver, often referred to simply as a “second” in the world of card magic — is when the magician appears to deal from the top of a deck but is in fact dealing the second-to-topmost card. Seconds usually aren’t tricks in themselves but rather are building blocks for more elaborate deceptions. In “184 Seconds,” DelGaudio set himself a daunting challenge: How many seconds could he execute in a minute? The answer to this question became the performance’s punning title.

“184 Seconds” was anticlimactic by design, privileging invisible technique while eliminating any perceptible effect — all hat, in other words, and no rabbit. In envisioning his work, DelGaudio, who has a fervent fan base among magic aficionados, likes to nod to well-known conventions (pick a card, any card), only to slyly deconstruct them, in a manner that either heightens or thwarts their payoffs. His animating goal is not for observers to ask, “How did he do that?” but, “Why?” For DelGaudio, “184 Seconds” enacted what he calls “one of magic’s defining paradoxes”: that a magician’s slavishly honed talents of subterfuge must by definition remain invisible to others and thus easy for the uninitiated to dismiss as trivial. “There’s something beautiful about that,” DelGaudio told me, “and there’s something heartbreaking.” Read more HERE