A project Labex Arts H2H
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Deceptive Arts
Machines, Magic, Media

Cerisy International Conference 2016 : Machines. Magic. Media !

Saturday, August 20 to Sunday, August 28, 2016

Cerisy-la-Salle (France)

From Robert-Houdin and Georges Méliès to Abdul Alafrez, Harry Houdini, Howard Thurston, David Copperfield, Jim Steinmeyer, and Marco Tempest, magicians re-examined the process for producing illusions with every optical, accoustic, electric, and (more recently) digital innovation. As far as its secrets are kept, its inner workings remain obscure, and it resists being co-opted and formalized by a medium, every technology that confounds the senses exists as a magic moment. Indeed, we find the secret, the metamorphosis, the double, participation, and mediation in both Machines and Magic, an idea in keeping with Arthur C. Clarke’s hypothesis that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” (1984, p. 36). The very emergence of media can be read as an instance of magical thinking, a “patron-modèle” (Edgar Morin, 1956) – or « main pattern » - of primitive perception (Marcel Mauss, 1950). We will therefore examine the specific coming-into-being of each medium, from its magic mode to secularization, with a view to the recurring principles elucidated by intermedial studies in recent years. Viewed as spectacular machinery, the histories of phantasmagoria, theatre, the magic lantern, the theatrophone, opera, photography, the phonograph, the radio, the microphone, cinema, and today’s digital forms intersect with the history of magic and the experimentation of its practitioners—early adopters of every invention capable of creating new magic through mechanization.  Machines. Magic. Media examines the life cycle of the technologies that create illusions: magic moment (belief), magic mode (rhetoric), and naturalization (secularization of the magical). The scholarly contributions to the conference will be organised in seven sections:



Sources and resources


Forms and techniques


Theater, Faeries, panorama, mermaid performance


Beyond the performance 






The first section will be concentrated on the first day of the conference and arrange a dialogue between theory and parctie and take a look at archives dedicated to magic. The six other section will present a panorama of current research on the subject : Magic and Media/Media and Magic.


This intermedial colloquium is one part of a vast project: Les Arts trompeurs. Machines. Magie. Médias/Deceptive Arts. Machines, Magic, Media (Labex Arts-H2H/ENS Louis-Lumière/CRialt/CRILCQ). It has benefited from financial support by the National French Research Organisation ANR and their Investments for the future programme  (ANR-10-LABX-80-01), and from these research laboratories and institutions: IRCAV, LISAA, CEISME, HAR, LIRA, GRAFICS, CRialt, UPL Université Paris Lumières, Cinémathèque Méliès, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Cinémathèque française, Musée des Arts Forains, Festival l'Europe autour de l'Europe and Centre Culturel International de Cerisy.


Chair: Stéphane Tralongo and Véronique Perruchon 



Sources and resources


Matthew Solomon (Associate Professor, University of Michigan)

Incoherent Illusionism


The 1880s were a watershed period for Georges Méliès. During the span of a few years, he sold his share of his family’s successful bootmaking business and took over the operations of Paris’s foremost magic theater. It was during this same period of time, as I have argued elsewhere, that Méliès was most closely associated with the Incoherent art movement. This presentation examines the impact of Incoherence on Méliès’ stage illusions, magic sketches, and trick films, while considering the element of “incoherence” implicit in many forms of illusionism. The presentation works to specify what made Méliès’ illusions different from those of his theatrical and cinematographic contemporaries, detailing how Méliès’ illusions invoked what several recent scholars have termed “modern laughter” [rire moderne]—both visually and verbally.




Roundtable (1:45 with discussion)

Archives of illusion: which shares are possible?

Led by Leslie Villiaume


The problem set by the recording of the ephemera is coupled, in the case of the history of magic, with another difficulty, with an education for secrecy, which complicates the access to illusions. How does the state of knowledge stand as regards the construction, the spreading and the conservation of the technologies of illusion (machineries, automatons) ?

If illusion is merely constructed within its relationship with its public, how will one manage to accede to a history of the reception of performances of magic ? Which meeting points and which knowledge shares may be devised between researchers, performers and collectors ?


Sébastien Bazou, Florent Garcimore, Jacques Malthête et Didier Morax


Lunch break

Castle Tour (2 pm)

SESSION 2: THE ART OF MAGIC (continuation)

Sources and resources


Lise Jankovic (PhD, Université Paris 3)

Marvellous machines in Spanish Magical Theatre  

Spanish Magical Theatre is the equivalent for French theatrical fairy, that is to say a popular dramatic genre in which everything is based on magic. As for the use of machines designed to create illusion in contemporary Spanish magical comedy, as for instance mechanized automaton, “talking heads”, fixed furniture or costumes, dioramas or panoramas, or machines used to duplicate or transform, it can only be noticed that this way of practicing enchantment in theatre turns into illusionism at the end of the 18th century. The purpose of this work is to analyze the use of these “marvellous-machines” with the help of archives (manuscripts of the plays, sketches of scenography, inventory of theatres) and to study the circumstances of the technical transfer between conjuring shows and magical comedies.


Jacques Ayroles (Cinémathèque française) and Giusy Pisano (Professor, ÉNS Louis-Lumière/IRCAV)

From conjuring to the Howard Thurston’s “Magic Big Show”

This contribution deals with the rare posters´collection linked to the magician Howard Thurston and acquired by the McCord Museum. My attempt is to give a voice to this archive in order to shed light on the carrier of the magician, his stylistic choices in accordance with the magic art –represented especially by Harry Kellar – and the features which marked the divide towards a kind of modernity. Thurston was the pioneer of the biggest shows in the history of magic art between the 1919 and the 1920. He was capable of fully exploiting the artistic and industrial potential offered by theatre, music, cirque, cinema and radio. Because of this intersection, the magic art turns from a model of prestidigitation, seen as old-fashioned at that time, into an illusionistic show. After being the King of the “Rising Card” between 1900 and 1907, Thurston becomes the King of the “mixed show” that should be defined as “hybrid” in the digital age. 




Roundtable with artists (1:45 am with discussion)

Chair: Véronique Perruchon


Beyond the idea of a highly codified and traditional art, magic seems to be characterized by its movement, its lability, its ability to exceed the essentialist definitions, reinventing itself where we did not expect to find it. Where can we locate magic in the broad set of old medias (panoramas, dioramas)? How the idea of magic circulates fluidly from a machine to another? What are the influences of magic on the current media forms (TV, video, digital medias)?


With Paul Houron and Gérard Souchet





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Chair: Sabine Lenk and Lise Jankovic 



Forms and techniques



Magali de Haro Sanchez (PhD, Université de Liège)

Figures of the magician in antiquity

Magic is a protean concept and the figures of the main actor, the “magician” are manifold. From the ancient world and through centuries, his profile has evolved and changed, up to the distinction magician-illusionist and magician-wizard. The categories allowing a classification of the various actors on the basis of the different practices did not arise ex nihilo. They have been created during the transmission of knowledge and influenced by many currents, especially religious, as christianism. In this paper, I offer to look back into the sources, in order to identify and discuss – as far as possible and pertinent – the different profiles of the “magician” we know through ancient literature and formularies, to study the changes, and so maybe to measure the impact on the present depiction of the “magicians” and “wizards”.




Véronique Perruchon (Professor, Université Lille 3)

The visible visual power of black in the new magic

The “new magic” is a deceptive art whose interest lies in the scenic drama that is based on optical illusions and disruption of marks. The black colour is a guest on stage which provides a framework that helps reveal the most unreal appearances: the bodies on stage, freed from the constraints of reality, causing the meeting with the “magical feeling.” Through a sensory experience the viewer is immersed in an irrational and captivating universe that has the evocative power of “open image” (Georges Didi-Huberman). Immersive black has the ability to turn the opacity of the visible screen to take the qualities of the visual. Shows like Vibrations and Notte (2:20 pm Cie.) or Limbes (Etienne Saglio) will offer diverse occurrences of this.



Lunch Break


Theater, Faeries, panorama, mermaid performance


Frank Kessler (Professor, University of Utrecht) and Sabine Lenk (Researcher, University of Anvers)

Spectacular Magic: for an aesthetics of astonishment

According to Tom Gunning, early film spectators engage in what he calls “an aesthetics of astonishment”. In 1885 already, Arthur Pougin described the attraction of féeries in similar terms, declaring that they were created “to surprise, to delight and to enchant the spectator”. In our contribution we would like to analyze different aspects of this aesthetics of astonishment, which is an important factor in the magic mode of media. We will select different examples from turn-of-the-century entertainments such as féerie plays and films, or the magic lantern. We will discuss the mechanisms used in these various media to produce spectacular effects participating in this aesthetics of astonishment, but will also contribute to a conceptualization of this aesthetic mode.


Patrick Désile (PhD, Associate Researcher at the CNRS)

The magic theater of Jean-Pierre Alaux

We know that “Panorama Dramatique” was an ephemeral attempt to hybridise optical entertainment and theatre art, a hybridisation that is evident in its very name. However, we are less aware of the device originally conceived of by Jean-Pierre Alaux, which was supposed to combine machinery with decor, tricks of light with automata, and “bring the closest verisimilitude of objects to reality”. This was called “Théâtre Magique”, then later “Spectacle Magique”. We put forward a re-examination of “Panorama Dramatique” in light of what we do know about this original project, contextualising the earliest attempts to create shows that were an “entirely novel genre” and examining the very notions of magic and magical entertainment.




Adélaïde Jacquemard-Truc (PhD, Université Paris-Est)

Technical illusion of staging project in the theater of Maurice Maeterlinck

Maurice Maeterlinck considers that, in modern societies, only the fear of death connects the man to reality. In his first plays, he leads a reflection on the options that drama offers to stage death. His working notes reveal his hesitations: he first plans to use the Pepper’s Ghost illusion for the Princesse Maleine and L’Intruse, to show death to the spectator. He abandons this project, but recommends this technic of illusion for a future staging. Maeterlinck’s interest for this technic has not been studied yet. This work will complement knowledge on his dramaturgy, and aims at showing how technical innovations offer new possibilities to literary creation.


Claire Baudet (PhD Candidate, Université Paris 3)

Embody a magical creature: the example of the mermaid performers   

From Homer’s Odyssey to Disney’s “Little Mermaid”, the mermaid myth has considerably evolved over centuries. It now tends to be anchored into reality: for a decade, the “mermaid performers” have embodied these fantastic creatures during underwater performances. How to make these shows a magical moment for the spectator? Using my own experience as a professional mermaid at the Aquarium of Paris and my research about the mermaid community, I would like to explain the different processes allowing the audience to adhere to this mythological representation and to believe, even for a moment, in a certain kind of magic.




EVENING: CINÉ-CONCERT MÉLIÈS, presented by Anne-Marie Quévrain, with musical direction by Martin Laliberté

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Beyond the performance 


Chair: Marie-France Chambat-Houillon and Réjane Hamus-Vallée 


Thibaut Rioult (PhD Candidate, ENS Ulm)

Performance without performance. The magic of art and technology

The magical effect is the combination of a phenomenon and an interpretive framework. Providing the spectator a magical experience requires the use of two essential components of illusionism: art and technique. These two dimensions climax in two very specific moments: illusion and wonder, which could be summarized by the invisible-visible polarity. Each performance needs to position itself in regards to the degree of visibility of the technical dimension. This couple of concepts can be embodied by two television 70’s magicians: Gérard Majax, that animated the game show There’s a trick (Y a un truc, 1975) focusing on trickery, and Jacques Delord who led The magician’s workshops (Les ateliers du magicien, 1975) emphasizing poetics. How this radical difference of view materializes? What are the implications of these two attitudes, first in the spectacular staging and more generally in the image and imagination of magic they help shape?


Marie-France Chambat-Houillon (Associate Professor, Université Paris 3)

Between television and television magic magic

Since the beginnings of the French television, the magic always occupied an important position in the programming of entertainment of this media. A mapping of the various programs of magic allows distinguishing between “shown magic” and “televisual magic” and seizing the programs how they oscillate between “intermedial” loan and television invention during the representation of the shows of magic. With the themes and the devices, the enunciative choices of programs will also be studied. Yet if turns out a television specificity of the manners to film the magic, it takes place in a discursive paradoxical frame where this media promotes generally transparency and immediacy which are opposing characteristics with the appropriate principle of the magic illusion: to mask tricks.




Mathieu Pierre (PhD, Université Paris 3)

Magic and Seriality

In 1916 Theodore and Leopold Wharton produced The Mysteries of Myra, the first and – nearly – the only one serial which totally deals with fantastic and magic elements. Almost twenty years later, The Return of Chandu (1934) by Ray Taylor will succeed it. The peculiar originality of The Mysteries of Myra consists in involving two important figures of the occultism as consultants: Hereward Carrington in the matter of spiritualism and Aleister Crawley with respect to magic; this cooperation marks the divide and inaugurates an unbreakable bond – that we will analyze here – between magic and serials, which still plays nowadays a crucial role in contemporary television series (see Buffy, Charmed, The Magicians).



Lunch Break

Clémence de Montgolfier (PhD, Université Paris 3)

The artist magician on TV

First, we will define the representation of contemporary artists on French television as showing strong similarities with the artist’s figure as it appears in historical biographies (Kurz, Kris, 1979). Secondly, we will analyse the work of two television artists who are using the semantic field of magic in their work: filmmaker Jean-Christophe Averty and artist Michel Jaffrennou. Thus, if the narrative figure of the artist as a magician on television can first be defined as a myth in the sense of Silverstone (Silverstone, 1990), secondly, we can say that the artist, by showing himself as a magician pastiche, endorses a reflexive point of view on the power of the images and its own role. We could then relate the figure of the artist to the concept of “looking askance” (Leja, 2007; Solomon, 2010) concerning the use of magic in the arts as an invitation to disbelief and to question the images that we see.




Conference and meeting (1:45 am)

Alain Carou (Curator, Bibliothèque nationale de France) et Sylwia Frach (PhD, Université Paris 3)

Michel Jaffrennou’s Archives

Meeting with Michel Jaffrennou

The fonds of Michel Jaffrennou which is kept in the Audiovisual Department at the National Library of France, brings knowledge about an artist who has been described as « Méliès of the Video » for his illusionist use of TVs with cathode ray tubes (CRT TVs). Even if Michel Jaffrennou expresses a preference for the cabaret and amusement shows, his work on the « magic effects » allows using of audiovisual devices. In this event we will take a journey through the fonds from Toto-logiques (1979) to Vidéopérette (1989).





EVENING: MICHEL JAFFRENNOU : Des Toto-logiques (1979) à Vidéopérette (1989)

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Chair: Frank Kessler 


Kurt Vanhoutte (Professor, Université d’Anvers) et Nele Wynants (Post-PhD, Université Libre de Bruxelles et Université d’Anvers)

From theatre to science and back: Trajectories at play in the scientific theatre of Paris modernity

In the second half of the nineteenth century, Parisian modernity saw a surge in popularity of popular performances characterized by a taste for the spectacular, where showmen mixed new technologies with theatre, science with entertainment, rationality with magic. Since the 1860s, boundary work was massive and science had undertaken a large-scale legitimation project. Its efforts would eventually lead to the great divide, the opposition that posits art and science as two separate realities. Conversely, we want to discuss those who inhabited the inbetween, moving as it were back and forth in the area between distinct categories and roles. Our emphasis will be on those practitioners who were not men of science. Rather, they played the scientist – and here we are interpreting play as a subtle back-and-forth between pretended and real, representation and enactment. They travelled between art and science, the rural and the urban, Paris and London.


Leslie Villiaume (PhD, Université Paris 1)

The fun physics with illusions: evolution and diversification of technical processes at the service of magic shows in the nineteenth century

Since the 18th century, the experimental aspect of science has exerted great fascination and demonstrations of “amusing physics” have tremendous success. The Second Empire is a time of industrialization that must be accompanied and explained. The public is fascinated by the “marvels” of science, scientific popularization is at its peak. The 19th century conjurers then performed programmes in which the tricks are more or less implicitly related to the scientific, technical or philosophical knowledge from the 19th century. Into this lecture, I would like both to make a brief typology of the “special affects” used during the 19th century, and to try to explain their technological evolution according to the technical progress of this period.




Mireille Berton (Associate Professor, Department of Film Studies of the University of Lausanne)

The spirit medium or the magic of a hypermedia body to the modern era

This paper considers newly a question often dealt in the history of sciences and occultism, namely the function of recording technologies in the field of spiritualism. An analysis of several early twentieth century discourses reveals a set of tensions related to the rivalry between the medium’s body and modern devices, raising philosophical and epistemological issues. As a result of the encounter between occultism and modernity, the imaginary figure of the “hypermediatic” spirit medium – who is seen as superior than any modern technology intended to record and transmit paranormal activities – appeared.


Lunch Break




PAUL HOURON (special effects stage manager, Musée des arts forains)

« Illusions & Techniques ». An overview of employed techniques: from the Eidophusikon of P.-J. de Loutherbourg to “Virtualia” of J.-P. Favand.

From 1781 to 2012 the similarity of the « fièvre chercheuse » is undeniable in the different approaches of P.-J. de Loutherbourg, E. Robertson, L. Daguerre, J.-E. Robert-Houdin, G. Méliès, G. Lucas, D. Cooperfield and J.-P. Favand as well. In most of these cases it leads to a production of « special effects » (in a contemporary meaning) that are dependent on the tricks, which are mainly implemented by technicians, who handle the scientific discoveries of the periods in relation to the achieved goals. The premises of these different « inventors » often share the same approach by turning an imaged object of desire into a virtual reality regardless of technical solutions... Eidophusikon,  Diorama, Praxinoscope, the levitation of heavy objects, the mapping of objects in volume are the most spectaculars outcomes.

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Chair: Maxime Scheinfeigel and Jean-Pierre Sirois-Trahan 


Clément Bodet (PhD Candidate, Université Aix-Marseille)

The Natural Image: At the foundations of the link between photography and “magic”

At which point can we observe – evaluate – a resonance between photography and “magic”? At the turning point of its invention. The concept of photography precedes its advent within the fantasy of the non-technical image. The invention of photography tallies with the concretisation of the underlying project of an archaeological archetype of the natural image: the acheiropoietis image. The “photographic apparatus” of the camera obscura combined to a chemical process (the photosensitivity of silver salts, “lunar caustic”/’Porte-ténèbres’ material used since the 18th century) forms an entity allowing to fix an image. A “universal photographic project” actually gives birth to a late (and fortuitous) connection between two chapters of scientific knowledge. This latent technology, under development, shows the way out to the myth of the natural image by means of daguerreotype and then celebrates “the new principle of the image as a spectacular field, autonomous and independent from any connection to printing.” (F. Brunet).


Maxime Scheinfeigel (Professor, Université de Montpellier 3)

The brain: magical thinking and cinema

The ability of the human brain to produce and to show on an interior screen (dream, memory) imagineries worlds, is unlimited. When Georges Méliès is using of special effects (tricks) and the power of the editing, he is working through the cinematograph as if it was a brain. It is why the magical thought, in relation with the animistic concept of an other reality, finds its place into heart of the cinema. Afterwards, some filmmakers, sensitive to the magical thinking and/or the magical practice, update from generation to generation this technical and artistical device which connects the cinema and the magic. To illustrate this point, we shall regard some images or sequences conceived by Segundo de Chomon, Ivan Mosjoukine, orson Welles, Woody Allen or whether Alain Resnais




Sophie Rabouh (PhD Candidate, Université Paris 1 and Université de Montréal)

The astronomer, magician of modern times: machination of the starry sky in the early cinema

Astronomy and cinema use technical means to access a whole new visibility of real. This process exacerbates the qualities of the objects to which it applies and upsets the usual ratio of mechanisms that could exist before between visual perception and representation. Thus the magician often appears as an astronomer and vice versa. Meanwhile the sky and stars are presented on a clean way to bring up the magical character of their visibility.


Lunch Break

Jean-Pierre Sirois-Trahan (Professor, Université Laval)

“A striking illusion of reality.” The gush and the scientific astonishment in the Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat

The Lumière views, as we know, induced in the Cinématographe’s first spectators a confusing illusion (the leaves that move, the waves breaking, etc.) bordering the trompe-l’œil and causing a sort of hallucinatory feeling. This illusion had nothing to envy to those lavished by the era’s magicians (hence the magic corporation’s interest for this invention). The Arrival of a train remains the pinnacle of magical moment, which lapsed when standardization and perceptual habits eventually naturalized the trompe-l’œil effect. With a dive into the archives, we would like to analyze in detail the reception of this view, to examine the strategies of Lumière operators, and to dissect the journalistic discourse that recorded the gush of the train. More broadly, we would like to analyze the kind of “filmophanic” (Étienne Souriau) astonishment created by the appearance of these moving images as a “shock” (Walter Benjamin) for the perceptual system.


Jean-Michel Durafour (Lecturer, Université Paris-Est)

Portrait of the filmmaker in “great magician and enchanting” (Heumann). Faust on the screen: 1897-1926

This communication intends to before the introduction of Dr. Faust’s figure - literary (Heumann, Lessing), especially theater (Marlowe, Chamisso, Goethe, Lenau) and/or operatic (Gounod, Berlioz) ones - magician and alchemist, “great magician and enchanting” (Heumann), as what is perhaps the first filmmaker delegated representation on the screen. This proto-representation is structured in a singularly recurrent scale and with such rigor and systematicity (to the point that it invades other film adaptations of literary myths yet firmly established, as Edison’s Frankenstein in 1910), where instead the filmmaker gradually asserted itself, and cinema as an art. How and why has the representation of a magician fallen this new dignity?




Réjane Hamus-Vallée (Assistant Professor, Université d’Évry)

Faking fake: the special effects in the movie prestidigitation scenes 

This conference aims to analyze the special effects used in cinema to reproduce scenes of magic shows. What types of tricks are used to reproduce the trick of the magician? What techniques, to what results? What mix between the techniques already used on stage by magicians, and other specifically cinematographic? We’ll see how filmmakers recycle magic tricks, adapting them to the peculiarities of the film and yet, with an illusionist aesthetic. As such, will also be discussed the digital special effects, real break in the staging of magic in the movies, as we’ll see in the study of the special effects of films from the 1920s to the present day.


Caroline Renouard (Post PhD, Labex Arts-H2H)

“Movie Magic” techniques of illusion. Definitions and comparative analyze

Some cinematographic visual effects are based on the technique of transparency, by projecting the “real”, on a movie set, behind or in front of the characters, or still on the (semi) transparency of glass and mirrors, that let reflected the real within the artificial image. The other idea that predominates in cinema illusion processes is “matte” or “cache”, which must hide an area of the image for a while, to better reveal the whole image. The use of these illusion techniques, which are simultaneously hidden and exposed, allows building a world from scratch, with its own reality and its own spectacularity. This communication focuses on the different definitions, practical and theoretical techniques of “movie magic” and their comparative analysis, through the presentation of a Wiki about Les Arts Trompeurs/Deceptive Arts project.

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Chair: Jean-Marc Larrue and Geneviève Mathon 



Magic and performativity of mediated voice



Libera Pisano (Post PhD, University of Humboldt)

Magic Semiotics: the transition to the voice, for a radical form of performativity

In this paper I argue to define the theoretical boundaries of a magic semiotic, as a power device based on human voice. The magic semiotic is complex, because it has to take charge of three different levels: the iconic character of language, the semiotic and symbolic reference, the evanescence of the voice. This intersection allows to relocate the frontiers of performativity from a semiotic concept to a semantic one, with respect not only to the sentences with a clear meaning, but also to the medium itself, interpreted as the sound of the voice. There is a voice’s magic: it crosses the barriers, it could be perceived by the others at distance. Indeed, when the magic formulas are pronounced, they entail a suspension and an extraneity of the ordinary meanings, even if they maintain a strong and effective performativity. Consequently, my suggestion is that the magic mediation could be seen as a radical and paradigmatic form of performativity, and at the same time an archaic form of power based on human voice.


Jean-Marc Larrue (Professor, Université de Montréal)

The “Théorie des déformateurs”, from theatre to radio

Borrowed from art history, the concept of “deformers” appeared in the 1890s and addresses the act of mediation. Originally it was applied post-impressionist painters - Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, etc. - who “distorted” the reality to highlight or add specific qualities or dimensions, to mitigate or conceal others. The analogy with magic is obvious. In this presentation, I want to approach the “déformation process” in terms of mediation and show why “déformation” is a modality among others of a much larger phenomenon: opacification. I will underline the complexity and scope of the phenomenon.




Serge Cardinal (Professor, Université de Montréal)

An other world in this world: radio magic of cinema

In “Radio Physiognomics”, Adorno puts under critical scrutiny the “illusion of proximity” produced by radio. Since the listener faces not the person that plays music but the receiver, that visible “speaker” becomes the medium and the incarnation of musical sounds produced by an invisible source. A radio receiver does not transmit a music coming from a long distance, but it expresses a music hidden behind the speaker. In other words, invisible sounds come from another world located somewhere in the apparatus space. This paradox has a long musical and literary history: spiritual listening of music in the Renaissance era, phantasmagorical character of Wagner’s operas, aural illusions as essential narrative devices of gothic literature, etc. The wandering of music around the invisible spaces of the cinematic apparatus repeats this history—our paper will listen to this repetition.


Lunch Break


Deformations and auditory illusions


Martin Laliberté (Professor, Université Paris-Est)

Electroacoustic music and magical fascinations: the case of mixed music on the IMEB

The relations between technological arts and magical thinking are numerous and diversified. To bring a musical contribution to the study of those phenomena, this communication investigates the case of electroacoustic mixed music, where musical instruments are transmuted by live electronic sound treatments or by the confrontation to recorded sounds minutely elaborated in the studio. The L’Institut International de Musique Electroacoustique de Bourges during its prolific existence (1970-2011) has promoted the creation of several mixed pieces now gathered at the BNF; those are currently under a first phase of study. This communication will discuss a few representative mixed pieces, to shed some light on the “magical” thinking that can be perceive in them, whether consciously or unconsciously willed by their composer.


Azadeh Nilchiani (PhD Candidate, Université Paris-Est)

Spatialization of electroacoustic music new magic

Our daily environments are abundant with coexisting sounds; Sounds comprised of a multiplicity of static / in-motion and simple / complex sonar layers. Inherently capable of an immersive and multidirectional perception of soundscapes, our listening organs inform us of the reality of these environments. This multidirectional listening capability not only contextualizes us in our environment, but it provides us with a platform to build spatial sound creations on. The necessity to reshape the spatial nature of listening can be traced back to the early attempts at the spatialization of the concrete music by Pierre Schaeffer and Jaques Poullin followed by research carried out IMEB (on the Gmebaphone concept as well as the Cybernéphone instrument). The magic is based on our perception of reality. It can be “[...] a way to position oneself in relation to the real - space, time, objects ... in a specific manner. [...] The magic is an art, of which language is a detour, from the real within the real; That is to say, in the same time-space continuum that perception sets out to grasp. Images are no longer constructs of illusion, but they constitute a proper order of the real […] (Raphaël Navarro, 2010). This study is an attempts to draw links between the spatialization of electroacoustic music and the concept of “New Magic”, both of which share reality as their basis.





Geneviève Mathon (Assistant Professor, Université Paris-Est), Sylvain Samson (PhD) et Grégoire Tosser (Lecturer, Université d’Évry)

Transformation of listening and technological change: the aesthetics of the IMEB

According to François-Bernard Mâche, music in the twentieth century may be subjected to three main trends: the influence of scientific ways of thinking; the nostalgia of a universal code; the resurgence of the sacred. Creating images, structures, sound projections via machines and technological tools, shaped according to their intuitions, constantly developed and matured: this was the challenge and the project of these artisans, of these electroacoustic artists, so that music reconnects with its primary archetypal functions and regains its magical sacred function. Our purpose is to question the very foundation of electroacoustic music and its role in relation to an unheard sound world that breaks off not only with the traditional instrumentarium, but also with a way of thinking, of inventing and of perceiving. Our research builds upon the significant collection of the International Institute of Electroacoustic Music of Bourges (IMEB), deposited at the National Library of France (BNF), emblematic of 40 years of international electroacoustic creation.





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Chair: Miguel Almiron and Renée Bourassa   


Erkki Huhtamo (Professor, University of California, Los Angeles)

Tracing the topoi: Media Archaeology as Topos Study

This intervention will discuss media archaeology by developing a theoretical-historical contextualization of the topos, a notion he has adopted from the literary scholar Ernst Robert Curtius and has turned into a “tool” for explaining the recurrence of clichés and commonplaces in media culture. Huhtamo has applied the idea to various media forms ranging from “peep media” and the moving panorama to mobile media. In this intervention he will delineate his approach theoretically, discussing its predecessors and demonstrating how it can be applied to various facets of media culture. For Huhtamo, the task is identifying topoi, analyzing their trajectories and transformations, and explaining the cultural “logics” that condition their “wanderings” across time and space. Topoi are discursive “engines” that mediate themes, forms, and fantasies across cultural traditions. Predictably, they have also become tools in the hands of the culture industry.


Carole Halimi (Lecturer, Université Paris-Est)

The “magical sensation” of tableau vivant, or looking for an active image 

To what extent does the tableau vivant developed as spectacle and in the literary imagination of the nineteenth century rely on “magical sensation” (Balzac)? Can the tableau vivant in this way contribute to an archeology of the media? Finally, how he can be used in contemporary performance (Luigi Presicce) to give homage to certain figures of magic and occultism, such as Aleister Crowley? 




Martin Barnier (Professor, Université Lyon 2)

Pepper’s Ghost, holograms and moving 3-D

Since the 19th c. we can create realistic ghosts on stage. The Pepper’s Ghost process has been used to resurrect Michael Jackson or Tupac, singing in front of huge crowds. A Japanese “vocaloïd” has become a famous star in Asia, although she has been digitally created. Those “moving holograms” are sometimes called “3-D without glasses”. This system is actually part of the long history of magic shows and stereoscopic cinema. Do we really have now, with digital effects added to Pepper’s Ghost, the most realistic stereoscopic moving images? We will try to compare this process to other similar projects and find what is purely marketing and what is “new”.


Lunch Break

Miguel Almiron (Lecturer, Université Paris-Est)

Body Magic, Digital Body

The potentialities of digital technologies create new paradigms which make us believe in and make us live with beings without real flesh, uncertain beings, beings with digital flesh and skin such as Hatssune Miku, Tupac Shakur, and even with realistic robots, the Geminoid Hiroshi Ishiguro for example. This suggests a human being whose presence-communication overcomes carnal barriers of time and space, thanks to immersion systems and others such as holographs, ghost pepper, etc. Thus, like magic, the body seems inscribed in a total, real and virtual space, and able to achieve ubiquity. We undertake a comprehensive review of various systems in an attempt to capture and affirm the expressive potential provided by technologies through the presence / absence of the body. 


Renée Bourassa (Professor, Université Laval)

Digital bodies: the Design of Synthesis Figures in Contemporary Media

Following an Intermedial perspective, this communication is about presence effects and performativity of synthesis bodies in contemporary media from cinema to web interfaces. The digital character belongs to an illusionist aesthetic that has characterized special effects making all along cinema history. Either by modelling and simulation technologies who revisit the boundaries of realism or by the means of performance capture, the design of digital bodies draw new creative spaces in contemporary media productions. How can we simulate the human body in all its daunting complexity? How can we transfer in a synthesis body all the expressive qualities of the human figure? The issue is not to reproduce the real in a mechanical way, but rather to simulate it in inventing a new reality on the imaginary level. 




Florent Di Bartolo (Lecturer, Université Paris-Est)

The magic dimension of interaction design

Digital media have transformed and diversified the way we access cultural data. But despite their novelty and their disruptive potential, digital interfaces also inherit some of their properties from medias appeared previously. Digital interfaces are built on conceptual metaphors that emulate forms and structures of media objects that have already been culturally accepted. This mimetic simplifies the use of a computer system and create more “natural experiences”. We will study the image a user can have nowadays of a computer system and compare the strategies used by interaction designers to create an “interface metaphor” with the techniques used by magicians to create an illusion. 




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Katharina Rein (PhD Candidate, Humboldt University)

From Robert-Houdin to Robert Heller. Media in the “Second Sight Illusion”

The late nineteenth century saw not only the advent of precursors of modern electronic and mass media, an acceleration of transportation and the postal system, it also experienced what is by many considered stage magic’s “golden age.” This was not least because magicians seized upon the latest innovations and incorporated them into their performances as well as the shows’ paratexts. Magicians either picked up current discourses in alluding to present the latest innovations–pretending to employ “magic rays” or some other elements of speculative science onstage, or used technology to achieve effects but kept the apparatus hidden–secretly employing scientific means to achieve what was presented as a supernatural event. In this paper, I want to analyze the “Second Sight” illusion, popularized by Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin in the 1850s.


Joe Culpepper (Magicien, chercheur à McGill, et consultant en magie)

Adapting Houdini’s Straitjacket Escape to New Media in Toronto 100 years later

This presentation will compare Harry Houdini’s performance of a suspended straitjacket escape in 1916 to the adaptation of that stunt for digital media in 2016. I will analyze the social significance of Houdini’s live WWI-era spectacle on the streets of Toronto, which was a fundraiser for the British Red Cross. This live event will then be discussed as the historical inspiration for a three-minute web version of Houdini’s escape that was performed by Canadian illusionist Lucas Wilson in March. My experiences as the magic consultant hired to facilitate this adaptation will be used to question how the spectacle, economics and spectator reception of this death-defying stunt have changed in the last 100 years. How did the act of watching the suspended straitjacket escape generate capital during the Golden Age of magic and how does a digital adaptation capture our attention today? By watching Houdini are we liberated, held captive or both? 




Conclusion of Machines. Magie. Médias and discussion about next Les Arts Trompeurs/Deceptive Arts projects



12 am Lunch


Departure 2 pm.

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