Mashing up Magick: Bizarre Magick and the Fuzzy Gothic

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Abstract

Bizarre Magick is a sub-genre of performance magic that developed in the early seventies as a counter cultural response to mainstream magic. Bizarre magician Charles Cameron declared in the first edition of Invocation – a magician-only publication covering ‘weird and bizarre magick’ – that; ‘the average magician has long since given up dread [and] what he requires is a sound Gothic revival!’ He was referring not to an accurate reflection of the Gothic but rather to the fuzzy distillation of the historical, the geographical, the environmental, the physiological and the scenographic sign-system of the Gothic. The bizarre magick movement, comprising of bizarre magicians and theorists, published a large number of magic tricks (or, more appropriately in magician parlance; effects) in the magicians-only press. A great proportion of these effects mashed-up the familiar tropes and popular fictions of the Gothic, turning moments of performance magic into Gothic-like story-telling experiences that were designed to be performed to small gatherings of participants. The emphasis in bizarre magick was less on the moment of magic and more on the telling of the Gothic tale itself. Within this the role of the performance magician was also reimagined in mashed-up form, for example, as the gothic occult scholar; or according to magician Tony Andruzzi’s ‘Van Helsing Approach’ where the magician is portrayed as someone who may, or may not, know what he is doing and leading the audience into something he cannot handle; or even, as Charles Cameron later adopted, performing as ‘Dracula’ himself. Bizarre magick was not without its critics in the magic world; Stephen Minch, somewhat dismissively, referred to bizarre magick as a ‘literary phenomenon’ rather than a coherent performance practice, Eugene Burger asked the question whether bizarre magick is to be understood as a branch of conjuring at all based on its emphasis on storytelling, and Jamy Ian Swiss argued that it was a ‘dream chamber for amateurs.’
These criticisms aside, this paper will examine, primarily through close reading of the effects published in Invocation (1974-78) , New Invocation (1979-1996) and other books of bizarre magick effects, how bizarre magicians fuzzily mashed-up the tropes and fictions of the popular Gothic to formulate discreet moments of performance magic for their audience.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGothic Mash-Ups
Subtitle of host publicationHybridity, Appropriation, and Intertextuality in Gothic Storytelling
EditorsNatalie Neill
PublisherLexington Books
Chapter12
ISBN (Electronic)9781793636584
ISBN (Print)9781793636577
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 13 Nov 2021

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