Angelica Paez, Telepathy, collage, 2011

When I think of magicians, an image of a gentleman with a top hat, white gloves and a wand comes into my mind. The magician puts a rabbit inside the hat, nods with the magic wand and, in a second, the rabbit’s gone. We all know it’s a simple trick, manipulation of our attention with the help of special objects, tools and skilful hands. Nonetheless, it doesn’t fail to amuse our lay eyes and creates an illusion of transcending reality.
If you ever stop to think about it, says Stephen King, ‘writing is a kind of magic too’. In fact, M.C. Escher also agrees that all art is telepathy, in a way. We grab a book by an author who lived few hundred years before us, but his words still possess the power to transport us by a mere arrangement of words on paper, and our minds are moved to a state of wonder.

Magic is an art very closely related to poetry. The poet manipulates words, and the magician manipulates objects. We are transcending reality in order to produce something poetic, something beautiful, something interior” – Spanish magician Juan Tamariz.

Angelica Paez, Strain of Thoughts, collage

Stephen King and his art of telepathy

Stephen King, in his book On Writing, demonstrates this point by performing a magic trick with words. He also, like a magician he is, takes a rabbit and sends it down a portal which connects his mind with ours across time and distance:

So let’s assume that you’re in your favourite place just as I am in the place where I do my best transmitting. We’ll have to perform our mentalist routine not just over distance but over time as well, yet that presents no real problem; if we can still read Dickens, Shakespeare, and Herodotus, I think we can manage the gap between 1997 and 2000 (the time he was writing his first draft of the book and the time it will be published). And here we go – actual telepathy in action.

Look – here’s a table covered with a red cloth. On it is a cage the size of a small fish aquarium. In the cage is a white rabbit with a pink nose and pink-rimmed eyes. In its front paws is a carrot-stub upon which it is contentedly munching. On its back, clearly marked in blue ink, is the numeral 8. There will be necessary variations, of course, [regarding the exact shade of the tablecloth, size and shape of the cage]. But this is prose, not an instruction manual. The most interesting thing here isn’t even the carrot-munching rabbit in the cage, but the number on its back. It’s an eight. This is what we’re looking at, and we all see it… we’re not even in the same year together, let alone the same room … except we are together. We’re close. We’re having a meeting of the minds.

Angelica Paez, Same but Different, collage with thread, 2016

In his letter, discussing the evolution of art, M. C. Escher also writes about the magical feeling of connectedness that images provide. After seeing the pre-historic paintings on the walls of the cave Lascaux in Southern-France, he wrote:

You get such a strange feeling when you try to imagine what is meant by “70,000 years ago.” You try to imagine it, but can’t. A dark night lasting perhaps twenty times longer than that entire historical period separates us from the human spirit whose mirror image we observe on the walls of this cave. It is an image that is alert, lively, and that speaks to us immediately, as if it had been painted yesterday … it touches you deeply.

Yes, it is a strange phenomenon that human spirit, that unextinguished spark, that seed that remained alive, the thread we hold in our hands that connects us, across the soundless and pitch-black night, with this member of our species there in the cave of Lascaux…. Our brother depicts the bull with such intense emotion that the distance of 700 or 1,000 centuries that separates us from him shrinks to nothing.

Words can bring us new thoughts and give us imaginative experiences we otherwise would not have had. Words can make things happen in other people’s minds. They are ethereal and intangible substance that run across all of our minds conducting new ideas, hopes and dreams.

That was the time when words were like magic…
A word spoken by chance might have strange consequences.
It would suddenly come alive
And what people wanted to happen could happen.
All you had to do was say it.

– Edward Field, Eskimo Songs and Stories

Angelica Paez, Existentialist, collage with thread, 2013

Perhaps today the abundance of words and images has decreased the fervour of our faith in the magic of words and images. But there were times in history when the potency of words, symbols and images were given almost divine significance. Gombrich, in his work  ‘Art and Illusion’, discusses the belief in and origins of spells,  holy names and specific words that were too sacred and potent to be uttered or entrusted on paper.

There is at least one parallel to this practice which reaches back to the dawn of civilization. In the hieroglyphic inscriptions on the pyramids, all signs which are formed by the images of noxious animals are either avoided or ‘abbreviated’ – the scorpion is left without its dangerous tale, the lion cut in two. In this context there is no doubt the image was seen as more than a sign; do not put scorpions in graves least they harm the dead.

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