Recently, I have found that there has been an increasing interest from people enquiring into my services as a Mentalist.
What is Mentalism…and what can I tell you that a Google search wouldn’t reveal…?
Mentalism is a sub category of magic, but many pedantic practitioners of the art of mentalism would be at pains to distinguish it from magic suggesting that it is greatly different, using vastly different techniques and working in a different way and application to the art and artifice of magic.
A presentation of mentalism can include what is, or appears to be, hypnosis, mind control, subliminal influences, psychological coercion, telepathy, precognition, psychokinesis, intuitive or overt deduction, rapid or extreme mathematics and feats of prodigious memory. Or you can give it a short hand title and call it “mind- reading”…
The idea is that these demonstrations of extreme and rare practiced mental skills are extraordinary powers. The really interesting thing is that this is absolute BS and at the same time absolutely true! There is a different skill set to the art of mentalism that borrows from the tools and expertise of magic, but also incorporates theatrical techniques and devices and a specific application and use of experiential and informed intuition, subliminal communication and human psychology in practice. These are used in a way that is not applied in any other performance art. For me, that is what makes mentalism such a joy to perform. And all these tools are used in very direct and specific ways to achieve the illusion of impossibility; psychological illusion of mind and imagination.
Mentalists in the past have been referred to as “psychic entertainers”, however, I believe the use of this title as well as the type of strict delineation of mentalism from magic is out dated, old school and myopic and doesn’t take into account or respect the intelligence of a modern audience. There are those in the mentalism community ( yes, there is a mentalism community ), who believe that to be a mentalist what you present and the way you present it must contain the possibility that what is being presented could be real. There are 2 problems with this idea. Firstly, it is real already; achieving the illusion of mind reading through various nefarious means and techniques is as close as it can get to it being real, and secondly, that pushing the claim that it is real or possibly real is disingenuous and tantamount to claiming to be a psychic. There is a long history of problems and ethical backlash in both the magic and mentalism community in regard to this moral question and in my opinion, pushing the idea that it is real is disingenuous and frankly quite childish. If you are so silly to need people to truly believe that your ‘powers’ are real, then I have news for you - you have problems and should see a psychologist for help ( even if it the claim is purely for business purposes as an entertainer )! Otherwise, it propagates lunatics like Uri Geller bullshitting the public in the name of personal economic rationalism; “ I don’t care if it’s unethical or problematic as long as I can make money out of it…” [ - One of humanity’s biggest problems is this rationale ].
I’m not interested in a pedantic and officious adherence to an edict of mentalism that dictates that certain things cannot be included in a performance because then it is mental magic or just merely magic. Guess what? Audiences don’t care. If it is interesting and enjoyable an audience don’t care whether it is magic, mental magic or mentalism. And generally in this semi-enlightened age of information, where if you dig deep enough you can find information and plausible answers to almost any question, the most important thing you can do as a performer of mentalism effects is deliver a highly engaging and entertaining performance. Then it doesn’t matter how it was done because the effect and entertainment it gives your audience overrides the need know.
What audiences do want to see is the inexplicable, they want to experience this performance for themselves. At its worst magic or mentalism can be reduced to a puzzle to be pondered and at its best it can be a wonder to be marvelled at. I think when constructed correctly a performance with mentalism in it creates the wonder that magic is sometimes at a loss to provide.
Both magic and mentalism are a performance art, and the beauty of any performance art is the communion and exchange that happens between the performer and the audience. This is what makes every performance different and creates a unique experience, through this immediacy. What mentalism does have as an edge over most performances of magic is that the input and choices made by the audience do change and contribute to the quality and the outcome of the routines being performed. This is unique and creates more excitement and interest as a performance, at least for me it does. And the responses that I get from my audiences confirm this as well.