Prestidigitation according to Thierry Collet


Over the past fifteen years, I have been researching how I could renew the formal and aesthetics codes of prestidigitation. It is a search for meaning, not unlike what happened with new circus, a desire to move from seeing technical or physical performance as an end in itself. Instead, I see it as a means towards the creation of a scenic vocabulary, a dramaturgical device to express the vision of an artist.

A few years ago, Jean and I started a conversation about prestidigitation; we share techniques, “tricks” and trade secrets with one another, but also our thoughts on the origins and the future of magic as an art form. Our collaboration on La Mort d’Adam is the continuation of this dialogue, and it is an assertion that we want for magic to be more than just an enigma – as one could say of a charade, a crime novel or crosswords. We want magic tricks to echo vaster mysteries, deeper anxieties, more troubling human questionings.

At the beginning of magic there was the shaman, the sorcerer. They gave meaning to the mysteries of the world – climatic phenomena, eclipses, death and illness, etc.; they were a figure of power, all at once doctor, spiritual leader, political counsellor, moral authority. Since the beginning of time, the magician is the link between the desire to understand reality and the need to marvel at it, the link between a scientific spirit and the need to believe. 

Some of the sensations and intuitions we have at this early stage are: to think of the magician as a maker of rituals and mythologies, to constantly link contemporary and archaic realms, to not use too many props and instead focus on the body as the support for the expression of magic, to not follow the narrative of the show but to subtly interweave textual, visual and aural signifiers, to have a sense of humour and an inventive imagination, and a good sense of how to create surprise. 

Thierry Collet