Do you believe in magic? You should, because we always need miracles. There is so much we don’t know about. Supernatural, magical or something between spiritual and science. Just because we don’t understand it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. In this interview, the magician ALESSANDRO DE GIACOMO aka MAGO DEGIA from Italy takes us into the world of magic, tells us about how he became a supernatural performer and explains what it’s like to be a wizard.
Of course at the beginning we want to know the basic questions. How did it start? When did you start performing magic? And maybe it’s even a second question, when did you first think about becoming a magician? Tell us more about the development of what you do.
I was 21 years old and walking around a fair, here in Turin, I approached a stall that sold magic games. There were effects designed specifically for “Muggles” (Harry Potter world term used to describe a person who doesn’t have any kind of magic skills and knowledge), and I was enchanted by them. On that occasion I bought my first magic effect, “Fantastic Coins”, a small brass object capable of making coins appear and disappear. A few months later I found out that a colleague of mine was a professional magician (Alessio Rastrelli) and from that moment on he became my first teacher. After about a couple of years I started attending the magic course of the CMBB (Circolo Magico Bartolomeo Bosco di Torino) that included a theoretical part (history of magic) and a practical part, which ended with an oral exam and the presentation of a number of magic. After becoming a member of the club a few years later I was offered the role of a teacher of that same course mentioned before. In the meantime my role in the circle changed from a simple member to a member of the board. The president of the CMBB is Mago Berok.
In 2009 I created my first number, “the multiplication of bottles”. The appearances on stage were more and more frequent as well as the inclusion of new effects in my repertoire. In 2012, always with the help of Alessio, I made the number “Puzzle of life” that had the goal of combining magic and poetry. In 2017 I took a three-year course in theatre and acting taught by Diego Casale, Italian actor and comedian. Fundamental course to refine verbal and paraverbal communication with the public. After this experience I “moved away” from the magic world in the strict sense and started performing with people who mastered other arts: comedians, poets, musicians and dancers. In 2020 was born my first ONE MAN SHOW entitled “A CASA MIA”, written by me with the direction directed by Diego Casale. In 2021 I had the opportunity to be the protagonist of the music video clip “Musica” di Joy Kitikonti e Luca Pechino.
How does it make you feel when you express yourself with the art of magic?
Magic is a 360º art that allows you to express any other art that is within your reach. It changes you profoundly, it changes your way of doing, of thinking but above all of being. The concept is very strong, but I can say that a magician is a magician always 24 hours a day and every opportunity is good to perform. I think there is a healthy basis for self-centeredness, that seeking to stand in the spotlight and leave the audience stunned. Going on stage is a strong emotion even today and the feeling you get at the end of the performance is incredibly enjoyable.
Tell us more about the development of your doing over time. From when you started until now. How has this art improved your personal growth? Does it help you overcome the difficulties that life poses?
I have always been a good person in relationships with people, and I am sure that this has helped me a lot in magic. But, despite this predisposition, magical art has given me a more accurate view of what a person wants. For example, when I go on stage I immediately take a look at the first two rows trying to guess who is more willing to “play” and who less. And this choice is very important to determine the good performance. With time, and experience, you can frame a person in seconds. So yes, magic has honed my communication and social skills.
You have studied and worked hard to reach the high level you have reached. Was it facilitated by your natural inclination? And would it have been easier with other arts? Do you sometimes wonder why you did not choose theater, dance or other artistic performances?
I believe that a person is predisposed to art or not. If you are, your job is to understand what makes you feel satisfied, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is one art. In fact, as mentioned before, my way of being has helped a lot but when we talk about art we often talk, correctly, about sensitivity. And sensitivity can lead to fragility, so I think you need to find the right balance to not be at the mercy of your emotions. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that many of the greatest artists were depressed or psychologically unstable. Magic has the incredible power to give the artist the opportunity to combine multiple arts in the service of magic itself. I saw magicians dancing on stage and others painting. I myself have an emotional number in which during the performance I recite a poem and the years of theater have come back very useful to me. But you have to recognize your limits, and I can say with certainty that seeing me dance would not be a pleasant sight.
We know that you study not only the structures of magic games, manual techniques, acting, but also the culture of magic. And it’s just a part of you. This is very interesting, can you explain us more in detail.
Take a point A. We can say that the lines that pass through that point are infinite. But if we also have a point B we have the possibility to draw a well-defined line. With the same reasoning studying the history of magic (point B) allowed me to draw that line that intersecting the present (point A) shows me the future and a possible point C, D, E etc. This is a concept that should be applied always and in any field. Take history, for example, how can we pretend to understand the dynamics of what we are experiencing, and also make credible predictions about the future if we haven’t studied what happened before? “History repeats itself” is that teaching that, unfortunately, man has not yet fully learned. Returning to my field of expertise, this study allowed me to understand how the concept of magic evolved and what its role in human history was. Magic, like any other art form, is communication. Of course studying the structure of a game and the technique is crucial, but the magic trick is nothing more than the means. So the first question I ask myself before developing a number is: what do I want to communicate? And that’s when it comes down to acting and studying what I’m going to say and how I’m going to say it. To make it better understood, I just have to say that the same magic effect can be presented with the aim of making people laugh, to make them think or even to excite a person.
What is magic for you? What concept do you have, how would you explain it? Moreover, how would you place it in contradiction with science? Explain how a sorcerer understands the coexistence of magic and science. In the end it’s the same, magic is science, science is magic. They’re actually not mutually exclusive. How would you explain a concept they both include.
All you don’t know is magic, when you can explain it, it becomes science. And if this culture is in the hands of a few, they can use it to fake supernatural powers. It can be said that science has always been at the service of the magician. Think of the figure of the sorcerer or the shaman, they used their naturalistic and physical knowledge to give the impression to people that they have powers. Or the cultural and innovative ferment of the nineteenth century that gave rise to many scientific discoveries that some magicians were able to use to their advantage. In particular physics, electricity and electromagnetism put in the hands of the most willing of the exceptional tools to impress their audience. Moreover, the old saying says: any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic. And in a world lit by candles, the lighting of the first bulb was surely celebrated as a real miracle. Today magic is available to science, just think of CICAP, a non-profit educational organization, founded in 1989 to promote a scientific and critical investigation of events pseudoscience, paranormal, mysteries and the unusual, with the aim of spreading the scientific mentality and the critical spirit. And within this organization, in addition to various scientists, there are magicians.
What’s the problem with people? Why don’t they understand magic? It’s because they don’t believe in magic? Or it’s the “new magic” of the media. It’s very much about how strong someone believes in something. Obviously there are two different areas to consider. The one area is about the performance, the tricks and the illusion. This is the ability of the actor. But the other part, which is psychological, is in the minds of the visitors. And it needs an openness to imagination and fantasy. How do you perceive visitors? Do they want magic? Do they want these fantasies? I think they always want it, but sometimes it’s hard to get them out of their bubble. I think the world always needs wonders and magic, but how capable are visitors? How does it change over time? And how do you keep them in magic?
From experience I can say that people are divided into two groups, there are those who want to marvel and enjoy the magic, and those who miss the opportunity to get excited trying to understand how. It’s not a voluntary choice, I think it’s a predisposition. It is easy to guess that for a magician the second group is “problematic”, but not for the fear of being discovered, but for the impossibility of being able to excite them. But I can assure you that once you remove all their assumptions, they too will be forced to abandon themselves to the idea that they have witnessed something fantastic. Precisely this difference leads to another fundamental statement, magic is not in the trick, but in the minds of viewers. Because if you convince someone that you’re flying, they’ll definitely say they saw a man flying. For the second part of the question, I believe that life is extremely monotonous and repetitive, and if something really has to happen, it is often an unexpected and negative. And people need to escape from everyday life, and art in general has this power. For a few hours they no longer think about problems, they enter another world. In this magic is more attractive as it really takes you to another world, a world often contrary to the physical and natural laws that govern us. Think about when you go to the movies, somehow we accept that people on the screen have superpowers, we accept that superman flies for example; Similarly to be able to enjoy a magic show you have to “accept” that you are witnessing something extraordinary. The word ILLUSION in itself comes from the Latin “IN LUDO” and means literally GETTING INTO THE GAME, and not by chance its opposite is DISAPPOINTMENT, literally coming out of the game.
Let’s speak more about the concept of magic and wonders. Tell us more about the story.
There are three feelings that raise man, inspire him and make him happy: Love, Joy and Wonder. Love is rare, but almost everyone eventually finds it, and if they do, they hold on to it for the rest of their lives. There are countless works of art about love: paintings, poems, films, songs and almost every other art form constantly speaks of love, trying to communicate it to others. Cheerfulness is an easier feeling to feel and there are many comedians, fantasists, animators, professionals who can cheer people up. For the wonder is different: it is a commodity nowadays more and more rare and the men to try it are willing to believe anything, from the Madonna bleeding to the Filipino healers and a vast array of other scoundrels ready to take advantage of their good faith. Among all these professionals of wonder, the only “healthy carrier” of wonder is precisely the magician, the entertainment one. But becoming magicians, knowing the tricks, you lose the ability to marvel. But we compensate this loss by experiencing the emotion of the magic of reflection in the amazed eyes of the audience. So it is fundamental to remember that the wonder does not come from a trick but from an emotion: it is not important to know how to do a thousand tricks but to know how to excite.
I am sure like in every field there are as well in the sorcerer area different typs of actors. Tell us more about the magicians themselves.
There are several terms to indicate who works magic art: illusionists, magicians and prestidigitatores. All point to the same person but underline several aspects: The illusionist is the one who creates illusions. The Magician is the one who deceives the senses to make believe the impossible. The Prestidigitator is the artist endowed with manual skill and quickness of the fingers. The Conjurer is a person endowed with magical powers (derived from illusion or, for those who believe in it, from true magic). In some situations we avoid calling ourselves a magician in order to distance ourselves from those who, calling themselves a magician, take advantage of the naivety of people to earn money such as Filipino healers. Magic was born with man because it is the fruit of a human need: it can be said that it was man’s own mind that created it. Think of the primitive man who found himself confronted with the boundless power of nature, not finding an explanation he entrusted himself to the supernatural and consequently to the veneration of the god of fire, of the rain and all that was simply inexplicable.
Your training path as a magician is really interesting and shows you worked together with a lot of other artists. On your channels there are often other magicians and performers you work with. Tell us something more about those projects and what is like to perform with other magicians. I am sure you need assistants for many of your tricks.
Working with other artists is always fun and collaborations help growing. I still remember the day my teacher said “It’s time to walk on stage”. It was a show where many experienced magicians would perform. My act was 7 min long and it gave me a big emotion. Even if no one could spot it, my hands and legs where shacking and my voice trembling. Many eyes on you is an emotional stress hard to handle. Then, the more you perform, the more you get used to the stage, the more you can manage the spaces and then you understand that final applause is addicting. Anyway in these last years I moved away from this “Only Magic” performance. I find more interesting the idea to give the audience a more various show. So I started to perform with singers, bubble artists, comedians… Every time I interact with other artists, magicians or non magicians, I can learn something new or interesting. Something of their experience becomes mine. In magic business assistants are fundamental. Not only the ones on stage but also the assistants behind the scenes. The artist is just the iceberg top. Many persons are working behind him to put up a show. Everyone is not only important but fundamental.
Tell us something about your equipment. There are some things that are typical for magicians and that everyone knows. So cards or the famous rabbit out of the hat or some pigeons. What tools and resources do you work with? Which are your favorite magic instruments?
It often happens to divide the magic effects according to the tools used during their development. Some effects use only one tool, such as a deck of cards. Others use secondary tools compared to the main one. For example, you can play a game with a card that is burned thanks to a lighter and is found in a wooden box closed by a padlock. In this case the other tools are not considered in the classification because the audience, in telling what they saw, will describe the game as an effect of cards and not of cards, lighter and box. Finally there are games in which there are several equally important tools. For example, you do choose and disperse a card. A coin disappears to be found in the middle of the deck, right where the chosen card is. There are three means by which the magician creates his illusions: the word, the hands and the tools. These last ones constitute the armamentario and the baggage of the magician, that must know them learning every merit and defect until it cannot be trusted. Professionals, unlike amateurs, buy in a targeted way, by being built to measure or by adapting each tool personally. There are three categories of tools: those rigged, those without rigged and those scene. It’s fundamental to remember that tools are just the means to do magic, because the viewer does not have to see a flying sphere, he has to see a magician who makes a sphere fly. Consequently, in my shows I use objects of all kinds, from coins to balloons, from ropes to boxes, from books to bottles. But I cannot forget the tool with which the vast majority of us approached this world: cards. And the world of cartomagia is so great and evolving that it is impossible to know all the effects and it still happens today, fortunately, to be deceived by another magician. By my personal choice I decided not to use the help of any animal for a choice of my vegan lifestyle.
We stay with the equipment for one more question: Where do you get your equipment from? There are certainly enough shops where you can buy such material. But I think, to keep it unique, a lot of magicians make their own equipment? There are often normal items that you then combine with each other. But basically, it’s all about the idea of how to use these items. Nevertheless, this equipment has to be special and prepared for the magic trick.
Unfortunately there aren’t so many phisical shops selling magical props, so we usually buy on the web using promo video to evaluate the various tricks and props. Some youtubers review the various props but still the best way is asking your colleagues if they already bought or tried the product you’re interested in. When you start doing magic it is very easy to start buying everything attracts your eye. Then almost all the effects bought “with your eyes” will go unused into a drawer: they are just not fit for us. Every magician has one or more wardrobes stuffed of never used tricks. Then there are the dealer shows, that are a sort of “pretend to be” lectures that are in fact just a show and sell trade fair. This is by far my preferred option because the artist/seller himself showcases all the tricks and you can have a clear idea of the effectiveness of the prop and the difficulty in operating it.
As in all other art genres or even sporting disciplines, there are certainly various competitions and awards in magic, right? Have you ever taken part in such an event or are you planning to? Is there an event you would really like to attend? Kind of like a dream to have been participating there?
In magic there are many competitions, as in every other art. The most famous is the FISM world championship in magic, held every three years in a different city of the world. Winning a FISM is the dream of every innovative magician, striving to pass the limits of technique, invention, artistic mise en scene and so on. FISM dictated the rules that many other competitions follow or are inspired to. Those rules ensure that magic continues evolving and this is a very good thing indeed. Anyway you can be a really good magician without doing any competitions. There are many magicians that work only for their audiences. They wouldn’t win any prize in a FISM like competition but some of them are way more entertaining than many competitors of the FISM. So, just according to me – personal taste – it is very important to improve magic but it is even more important to entertain your audience and this is the reason I never do competitions. I am happy to study what others improved and even happier to apply these studies to something my audience will love.
You will probably learn from other magicians and learn many secrets about the tricks there. Likewise, you teach new students who want to be magicians. There is certainly old knowledge that is passed on, but also the innovation and ideas for new magic tricks. How do you develop your shows and how do you come up with new inventions?
The world of magic is so vast that knowing all the tricks is impossible! And of this I am very happy because when I am amazed I can taste that wonder of which, as previously said, I have deprived myself. To become a magician the best way is to join and attend a magic club. You have to imagine a magic club like Hogwarts of Harry Potter, there you will find skilled teachers, you will study theory, history and practice. You’ll be surrounded by people who love what you love, and when they think you’re ready, will share with you many of their “secrets” and you will do the same because the elderly know the old school but young people are often the most up to date. As for the effects, not all of them are created only by magicians, on the contrary, often the creator is not the executor of the game. Behind many effects there are brilliant minds such as engineers, computer scientists, electronics… A magician presents his idea to one of these figures and from there they begin the project and the subsequent realization. This of course involves a cost and on the game you can advance the full exclusive so you can be the only one to run it. You can also decide whether and when to market your creation, giving a mandate to the magic houses (ie shops of items from illusionists) to distribute it to all the magicians in the world.
What would you say to other people who want to be magicians? What would you like to tell those who also enjoy magic and want to practice it themselves.
In my opinion they are lucky and at the same time unlucky to live in a historical period in which it is easy to find magical secrets on the net. Fortunate and unfortunate, because previous generations had to study books and many secrets were jealously guarded by the creators or performers themselves. This led us to know less in terms of quantity but it led us to the search of execution and presentation as perfect as those who knew each other. Today you can find the explanation of an effect in a few clicks and this involves two things. The first is to know many games but all superficially. The second is that following all the same tutorial, and not elaborating it later, you do not see personalized effects in the presentation but an endless series of performances all the same. That said, the magical world still remains powerfully fascinating. So I am not worried about the future of this art because the fascination for mystery, for the impossible will never disappear as it is deeply engraved in the human soul.
Artist: MAGO DEGIA – ALESSANDRO DE GIACOMO
Magician Society: CMBB – Circolo Magico Bartolomeo Bosco di Torino
President of the CMBB: MAGO BEROK – SALVATORE RAPACCIUOLO
Artist: MAGO DIEGO CASALE
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