Raising an illusion


Published on 4 September, 2015 in The Hindu Business Line – BLink

German mentalist Nicolai Friedrich on how magic uses logic and creative thinking to accomplish what appears impossible

Mixing it up Mental magic, says Nicolai Friedrich, is a mixture of psychology, suggestion and magic. AGP World

Mixing it up Mental magic, says Nicolai Friedrich, is a mixture of psychology, suggestion and magic. AGP World

Anything that’s pleasantly out of the ordinary is magic. It’s often overwhelming and even freaky. For Nicolai Friedrich, it is a metaphor for the human ability to make seemingly impossible things possible. Friedrich blends visual artistry and mind tricks with excellent comic timing, leaving audiences awestruck. He attempts to inspire the audience to look beyond the boundaries of reality. With no one in his family even remotely connected to magic, he started out by studying law at the university and even became a professional lawyer. But magic was destiny. “My mother thinks I learned something really serious. But lawyers and magicians have a lot in common, so I guess it worked out all right,” he says.

On his fourth visit to India, Friedrich performed across five cities. In an exclusive interview before his opening show in New Delhi, he talked about the magical tricks that oscillate between belief and make-belief. Excerpts from the interview.

Is magic for real?

Well, I believe there is magic happening around us every day. However, we are often blind to those little wonders of life and nature. Instead of admiring, we simply take them for granted. I have to admit that my show is not real magic but it absolutely looks like it. So I try to get as close to real magic as I can.

What got you interested in magic and mind-reading?

At four, I saw a magician in a circus. It perplexed me and I thought of becoming a magician myself. Soon after, I invested all my time, money and effort in learning new tricks. So probably this first magic show was the cornerstone of my career.

Can magic ever go wrong?

Oh yes, especially if you have invented something entirely new. However, it is all part of the natural procedure of trial and error. The most important thing that you learn is to never make the same mistake twice. Luckily most of the time, the audience will not even realise when something goes wrong, because a good magician always has a plan B up his sleeve, so he can secretly switch to that and finish the trick.

Which is the most difficult trick you have performed till date?

I flew an airplane blindfolded. It was a dangerous publicity stunt for German television and since there was no autopilot I am happy that I managed to land the plane safely.

Does mind-reading involve intuition or the sixth sense?

I would say both. Mental magic is a mixture of psychology, suggestion and magic. Even though it looks that way, it has nothing to do with supernatural powers. However, our mind has much more potential than most of us are aware of. If we train and use some of the hidden potential we possess, we can do things that may seem like miracles to others. The study of human psychology helps us understand why people behave the way they do. It is quite easy to detect a lie or predict future behaviour. Our body is constantly sending out information, so if you think your secret thoughts are safe within your head if you keep your mouth shut, you are wrong!

You have performed in India before. How has the response been?

Indian audiences have been very receptive and have loved my ‘mentalism’ and illusion tricks.

Have you heard of or met any Indian magician or mentalist?

I have met some Indian magicians and mentalists and have heard of some, but unfortunately I have not seen their shows yet. The only magician whom I knew and admired a lot was Ali Bongo. He lived in the UK, but I found out that he was born in Bangalore.

Would it be correct to say that magic tricks have logic to them and yet they are illusions?

Yes, that is absolutely correct. Magic uses logic and creative thinking to accomplish something that looks impossible. The fact that it looks impossible is the illusion, since all magicians are also bound to the laws of nature.

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