Another Place – Ben Earl – How He Did It!

Another PlaceLast night I watched a program by a new stage magician, Ben Earl, who performed some very impressive tricks. Amongst the truly amazing array of stunts was one performed at Crosby beach. You may remember that I actually visited the beach recently and wrote about my thoughts on Antony Gormley’s Another Place.

The trick essentially involved one of the 100 cast iron statues turning 180 degrees to face in the opposite direction. The deception was achieved via that stalwart of stage magic, the art of misdirection. We did not actually see the figure rotate. Instead, we were treated to two more minor tricks – both involving rotation.

Ben rotated a pebble on his hand and he rotated a wine bottle in the sand. Both of these props were apparently picked up at random from the beach. But I feel pretty sure they were both placed there to be ‘found’. A trick pebble (very nice touch choosing three and discarding two) and a trick bottle almost certainly. See, watching Penn and Teller has me a bit more tuned in these days.

But the real reason those two minor tricks were performed was mainly as an act of misdirection whilst the statue rotation was accomplished because, when the attention of the small audience was directed toward the statue, it had also turned. As I said, it was a great trick. My inner radar says ‘trick statue’ but I could be wrong; it could have simply have been a trick audience (stooges). My instinct says that perhaps it was a combination.

If it was a trick, rotatable statue, we have the matter of the apparently free choice made at the start of the trick i.e. one of the audience apparently chose a number between 1 and 100. There are 100 statues on the beach and he might have chosen any one of them. I am not really that impressed with this part of the trick – it is standard magician’s stuff – but it is an important element of the trick because it suggests to the audience that he could have achieved the effect had any of the statues been chosen.

If I were performing that trick, I would have used a stooge to select the apparently random number (it was 64 in the trick). Statue number 64 would be my trick, rotatable statue. My misdirection props (bottle and pebble) would be placed on the beach where I could nonchalantly pick them up at the appropriate time. Then I would get my stooge to turn the statue around whilst I was showing the pebble trick.

Of course, I am not saying this is how it was done; it’s just how I might do it. The real magic always takes place in the mind of the audience.

Anyway, I am looking forward to visiting #64 in due course, next time I go to Crosby. I expect he might still be looking out to sea; still gazing at the horizon in silent expectation. If it turns out that he is looking back, contemplating his past, I would probably be a bit disappointed at #64 but I would also be genuinely impressed with the trick.

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