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Anna Munster and Michele Barker, HokusPokus, (2011).


HokusPokus is multi-channel, sensor-driven video environment exploring the relations between magic, perception and neurology.The work is presented as a three-screen interactive installation that highlights the principles of illusion and performativity in relation to "magic" tricks. HokusPokus takes inspiration from recent scientific interest in the potential that magic tricks offer as a tool for researching and understanding the relationship between vision and movement in human perception. Motion sensors form the interface between the audio-visual material and the participants’ movements. As the viewer attemts to engage with the magician onscreen, the sensors trigger changes to the projection in order to exploit and explore the sensitivities of peripheral vision. Magic relies on shifting the perceptual relations between vision and movement—on focusing and diverting attention at key moments. Participants become aware of this relation as perception catches up with illusion.

Aesthetically, the work is influenced by 19th century Victorian magic shows and traveling science demonstrations; a pairing which alludes to the proximity between the history of magic and the origins of neuroscience. This project is a predicated upon an array of Barker and Munster’s previous work which has concerned itself with perception, neuroscience and the histories of visual culture and media.

HokusPokus has been exhibited at Performance Space, Carriageworks, Sydney, 2011, and Waterman’s Gallery, London, 2012.

HokusPokus was supported by the Australia Council for the Arts New Work Grant.

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