David Blaine, Houdini’s heir

Today it’s the 45th birthday of one of the most world-famous wizards. Although media impact and professional recognition do not always go hand in hand, David Blaine combines both perfectly. In fact, some claim he’s the spiritual successor of Harry Houdini (how about that?!), since this American artist has always been characterized, mainly, by knowing how to exploit those aspects of the show related to endurance tests and physical challenges rather than illusionism and the classic card tricks and visual games. As in the case of the Hungarian legend of escapism, Blaine also bases his actions on a close relationship with the public –more than usually rowdy crowds– who witnesses his feats. Without going any further, one of his first much talked-about hits took place in 1999 –precisely on April 5–, when he was buried alive and for a whole week remained lying in a glass coffin tucked inside a tank filled with up to 3 tons of water. Without any communication with the outside world, his only food was three teaspoons of liquid a day… What Houdini could not put into practice due to his untimely death was eventually fulfilled by a 26-year-old youngster who had him as an idol. If that’s not true magic…
Beyond all these parallels, David Blaine is even another clear example of smell for business and innovation in a sector with many decades of tradition and in which you can’t never state that everything is already invented. Like many others, he began his career in the streets, playing card games, illusionism with objects, levitations tricks and even some performances with animals. Always accompanied by a camera, he soon drew the attention of the mass media and jumped to show stardom with his first television programs: Street Magic and, specially, Magic Man, in which he toured throughout all the country with a small domestic team and leaving all kinds of people speechless using his talent and a characteristic paused and cool tone. However, Blaine’s true magic was indeed his 360º turn regarding the concept of the show: it was no longer the magician, but his audience, the main center of attention. Even more shocking than the performance were the reactions of the audience and their active relationship to what they were seeing… Many of contemporary illusionism dynamics are based on this Copernican revolution in the way of understanding the modern show. The rest is history, like the one of this not so young man aged 45 who wanted to be like Harry Houdini … and who, in many aspects, was fully up to the task.

Vertigo, Blaine’s performance standing up to 30 meters high over 30 hours…