Maximum Magic

A workshop with Aaron Gach

From smoke & mirrors to spirits & mysticism, this course will be engaging all kinds of magical arts in relation to diverse creative practices, historical developments, and current cultural expressions. To provide a foundation and context for our studio-based endeavors, we will be actively experimenting with, and blurring the lines between, various interpretations of magic vis-à-vis science & sorcery, metaphysics & aesthetics, social engagement & ritual, and plenty of other enchanting topics. In this workshop, artists will get feedback on their art through various exchanges and explore their art practice’s connection with magic.

Office Hours: Thursdays 8:30 - 9:30pm EST

Oct 5th - Nov 16th

6 pm - 8:30 pm EST

Students Max


Aaron Gach’s diverse artistic practice consistently addresses public concerns, social politics, and power dynamics. Inspired by studies with a private investigator, a magician, and a ninja, he established the Center for Tactical Magic in 2000. This collaborative authoring framework is dedicated to the coalescence of art, magic, and creative tactics for encouraging positive social change. Although the collaborations take many different forms, the work is largely the result of creative partnerships with a wide array of individuals and organizations, including hypnotists, biologists, engineers, activists, nurses, military intelligence officers, journalists, radical ecologists, former bank robbers, security experts, street vendors, community organizers, and many others. His work has been presented by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art; Hayward Gallery, London; Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Vigo, Spain; Deutsches Theater, Berlin; and a major public commission for the City of Toronto. In addition to teaching at TAAS, Aaron Gach has taught courses in Community Art, Street Media, Art & Magic, Collaborative Practices, and 4D Art at the University of California Santa Cruz, Stanford University, the San Francisco Art Institute, and currently at California College of the Arts.

Linking & Unlinking - Linking & Unlinking is a single-channel video initially designed for a 30ft video billboard in New York City. The video combines 3 different source materials: found footage demonstrating how to pick a pair of handcuffs; found footage of professional and amateur magicians performing the classic magic trick, "the linking rings" (a.k.a. "ninja rings"); and, a rolling text of "Know Your Rights" information from legal advocacy groups.
Universal Keys - Nearly five thousand “universal” handcuff keys hang on a wall in a formation that creates an optical illusion of two interlocking links. Visitors are invited to take a key for personal use thereby deconstructing the links over the course of the exhibition. Does possession of a universal key truly enable the beholder? Or, does it simply make visible the material strengths and weaknesses of state power? In what context might such a key open up new possibilities for understanding power relations? Ultimately, these are questions to be answered by those who hold the keys.
Transporter - Accommodating 13 people at a time, the Transporter is a social witches’ cradle designed as a sort of bizarre reckoning of 1960’s radicality and our current sociopolitical constructs. The two vehicles used to create this witches’ cradle – hippie bus and construction crane – serve as ideological opposites connected by a single strand.
Magic(k) Wands – Magic(k) Wands is a display of the most encompassing symbol of magic: the wand. Like so many useful technologies over the last few thousand years, wands have gone through changes, becoming more and more differentiated, designed, and specialized. Today, UV sanitizers, security wands, cosmetics, remote controls, "personal massagers" barcode scanners, “magic markers” join the traditional tools of ritual and entertainment to conjure the magic of our daily lives.
Witches’ Cradles (Swingset & Gallows) - Devised initially for interrogation and torture of accused witches, the witches’ cradle was eventually reclaimed by its potential victims to induce altered states, prophetic visions, and inward journeys. Drawing from these historical notes, as well as from New Age sensory deprivation tanks, and Houdini’s famed Metamorphosis illusion, symbols of state power, and Foucaultian notions of discipline, punishment, authority, spectacle, domesticity, and subversion, the Center for Tactical Magic’s re-envisioning of the witches’ cradle suggests a present-day desire to conjure alternative states. To date, more than 2500 people have attempted to achieve an “altered state” during their 20-minute experiences within the cradles.

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