Experimentation from a Magician’s Point of View

Magician David London. Photo: Philip Laubner

I was honored when The Phillips Collection asked me to perform as part of the 90th Anniversary-themed Phillips after 5 event this Thursday, November 3. Part of the mission of the Phillips, as set forth by its founder Duncan Phillips nearly a century ago, was to be an “experiment station.” It is in this spirit of experimentation that I was invited to participate.

In both my magic and my life, experimentation has always been a priority. Experimentation demands generating new thoughts, ideas, and possibilities, and believing in them enough to see them into reality. It requires taking risks and being prepared to succeed while remaining willing to fail.

I have often been classified as an “experimental magician.” Experimental is a strange classification. Although I believe that all traits associated with the label are ultimately positive, sometimes fear emerges from the fact that instilled in all experimental ideas and actions is the inherent refusal to accept what is already known or be satisfied with what has been done in the past.

Our cultural evolution as a species can be tied directly to experimentation and the revolutionary ideas and progress it spawned. But experimentation is not limited to artists, scientists, philosophers, and innovators. It is part of daily life, as we each regularly seek the new, test it out, and see what happens. To some degree, experimentation and life itself are synonymous.

On Thursday evening, I will present “Wandering Wonders” throughout the museum, as well as a 45 minute show in the auditorium at 7 pm. I hope we can embrace this opportunity to be reminded that experimentation is all around us, and that we are all experimenters, constantly playing, testing, and trying new possibilities to form our own realities. And what greater cause for celebration than that?

David London, magician

An Illustrated Self-Guide to the Phillips

For this Thursday’s Phillips after 5 and Saturday’s 90th Anniversary Birthday Bash, I created an illustrated guide to the museum. Visitors will be given a booklet and pencil to sketch what they see as they experience the museum in a new way. Here are a few pictures of my work space, drawing tools, and images that will be in the booklet:

Work space. Photo: Elizabeth Graeber

Supplies. Photo: Elizabeth Graeber

A page from Elizabeth Graeber's Illustrated Guide to The Phillips Collection. Courtesy of the artist

A Jacob Lawrence-inspired page in Elizabeth Graber's self-guide to the Phillips. Courtesy of the artist

The idea and inspiration for this booklet came from the illustrations I created for this blog as well as a book I recently self-published–An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails–which I”ll be selling in the Museum Shop as part of Thursday evening’s program!

-Elizabeth Graeber, Admissions and Museum Shop Associate/Independent Illustrator