by Pipo Villanueva
Published: Last Updated on

The “Give Away” concept was coined by Gabi to refer to a technique of construction whereby a magical effect (and/or secret move) is replaced by an overt non-magical action in order to fulfill the same internal and/or external purpose.

For Gabi, the magical atmosphere is not determined by the number of effects, but rather on their quality and meaning.

That is why it is sometimes possible, usually in the context of a routine where the same effect has to be repeated several times, to replace one of the effects for a non-magical action.

For example, in one particular version of Vernon’s “Twisting the Aces”, (which is actually “Twisting the Ace, Two, Three and Four of Spades”), instead of having all four cards magically turn face up one by one, Gabi dispenses with the first effect. Gabi’s reasoning is that turning over the first card (the Ace) magically would require a technical solution (like a secret turn over) and not a particularly elegant one at that. By removing this first effect,the solution for the rest of the effect becomes very organic and pure. Of course, we cannot simply omit the first effect entirely since the four cards are meant to appear in numerical order.

Gabi found the solution, as he did so often, in the External Life of the effect. To begin the routine, the magician shuffles the four cards and fans them out. After referring to the chaos that’s just been created he asks the spectator to take the Ace of Spades, turn it face down and return it back to its position, explaining that this symbolic action will work as an invocation for the magic to happen, restoring the natural order. After turning the packet face down, the cards then proceed to magically turn face up in order, starting with the Two, followed by the Three and finally the Four.

Gabi argues that in this context the spectator wouldn’t miss the first effect consciously or subconsciously. He thinks that the spectator’s experience would relate to the whole, and not to each individual part of the effect. Given that the Ace is integrated in the theme of the routine and plays ans essential simbolic role, the fact that it not turned over magically, does not imply that the spectator is going to notice the formal detail that not all four cards were turned over magically (in any case, this is not a requirement for the Magician since he never announced that he would do so beforehand)

Another example of this concept is the context of an “Oil and water” routine when the cards (8) are supposedly alternated red and black face down and displayed in a fan. There is this idea of openly turning face up the central two cards (together) both to confirm the cards are alternated and to displace the cards to resolve (at least partially) the method. This ruse is not original to Gabi, but he recognized there the “give away” concepts back in the 90s and also incorporated a beautiful subtlety by using a different choice of words to accompany that action instead of the usual “…but if we turn over the two cards in the center you can see that they are alternated” that presents problems, such as:

  • It is a descriptive patter that does not provide additional information to what is seen
  • Turning over two cards and precisely those two seems arbitrary and carry no meaning.
  • As a proof that all the cards are alternated it is incomplete, and with no good reason apart from hiding the secret.
  • This particular choice of words is not a lie as such, but it is close.

As an alternative, Gabi says something like “but if we turn over the two cards in the center…. EVERY THING CHANGES. By saying that the speech stops being aseptic and descriptive to carry all the meaning of a magical gesture that catalyzes the effect. And furthermore, is truthful and honest, both from the external life and from the internal life, and that is beautiful.

In many similar situations an effect of even a just a secret move can be replaced for an open action (100% external life), so instead of hiding something the magicians “gives it away”, hence the name of the concept. Each particular case would have its particular constraints, requirements and ultimately a different approach to the solution.

Here you have a video in which Gabi performs “Ithaca” (twisting 1, 2, 3 and 4) and uses the “Give away concept”. This clip is an extract from the last lecture Gabi gave, in June 2020 via Zoom, for the Madrid circle of the SEI (Spanish society of illusionism), and from here we want to thank its president and the board for giving us permission to share this recording.

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