TED | Marco Tempest: The Magic of Truth & Lies

So the type of magic I like, and I’m a magician, is a magic that uses technology to create illusions. So I would like to show you something I’ve been working on. It’s an application that I think will be useful for artists — multimedia artists in particular. It synchronizes videos across multiple screens of mobile devices. And I borrowed these three iPods from people here in the audience to show you what I mean. And I’m going to use them to tell you a little bit about my favorite subject: deception.


One of my favorite magicians is Karl Germain. He had this wonderful trick where a rosebush would bloom right in front of your eyes. But it was his production of a butterfly that was the most beautiful.

(Recording) Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, the creation of life.



Marco Tempest: When asked about deception, he said this:

Announcer: Magic is the only honest profession. A magician promises to deceive you — and he does.

MT: I like to think of myself as an honest magician. I use a lot of tricks, which means that sometimes I have to lie to you. Now I feel bad about that. But people lie every day.

(Ringing) Hold on.

Girl in Phone: Hey, where are you?

MT: Stuck in traffic. I’ll be there soon. You’ve all done it.


Lady: I’ll be ready in just a minute, darling.

Man: It’s just what I’ve always wanted.

Woman: You were great.

MT: Deception, it’s a fundamental part of life. Now polls show that men tell twice as many lies as women — assuming the women they ask told the truth.


We deceive to gain advantage and to hide our weaknesses. The Chinese general Sun Tzu said that all war was based on deception. Oscar Wilde said the same thing of romance.

Some people deceive for money. Let’s play a game. Three cards, three chances.

Announcer: One five will get you 10, 10 will get you 20. Now where’s the lady? Where is the queen?

MT: This one? Sorry. You lose. Well, I didn’t deceive you. You deceived yourself. Self-deception. That’s when we convince ourselves that a lie is the truth. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the two apart. Compulsive gamblers are experts at self-deception. (Slot machine noise) They believe they can win. They forget the times they lose.

The brain is very good at forgetting. Bad experiences are quickly forgotten. Bad experiences quickly disappear. Which is why in this vast and lonely cosmos, we are so wonderfully optimistic. Our self-deception becomes a positive illusion — why movies are able to take us onto extraordinary adventures; why we believe Romeo when he says he loves Juliet; and why single notes of music, when played together, become a sonata and conjure up meaning.

That’s “Clair de Lune.” Its composer called Debussy said that art was the greatest deception of all. Art is a deception that creates real emotions — a lie that creates a truth. And when you give yourself over to that deception, it becomes magic.


Thank you. Thank you very much.


About VIA


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