We are excited to introduce our next “rocket of the week”, Jackson Ridd (Instagram), an impressive and versatile performing artist who works and resides in Harlem, New York. Jackson has performed in venues ranging from Manhattan dive bars to the members-only Magic Castle of Hollywood, to international Fringe Festival stages with his one-man magic play “Discoverie of Magic” (a 2014 Hollywood Fringe Award Nominee). He stays engaged with the inherently convergent fields of psychology, magic, and theater.
Jackson has spoken formally about the intersection of these performative fields at the Beckman Research Institute in California. In addition, he has delivered a TEDx talk in New York on the concept of mystery. He has also explored the medium of cinema with the directorial debut of his short film “A Singularity” (2016 Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Award Winner) and continues to investigate the effects of performance medium on magical representation.
We interviewed Jackson and think his reflections on magic provide you a unique perspective on what it means to be a performing artist in business and life.
How did you become interested in magic?
I initially became interested in magic through a movie called “Shade” which showcases a confidence and sleight-of-hand game with some beautiful gambling sequences. I was immediately struck by the simple elegance of artful deception and became interested in the notion of similarly aligned performance arts.
I know you performed at the prestigious Magic Castle in LA. What did you learn there, both from your performances and from the other performers you met?
I learned that magicians like to be credited, that’s for sure. Magic is a very special community. To illustrate that let’s look at the movie industry: Let’s say I’m a screenwriter, and I have an idea. Let’s say it’s aliens invade earth. So I write a movie about aliens invading earth. It’d be ludicrous to credit me with every iteration of alien invasion movies after that, but that’s kind of what magic does … and it’s actually kind of cool. Because generally speaking, magicians take care in crafting experiences for others, so it’s nice to be consistently recognized for one’s contributions to the art.
How do you think about the impact you can have through magic on the community and other people?
When I began my pursuit of this vague idea of magic, I was immediately gripped with the elation and responsibility of being given permission to alter someone’s perception for a short period, and gaining access to their thoughts for just enough moments to leave a lasting memory and feeling. I am humbled and excited by this position. I take great care in choosing presentations and mediums that will affect those I encounter with lasting, positive, and mysterious experiences.
What have you learned about performing magic or acting in front of audiences that can be applied to traditional business presentations?
Take a big breath before you step onto the “stage” and when you do step onto the stage, breathe calmly and make eye contact with everyone else present with you. If you do both of these things, you’ll have a much better time. Because if you do this, you’ll not be giving a presentation “to” people, but “with” people, and that makes all the difference.
As a street magician, you do a great job interacting with people you have never met before. How do you make these people feel comfortable, especially when they don’t know what you are going to do?
The best way to make people feel comfortable is first to feel comfortable with yourself. I let them know, just by my attitude, that we’re going to have some fun. From there, as soon as everyone is guaranteed to have a good time, everyone is aboard the ride, including you.
What have you learned about marketing yourself and creating your personal brand as an artist and entrepreneur?
I inwardly cringe when I hear the word “brand” in relation to a person, even though it’s a very popular notion these days. We can go all Judith Butler and posit the performativity and curation of everyday human existence, but then we’d end up arguing semantics. We’re humans. We’re artists. And being an artist is entirely about inner truth and expression. I change every day, and these changes are reflected in my work, and, thus, my current promotional materials. I don’t ascribe to any sort of singular marketing aesthetic, I live and create.
Where are you going from here? How do you think about blending your different interests together in the future?
I’m currently in the works and in production on a few very exciting ideas, with a few collaborators, namely Z, H, T, and H. I can’t say too much about it right now (as Hemingway says, “You lose it if you talk about it.”) but I’d like to publish myself coining this term right here: Perception Art. That’s what I’m doing right now. I’m a Perception Artist.
What would you recommend to other creative people that consider turning their passion into a career?
I’d say to honor the feeling first and foremost. Be honest with yourself and why you’re making your art. As frequently as this advice is given, I find very few who live by it. Those who do, achieve their own goals. Those who do not, end up achieving someone else’s.
What is your life motto or favorite quote?
“Deus ex Machina” (translation: God from the Machine). It’s essentially a theatrical device; I believe Aristotle coined it, describing scenarios in which the author copped out near the end of their play, with their protagonist in an unsolvable situation, and a God would come in and solve it for a happy ending. This is a phrase I live by. We all create our own happiness.