The Fast Rise and Fast Fall of a YouTube Magician

16.1.13 ShaSha LaPerf 11 Comments


Okay I have something to confess.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a magician.

I'm serious.

I was big into magic for years. I was glued to the TV when a David Copperfield special would air, in awe at him making the Statue of Liberty disappear. Okay I also thought he was kinda hot, LOL. Give me Copperfield over the obnoxious Penn and Teller and boring Lance Burton any day  And David Blaine, that dude really creeps me out. But back on the topic! I watched the cartoon Tenko and the Guardians of Magic so I could watch the magic trick at the end of the show. I also begged my mom to get me every one of those Magic Works kits. LOL I didn't get any of them so I just learned a bunch of card tricks--which I've forgotten to do. Even when those Breaking the Magician's Code Shows aired, exposing a lot of the tricks, I watched every episode in fascination  If anything it gave me a new appreciation for magicians and their assistants because what they did was totally fake, but it took a lot of work, timing, and charisma to pull off the stunts they did.


But alas, my interest in magic waned as I got older and got more and more into the visual arts. So I really hadn't thought magic too much until a few weeks ago when I came upon this guy:


From Powerapple BBS

This young man is a Chinese magician named Yif. There isn't a whole lot of information on this guy, so this will probably be a short blog post. ;) According to the surprisingly not awful online translator, his full name Wang Yi Feng and he was born in 1981 in Beijing, but grew up in Paris. Yif speaks Chinese, French, German, and English. Yif became a YouTube sensation last September when he posted videos of his tricks. The video below, has over one million views: 



The video even caught the eyes of Ellen DeGeneres, and she had a more amusing take on his video:



Yif's YouTube site is fairly new and features him doing many tricks, usually in front of any audience. Some of the videos are long and often in Chinese, but watching him and the reactions to his tricks is still entertaining. In the clip below he puts a cell phone into a water bottle:


Yif has been met with a lot of criticism since his YouTube debut and has take serious hits to his credibility. Although many of the English comments are pretty positive, some of the comments in Chinese give insight on controversy surrounding the young magician. He was accused by many magic organizations for using "computer magic" rather than "real magic" as well as called out for having actors play the unknown people in his videos. His abilities were put under more scrutiny at a live card trick performance. Granted I'm using the Bing translator to go through Facebook page, but he's being called "fake," and "an embarrassment." Comments are saying you should just watch a movie if you want computer effects. There are also claims that he's had plastic surgery to look better as well. There's even some comments who say he's Chinese and does not represent Taiwan all while another group says he's Taiwanese and doesn't represent China.


Yif did own up to using camera trickery and video editing in his YouTube videos. He apologized for it and promised from this point on that he would focus on using tricks that he can perform not just in a YouTube video, but on live TV as well. Needless to say, the reputation that he only began to gain just a few months ago has been badly damaged in and outside the magic community. I'm going to come back to this a little later.


I was somewhat surprised at the amount of vitriol aimed at Yif. Sure, I like magicians, but I'm also a bit of a cynic. When I saw the reactions I was like, "What the fuck, ALL THIS SHIT IS FAKE! MAGIC ISN'T REAL!" The phrase smoke and mirrors didn't just come out of someone's ass; it's a direct reference to the things magicians used back in the day in their stage shows. And using actors from an audience certainly isn't knew; they have to know what's up in order to not expose a trick. Heck, I even scoffed at the amount of magic organizations that were out there, and going after someone for not using "real" magic.


But after some thought I did try to see the side of the magicians. After all, they do put a lot of work into what they do, and it's probably seen as "lazy" but some to just rely on a computer rather than putting the work into the details of a stage performance and what not. And Yif's french bread video spread like wildfire with some claiming he's the next best thing in magic. LOL someone on one of his YouTube videos even called him an "Asian Jesus." And seeing Yif's video being featured on The Ellen Show certainly gave him a boost in the states.


Plus the magic world has lost the popularity they did have in the 80s and 90s. Acts like Burton in Vegas are being replaced by acts like Jabbawockeez. Criss Angel's Mind Freak and David Blaine's specials are now a thing of the past. Well David Blaine still does crazy shit, but more along the lines of "let's see how many days I can sit in a vat of pig shit before I die" type stuff. Penn and Teller's magic competition reality show Fool Us was cancelled after just one season. I was pretty surprised when the Simpsons made an entire episode in 2011 about Lisa being a magician's assistant and featured the voices of David Copperfield and Penn and Teller. However even thought it was a recent episode, it certainly felt like an outdated idea. So I can see the frustration from magicians. A once popular entertainment avenue has been dying in mainstream media. And here comes Yif, a handsome young man who speaks several languages and was getting the big YouTube fame to maybe revive a general interest in magic. Only he turned out to just be using fucking Final Cut Pro to make his "magic" tricks. I'm sure it was disappointing to some folks.


Earlier I mentioned Yif acknowledged his use of digital alterations. Interestingly he didn't see this as a bad thing, but simply a new or another way to present the art of illusion. This is the statement that made me connect with him because it reminded me of something I've seen several times in the art field: the battle between traditional and digital artists and the idea of what is "real" art and what isn't. Yif's use of a computer simply shows he's a product of an age where it's all about technology. YouTube is where people are becoming stars. The idea of magic came about centuries ago when we didn't have computers or YouTube or tampons. And it makes sense to me that in a world that has tampons, the idea of wanting to create magic with the help of a computer doesn't seem that far-fetched. But I suppose that's a more serious debate for magicians who have done more research than me. And I don't know the full extent of Yif's controversy, so I could be totally off on what I'm saying here. #shrugs

But to me, I see magicians as entertainers. Even after you learn how a trick is done, and it's easy to say, "oh yeah I can totally do that!" I think they still put a lot of work into what they do be it with the help of a computer or a pretty assistant and a stagehand. And I was entertained by Yif's videos. I hope he continues to hone his skills and give the magic world a big "Fuck You" with an awesome that relies much less on computers and more on his own charisma, hands, and "magic."

11 comments:

  1. I love seeing magic shows. When I was a kid, my friend's mom had one to come at her B-day parties .I would also take my nephews to see them at our local library.Like you, I was a big fan of David Copperfields show.Haven't seen him around as of late, I guess because of that rape accusation. Still, he was an amazing illusionist. 2 of my nephs love Chris Angel. Idk, great magician, but he's a little too weird to me.

    It looks as I've seem Yif before.Maybe I'm getting confused with some else. Anyways, I hated that happened to him. He could have been the comeback kid. I wondered if Yip wasn't trying to deceive the people with technology in the way they interpreted as?You brought up a good point about the computer age and magic.Possibly, Yip could have been trying to incorporate magic and computers to present a new age of magic. I don't think that he wasn't trying to cheat people from a good magic show, but tried to do something new..that unfortunately didn't go smoothly. I wouldn't be surprised if someone else did the same.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very insightful . Would have been just as effective without the obscenities, however.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I liked your post and enjoyed your take on Yif and his videos.

    If you're interested in more information on Yif, to read his side of the 'controversy' you may want to read this cool interview with him.

    http://www.vanishlive.com/2013/06/24/yif-the-art-of-magic-tim-ellis/

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hey man, its good to read your article about yif. Thankx about this show off software yif.
    I am also interested in magic and that tooked me to youtube. Surfing videos of magic, then I met yif in utube. Watching his videos words came from my mouth was, its impossible.
    When I came to know about using computer to create illusion and even in your article writen, I thought that he is coward, totally fake person.
    Magic is an art to entertain people by performer's sleight of hand, magic tricks, not with yif's software science fiction.
    I think that he just hate magic tricks, that beautiful magic moves created by sleight of hands, that real crazyness, like shout in school magic show, that real magic moment, not that computer moment.
    If he is magician he is embarrasing himself, and his teacher.

    Not more, but again thnx dude for picking out this point here..

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yif was in these live television shows broadcast to millions of audiences in China and overseas. He's simply great!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdgMmL4qC3Q
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nmsM56eeh4

    ReplyDelete
  6. Magic? to me all magic is fake. It is an entertainment to me so it doesn't matter how it do as long as i don't know how they do i will be enjoying it. First time watching Yif magic it is impressive and i enjoyed it...not until those so called professional magician start exposing his "magic" saying is fake, cheat, CG and whatever...can i know which magic in this world is real??????? david copperfield flying magic also using string with camera and lightning effect the string is hardly to be seen...not to say the liberty statue can be disappear...if for normal audience to think the magic is what is what still ok but for a magician to say another magician is fake i think it will turn the gun back to all magician...all magician is fake...they use different method to let you think their "magic" is magic....

    after Yif incident indeed magic industry have been affected for sure...at least i will think all magic show is CG and i will be losing interest in tv magic show. But is this Yif wrong or those magician who exposing his magic wrong? The rules in magician industry "Never reveal another magician magic" is there for a reason. no one will care normal ppl comments on yif magic but for other professional magician to criticize is a different matter...

    What is the reason of a Magician criticize Yif? All magic is fake at first.

    i wrote this because Yif magic expose by those professional Magician had destroy one of my entertainment. Note this Yif magic is fake and yours too...but now i lost interest in tv magic show because you professional expose it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. first of all, i really appreciate how you react on this., honestly i feel hurt when some magician was trying to destroy Yif's magic tricks,...i find him really entertaining,..i hope you could change the mind of this envious people so to stop posting negative comments about Yif....besides they just cant bear to themselves that the guy was too attractive to be magician..yif is more likely to be a celebrity hunk...i mean it....

      Delete
  7. yif is awesome, i admit it the fact that the guy was more likely to become a celebrity hunk rather than being a magician ,.. i agree to your comment , most of the people who post negative actions about him, maybe its because they are too envious to admit yif i mean this guy is absolutely amazing!!!!. he performs his magic tricks so well,and with that great looks and a gorgeous smile.. for me everything he has is perfect,.. it's Magic...

    ReplyDelete
  8. yif is really entertaining. his oersona is perfect for what he does. obviously the whole thing is fake, with actors and computer cgi. but still much more fun to watch that the tired old circa-1980s magic tricksters. go yif!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Does anyone know if Yif is married? I know it's stupid little girl stuff, but I cry when I watch his videos I am so mesmerized, his way of speaking and presentation...I know thats his act but...It's part of him. I don't care about the incident really, I blame the camera guy, and as far as CG I think it's fine, his videos are still magical to watch....oh if I could just be held by Yif for just a moment...

    ReplyDelete