Mariano Lavida, professional magician, is exclusively dedicated to card magic. It is the branch that best fits his philosophy: simplicity in the way of living, transparency and the desire to generate the impossible. His life is made up of many experiences: a trip alone with a deck of cards, four years isolated from society, co-host of a Boing program, endless tours…
I wanted to ask you about the most recent. How was the magic festival in Orés?
Very well. It is one of the most beautiful and important festivals in Aragon, and it is even relevant at a national level. There are many times that magic festivals are also set up with magicians in mind. They have a bit of congress part. Other times the festivals are set up exclusively thinking of the lay public in the field.
The one in Ores focuses exclusively on spectators. For example, there are others like the one in Tamarite de Litera, and the ones in Zaragoza city. In Tamarite they do do things for magicians. Besides, instead of being three days as they usually are in a festival, it is only one day, which is a very intense Saturday. There are street shows, square shows, stage shows, grand illusion shows… an infinite variety of shows.
Every year they bring different artists, and then they respect very well a part of magic, which is what I do, which is called close-up magic simply because they use small objects. Ores is a wonderful place. Everyone in town is a volunteer and they are the ones who perform at the festival. I was doing four passes of close-up magic with the cards for over 55 people, because all four passes were sold out.
What is so special about performing in towns?
I have been working professionally in card magic for ten years. So, behind what I do, there is not only the act of making a living from my artistic discipline, but there is a part of my personal mission that is my own and non-transferable: card magic, which is a very ancient art and that, unfortunately, very few of us who dedicate ourselves exclusively to it, are known live.
I dedicate my life to study the truest and deepest part of magic and to share it. That magic, when I teach it and show it live, 99% of the population sees it for the first time, which is what happened to you. They had done tricks for you, but you have seen this magic and you say: “This is the same with cards, but it has nothing to do with it”.
I study a branch of magic that comes from many years ago, that what it tries to do is a very powerful impossible. That it is not just a passing emotion, that it is something that shakes you up. The idea is that this magic, which unfortunately in Aragon I am the only one doing it, is lived in the villages. Not only in the theaters, which I have been doing for many years. The whole town comes and everyone gets involved. The feeling that is generated is very familiar.
And 99% of the people see it for the first time. In the twenty-first century, something we see for the first time, now that we are used to knowing everything, is incredible. I also like that sense of novelty a lot. There are people who come from town to town to see me again and they like card magic so much because it’s like a drug when it’s done well and live.
When did you start to be interested in magic?
When I was very young, from the time I was eight, nine or ten years old, I used to do little magic tricks. I never had one of those Borras boxes, but it’s true that I read a lot of books. But I also wrote poetry, wrote songs and sang songs, played the guitar and the piano, sang rap, wrote novels and poetry, did circus, did monologues… that is to say, I touched all the branches of art.
I grew up with all the artistic disciplines. There came a point when I was nineteen or twenty years old when I said: “I’m going to choose one of them and I’m going to focus my death on one of them”. I was hesitating between the novel, writing or magic and I chose magic, because you carry a deck of cards in your pocket and anywhere I do a show to you or to two or three hundred.
Magic communicates something very powerful which is the impossible, and that seems to me to be beastly. No art makes you feel the impossible. Besides, magic inside is pure communication, and the love of my life is communication. In fact, I have even created a method of communication called attractive communication, which is my own personal method, which I use to perform magic shows.
Why magic with cards and not with other objects?
Within magic, the deck of cards is like the purest, cleanest and most beautiful object par excellence. It has a number of exceptional qualities that make it the perfect object to do magic. Everyone at home has a deck of cards. You have more than one at home and you know what it is to mix. The moment you see me with a deck of cards and I perform miracles, you understand perfectly well that those miracles cannot be because you know that this does not have a technology inside.
The more normal the object the better. If a box was taken out and from the box a rabbit appears, and the rabbit transforms into a dove, I cover and put a cloth on top of it. You say, “Okay, but let me have the cloth and let me put my hand in the box, because I don’t know what that is.” First of all, secondly, with a deck of cards you can do all the effects of magic: divinations, transformations, predictions, disappearances, apparitions…
You spent two years co-hosting the Boing show “Wooala!”. How was the experience?
Very cool. I think television is a wonderful means of communication, as is radio, as is the press…, as is anything that helps to multiply human communication. In my case, I worked for two years for Mediaset España. The repercussion it had was incredible. People met me in the street, stopped me, asked me for autographs, photos….
After that, you retired for a while to live away from the world. Was it a meditated decision or was it a moment that made your head click?
It was a moment of madness, I came from working two years in Madrid. Then I spent a year living here in Zaragoza. We were doing big tours all over Spain. There came a time when my life was living between vans and dressing rooms. I remember a few months in a row of a very big tour, in which we did five or six shows a week.
It got to a point where I just blew up. I got off a show and said: “It’s over, I’m breaking my contract, I can’t do this anymore”. I was very young, coming from five to six very crazy years. One day at home at four or five in the morning, I said “I’m either going to live in the mountains or I’m going to see a psychologist”. I put in Google “rent, house, mountain” and the first house that came up I clicked, waited until eight in the morning, called and told him to reserve the house.
I completely disappeared, cut everything off and went for a whole year to a village by myself. That village I lived alone with a shepherd. I went to the bush, I walked, I read books… And I liked the experience of doing nothing so much that I extended it four years. I stayed from 2018 to 2022, four years without doing anything. I was not only in the Pyrenees, but I was out there in places that had disappeared, just reading books and going for walks.
What were those four years like?
They were incredible, because I discovered the other side of the coin. I discovered that the reality of human life is not only the fact of being in society all day long, doing things. We live more in doing and having than in being. That season I realized that being in being is very important when you are alone.
I got out of the system for four years. In fact, now when I came back after 1460 days I noticed a lot of difference, because I was living in the most basic part of existence, i.e. listening to the birds in the morning, getting up when it was getting light, eating when I was hungry and sleeping when I was sleepy. I was in the real part of life, which is nature which carries its own rhythm.
I have lived the passing of the seasons for four years. The passing of the seasons is not, “It’s already summer or it’s already winter.” If you go to nature, the first leaf has fallen, the few more have fallen, autumn is coming, the color of the landscapes of the mountainsides is changing. There was a very wild place in the Pyrenees: Aisa Valley. It is the least touristic valley of the Pyrenees but one of the most beautiful.
Imagine what I learned with the transhumant shepherd. The shepherd taught me to know the direction of the clouds, to know that a bird or a tree is a fucking miracle, because it is fed by a ball of fire up there. I came to the basic philosophy with which the Greeks began, the pre-Socratics with their first existential questions that here is much to doubt about.
When did you decide to come back?
Well, we decided to come back in 2022, after four years living this experience with the firm conviction that I had to tell about it. I only know how to tell things through my beloved object, which is my deck of cards. So, I decided to go on tour. I based myself on the effect of the impossible of card magic to remind you that you live surrounded by mysteries and that I can perform artistic miracles with a deck of cards, but that you live surrounded by natural miracles.
I go from town to town telling this. Not only that, in one town something happens to us and I tell it in the next. What I learn in one place I tell in another. Let’s say I’m like an old post, like an analog Instagram with legs, and that what I’m living I’m transmitting from one place to another like a minstrel.
Because it is a very complex discipline. It is very complex to be a full-time card magician. I mean that your shows are only card magic. Why? First, because as the object is very small, the object does not give much of itself. What does is the communicative capacity that you have as a communicator to make others feel the experience of the impossible.
Card magic is very complex. First, technically it is very difficult, and secondly it is very complicated that simply with card magic you can make two or three or five hundred people experience the impossible. It does not depend on the cards, it depends on your communicative capacity. In Spain we have one of the best card magicians: Juan Tamariz. There are very few references.
It is something you have to dedicate your whole life to. Not everyone is willing to do it. From the time I get up to the time I go to bed, for 25 years I have done nothing but study card magic, read, learn, travel, live… only thinking about the show. If I have a salvation in my life, it’s my job. The rope I hold on to to stay above the river of crocodiles, is the craft.
Have you had the opportunity to perform abroad?
I have been abroad, mostly to live the backpacking experience. For example, years ago, I said, “Let’s see if I can live alone with the deck of cards.” I put on a backpack, started in Spain and ended up in Switzerland. I didn’t carry money, I did magic for people. In exchange, people let me sleep in their houses, fed me or paid me. I spent a week with a girl who put me up in her house and took me around France, here and there.
I really lived that with magic and it was very cool. And after that I had the option of doing shows, but at that time I didn’t want to work. What I wanted was for life to give me a living, in exchange for giving love to the world by telling what I know and sharing what I know how to do. I spent seven or seven or eight months backpacking, with two underpants, two T-shirts and two pairs of pants in my backpack, and a deck of cards; and with no money traveling around Europe.
Did people agree easily?
Yes, because you don’t have to convince anyone. It’s going with your heart in your hand, it’s going out on the street and stopping someone you connect with, smiling at them, telling them “Hi, I’m traveling the world by myself with a backpack, I’m carrying a deck of cards and I’m going to share with people my magic games. I’m going to do magic for you in exchange for whatever you want to give me.”
If it was a hug, a smile, a kiss or a perfect thank you. Or if it was one euro, two euros, inviting me to eat, going to your house to sleep…, because I didn’t know where I was going to sleep and I had nothing. And the people are incredible how they turn themselves around. The most I’ve ever spent is a month in the same person’s house, living like a king with breakfast, lunch and dinner, in exchange for talking to me all day, going on excursions… Crazy experiences.
The move ended in Switzerland. From there I flew directly to Spain, because I was collecting money. In the end, I was paying for trains. In Switzerland, there was a train I had to sneak on. There I was very controlled, but I couldn’t do anything else. In Switzerland specifically, there was a girl who put me up for a week because we connected with a smile on the street.
We smiled at each other, and she already knew that I was living on an adventure. When you drop into the world, the world feeds you. That was my doubt and I proved it. So, since then I am not afraid of anything, I just live and what I want to do I do. The project was to travel the whole world. But what I realized is that the here and now is the same here as it is in Paris, London, anywhere.