Marco Tempest gets paid for being elusive. No, he's not in customer service. He appears on a stage in Monaco, diving head-first into a densely packed video wall, to vanish into the virtual reality behind the plasma displays. At a Los Angeles sales convention, Tempest vanishes with a pharma exec into a giant PC screen, where the volunteer is miraculously shrunk by a mighty computer program. The downsized fingerling is presented to the audience on the palm of the illusionist's hand.
This black-clad magician has no use for silk scarves, white rabbits, or mysterious wooden boxes. Instead, Marco Tempest relies on powerful Intergraph and SGI workstation computers, digital video, and Hollywood-strength animation software for his show, adding a video-game inspired twist to the black art: Harry Potter meets Super Mario.
Tempest's playful focus on high-tech has made the Manhattan-based stage magician a top act at technology meetings. In 1987, soon after arriving in New York from his native Switzerland, Tempest was awarded the prestigious “New York World Cup of Magic” — at age 22. Early on, he specialized in performing for companies such as Silicon Graphics (today's SGI) and Sony, which paid him with their sophisticated hardware. Today, Tempest's firm, Newmagic Communications (www.newmagic.com ) counts AOL, Sie-mens, and Panasonic among its clients.
Tempest, who started as a street dancer in Zurich, acts as his own choreographer, composer, and lead software sorcerer. His new show includes “Marco, The Virtual Magician,” a digital clone with whom he interacts in real time. “I love to explore the magic potential of new technologies,” says the real Marco.
His tricks put the pizzazz back into computers, cell phones, or even fax machines right at a time when the magic of the tech industry's early days has worn off. At a Swiss Telecom conference, it was revived by the push of a button. As far as fax machines were concerned, the crowd presumably had seen it all, but Tempest demonstrated a new use for this communications tool. After picking a volunteer from the audience, the magician forced him down the document slot of a fax machine and telecopied him across the stage. Within seconds, a second fax machine spilled out a real-life, flesh-and-blood copy of Tempest's daring volunteer.
Gerd Meissner (www.gerdmeissner.com ) is a business journalist based in Mountain View, Calif.