Masterminds 2013: Artist of the Day, Christian Cagigal

Categories: Art, Artopia
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Who are today's most promising emerging artists? Each year, SF Weekly finds 10 of them for our Masterminds issue. You'll be able to see these artists and their work up close at Artopia on Thursday, Feb. 21, at SOMArts Cultural Center.

That night we'll also announce the three artists who will receive grants. Come out and meet them. But first, get to know their work.

See Also: Masterminds 2013: Artist of the Day, Kellen Breen and Melinda James

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Gil Riego, Jr.

The Magic of Story: 
Christian Cagigal 
Spectacled and dressed in a blazer, white shirt, and dark pants, Christian Cagigal looks like a professor as he stands on stage at the EXIT Theatre and tells his audience, "All magic takes place in one place: your imaginations. Without one, the next 57 minutes of your life will become very, very boring. Ready? Ready?!" The audience yells yes, but nothing they say can prepare them for Cagigal's performance of Now and at the Hour, in which he guesses precisely what audience members are thinking, has them pick objects in an order that he foresees, and does other funny, mind-blowing feats.

Unlike magic acts that emphasize objects suddenly appearing, disappearing or changing shape, Now and at the Hour combines memoir and mind-reading (or "mentalism"), as if Cagigal were channeling the narrative oomph of Spalding Gray and the jaw-dropping skills of the Amazing Kreskin into a much cooler persona. During the hour, he tells his own story and that of his father -- a Spanish immigrant who soldiered in Vietnam for the U.S. government and came back suffering from PTSD and schizophrenia. Cagigal, who grew up in Daly City, learned magic early on as a fun distraction. On stage, he uses things from his dad's military life (dog tags, an old photo) as props for both the show's narrative and his brand of magic. Just don't call them "tricks." That term is so 1950s.

"The term some of us like to try and use these days is not tricks but effects," he says. "I like to call it a certain level of magic realism."

A former member of the San Francisco Mime Troupe, Cagigal has performed Now and at the Hour for three years, and his résumé looks like an acclaimed veteran's. There are the performances of his different shows around the country, the many four-star reviews, and the upcoming movie version of Now and at the Hour by indie director H.P. Mendoza, who films Cagigal's act and has him interview other magicians about the art of magic. Still, at age 37, Cagigal says his career is at a crossroads.

"I don't have a good sense of my own career until I talk to someone else about it. Other people think I'm wildly successful. I still feel like I'm plodding along trying to make my career happen. I feel like I've reached a little plateau after six, arguably 10, years of plugging through. I'm not rich. I'm not famous." Cagigal laughs as he says that -- the same kind of contagious laughter you hear in his shows.

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