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Interview: David Blaine Talks Electrified

Performing death-defying and visually spectacular stunts that captivate audiences around the world is something many magicians strive to achieve. Illusionist and endurance artist David Blaine, who has thrived in a career of endurance stunts, is set to amaze viewers worldwide again in his latest spectacle, ‘Electrified: One Million Volts Always On.’

‘Electrified,’ which will take place at New York’s City Hudson River Park’s Pier 54 at West 14th Street, will feature Blaine surrounded by one million volts of electricity for three days and three nights. The stunt will be enabled by the Intel-inspired Ultrabook, and will begin at 7:30 pm on Friday. New Yorkers can visit Blaine at Pier 54 to participate in the performance, and can control the levels of electricity surrounding him.

‘Electrified’ will be the first live stream on YouTube, so that viewers can watch the stunt worldwide. Viewing stations will also be set up in London, Beijing, Tokyo and Sydney, at viewers will also be able to control the coils Blaine will be standing on.

Blaine participated in a press conference at Hudson River Park’s Pier 54 recently with Intel’s Vice President Partner Marketing, Johan Jervoe, to discuss ‘Electrified.’ He first spoke how he came up with the idea the idea for the show with Jervoe, how he created the show with Intel and how he was inspired as a child to become a magician.

Then Blaine answered questions about ‘Electrified,’ to further explain how the show will work. Among other things, he discussed how his body will be protected from the electricity in a specially designed suit, which is made of chain and steel links; how he changed the stunt when he learned he was expecting a daughter; and how people around the world can control the volts surrounding him.

Read Blaine’s introduction to ‘Electrified’ below.

“I was very lucky (to get to do ‘Electrified.’ The show came about when) I was sitting next to Johan at dinner, and I saw he had this nice watch on, so I decided to steal it. That got his attention. I started doing some magic to him, and we started talking.

He asked me if I wanted to do something with Intel, and I said, of course. Intel’s the biggest company in the world. They built technology for every device that everybody uses, so that would be an honor.

I turned down almost every single brand. But when he gave me the opportunity, I said what are you thinking? He came to me with this device, the Ultrabook, and he said what can you do?

I showed him this concept, which is something I’ve wanted to do for years. But no one could come through and do something like this. It makes sense to do this with a technology company. I showed him a drawing that I dreamed of doing.

It’s based on the plama balls they used to have at Sharper Image. You would touch, and the electricity would come off to your fingertips. I wanted to do that.

It’s based on me having such a good experience in the water tank, where I was there for a week. People could touch the side of the water tank, and I would touch their hand. But I found out that in order to do this, you have to be in a vacuum. So that wasn’t going to work.

So I started searching online, and my friend Stephen Chow helped me. He found this amazing group called Architect. They’re engineers who are also musicians. They control frequencies to make music. Using the frequencies, anyone can affect my environment. It’s no longer me subjecting myself; everyone gets to control the environment I’m in. All the arcs and currents and electricity will make a visual lightening storm in the middle of New York City.

I decided the longest amount of time I could possibly do this without killing myself was three days and three nights. I based that on when I was on the block of ice. It was 63 hours of standing up and staying awake. I then began to hallucinate, and it became the most difficult challenge of my life. Therefore, this one is going to be further.

As far as the difficulties, that’s up to me. I have the best team of people, doctors and scientists, to do all the testing on what the coils will produce. They do produce dangerous UVs and ozone I don’t need to breathe. I will have a ventilation for that. It also has the most bright light that I’ll be staring at. So I’ll have a little mask that goes over my eyes, and will shield my face from the UVC.

There will be no food once again. There will be a tube that we will have to be very careful with, that will be supplying water. The water will come up from under the water suit, and will go into my mouth, which will be under a helmet, which will be open. Since it’s open, if I hallucinate, which I will, due to not eating or sleeping for three days and night, if I go to itch my face, that’s it. It will be like getting zapped with a lot of electricity. It will be very painful.

So what we’re going to do is have people interact with me. New Yorkers can come, they can come up here and talk to me, to keep me alert and distracted from what I need to get through.

I don’t think I can ever top this. It’s the mos ambitious thing I’ll ever do. It’s all thanks to sitting next to Johan at dinner.

At the end of the 72 hours, the Liberty Science Center will be setting up something so that the kids who come can learn what’s going on and what alternating currents are. Afterwards, we’re donating two of the coils to the museum, so they’ll be there and set up for kids, which I think is good.

Growing up in Brooklyn with my mom, we didn’t have much. But she would take me to places to see really cool things. She wanted to show me art and science and music and literature. She would take me on the subway and go to Coney Island, and see someone doing something for free next to the ocean. I would wonder what’s going on, and it would spark curiosity.

I started to study different people, like Barnum And Bailey and Houdini, it was amazing to me that someone could go do something in public for everyone to see. Kids could come and people could wonder, and that’s basically the reason I do it. The endurance angle is one side. But it’s also a kid who had a love of math, science, logical, magic and wonder. That’s my motivation.”

Read the press conference below.

Question (Q): How exactly is the experiment going to work? You’re going to be standing in between the coils?

David Blaine (DB): I’m going to stand on a pillar, that I’m going to be locked into. So if I go into a spasm, or if something happens, because now I have a 20-month-old daughter, if I get thrown off, I’m going to be harnessed in. The impact won’t be as severe.

Q: So nothing, one of the electricity, will actually be touching you?

DB: My suit is going to protect me. We’ll make sure it’s well fastened. In most cases, the electricity shouldn’t touch me.

Q: So you’re going to be surrounded by the currents, as opposed to the electricity actually touching you?

DB: Exactly. I’ll be in the suit, and the currents will not enter. Once they enter, it becomes a real hazard.

Q: What about your face-will the currents touch it, or can you?

DB: If you touch your face, you’re opening the current to go through the body. Once it opens that pathway, you have to stop the experiment. So we’re hoping that doesn’t happen.

Q: Is rain a factor at all?

DB: Rain is a factor, but we put a tent over the big structure. It’s a very significant tent, which I didn’t want, but the electricity and water don’t mix. So we had to do that.

Q: Do you have any idea of the long-term effects of you being involved in the experiment, and having that much electricity around you?

DB: The effects of being in an electromagnetic field for that long is unknown. We don’t know what it will do. I’m hoping it will give me some special abilities. (laughs)

Q: How did you come up with this idea? You mentioned the plasma ball.

DB: It began when I was in the water tank. I just loved the way that people could come up and interact, and I wanted to create something similar, and electricity was the thing. So I imagined the plasma ball, and I remembered the guy from ‘Hellraiser’ with the pins out of his face.

So I imagined pins in my face and a large plasma ball, where people could touch the side, and electricity could shoot to their finger tips. But to do that, you have to be in a vacuum, which is not possible.

So I found Architect, and I watched their videos. I thought, this is really incredible. I flew there the next morning and played with it.

Being in the middle of the lightening storm, it feels so amazing. It’s hard to explain it. But when I saw with the great white sharks, you’re in nature. You’re in an environment that you should not be in. It’s a heightened sense of awareness. I felt that feeling, and said, this is it.

Q: How are people going to be able to interact with you?

DB: We have a bunch of the Ultrabook computers that everyone can access and play frequencies. They can play unique codes; if they type DB, for example, it becomes really fast and strong. There’s also sounds and music. There’s lots of different algorithms that people can program and play.

They can do it from all over the world. They can log into Facebook, and they can all put what they want, and it can be affected that way, as well.

Q: Does having a 20-month-old daughter influence your stunts now?

DB: Yes, that’s why I now have the clip. (laughs) I was actually going to do something different, but backed out, since she was on the way.

I think differently about what I’m doing. This time, we have a very serious team, and I feel very confident that I’ll pull this off and be perfectly fine at the end.

Q: Can you describe what the suit you’ll be wearing will be made of?

DB: It will be chainmaile, made out of stainless steel links. The helmet is also steel. It’s all put together by zip ties that are strong and won’t break apart.

We also have a cage, that people can come and get into. They can’t get totally in with me, because it’s dangerous, but they can get close.

The boots I’ll be wearing have metal at the bottom. There will be wires going up to ground them. I picked the most comfortable shoes I could find, which took awhile, since I have to stand up for 72 hours. It’s a big part of the process.

Q: What does it mean to be performing in New York, coming from Brooklyn?

DB: Its’ amazing, a dream come true. Being able to do a stunt in New York City is a dream, so I’m very lucky to do this. I actually live about a five minute walk from here. (laughs) So afterwards, I plan on walking home. (laughs)

Written by: Karen Benardello

Interview: David Blaine Talks Electrified

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As a life-long fan of entertainment, particularly films, television and music, and an endless passion for writing, Karen Benardello decided to combine the two for a career. She graduated from New York's LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic. While still attending college, Karen began writing for Shockya during the summer of 2007, when she began writing horror movie reviews. Since she began writing for Shockya, Karen has been promoted to the position of Senior Movies & Television Editor. Some of her duties in the position include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, producing posts on celebrity news and contributing reviews on albums and concerts. Some of her highlights include attending such festivals and conventions as the Tribeca Film Festival, the New York Film Festival, SXSW, Toronto After Dark, the Boston Film Festival and New York Comic-Con.

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