Mariano Tomatis, 10 april 2013   

Ferdinando Buscema and the Glass Bead Game

Hermann Hesse’s novel The Glass Bead Game tells the story of an order of monks, the Castalians, devoted to a recreational and intellectual activity by the same name. Each and every “move” in the game consists in identifying and describing relationships between distant subjects, such as a work of art and an equation, or a symphony and a physical law. In the novel, the playing of each game leads to the expression of an increasingly rich and multidisciplinary knowledge, thus building what Hesse terms the “hundred-gated cathedral of mind”. During a magical performance, a similar narrative framework can offer an audience intriguing speculative stimuli.

In Italy, the magister ludi or Master of the Game par excellence is Ferdinando Buscema. His performances are not limited to staging impossible events: each performance evokes the existence of a spectrum of possibilities broader than what the audience is able to perceive. Forced to question the world as they see it, the participants are seduced by the alternative realities proposed, wonder-filled as well as plausible.

Buscema’s animistic rationality emerges at the intersection between engineering studies and his interest in hermetic traditions and transpersonal psychology.

As in Hesse’s novel, each one of his performances juxtaposes distant and fascinating themes: the assumptions of chaos theory become accessible through a deck of playing cards; a Beatles’ song turns into a mantra capable of producing psychokinetic effects; the “implicit order” of physicist David Bohm, according to which everything is connected, is conjured up using a simple piece of thread; a book test using a Bill Hicks’ book offers an opportunity to reflect on the spells of language.

After one of Buscema’s show at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, the hermetic traditions scholar Maja d’Aoust described his style in spiritual terms, calling it “a breath of wonder in the soul.” (1) 


1. Mariano Tomatis, Te lo leggo nella mente, Sperling & Kupfer, Milan 2013, pp. 174-5.

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