Painless Magic

Carl Diehl

Thursday, August 22, 2024

5:30 – 7 PM

*Donation at the Door Encouraged


On Thursday, August 22nd, Portland based artist Carl Diehl presents Painless Magic, a film about the life and lessons of his grand uncle Dorny, a popular entertainer in the first half of the 20th century. Embellished with animation and vaudeville era ephemera, Dorny’s history includes Harry Houdini and Howard Thurston, prohibition era pranks, a WWI variety theater troupe, and the Magic Capital of the World.

As with any magic act, misdirection abounds and Painless Magic includes a world bigger than the portrait it appears to be. Through a collage-like constellation of conversations with historians, magicians, contemporary artists, and Dorny’s oldest surviving relatives, Diehl unveils the social scaffolding of creative problem-solving across contexts of art, magic, and everyday life. What begins as the story of the magician Werner “Dorny” Dornfield, splinters into a mosaic of many riddles and revelations.

Painless Magic is based on research, interviews, and writing that Carl first produced as the zine-like book, Misdirections: A Serio-Comic Catalogue of Details, Detours, & Derivations from the Life of the Magician, Vaudevillian, & Comedy Emcee, Werner “Dorny” Dornfield, in 2022. This event features an introduction by Carl Diehl, then a screening of his newly completed film, followed by Q+A.  Copies of the Misdirections book will be available for purchase.


Born and raised in Central New York, Carl Diehl moved to San Francisco in 2000 where he served on the events programming committee at Artists’ Television Access, and performed live cinema with qoqol and Century Quartet.  Following his MFA studies at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Carl relocated to Portland in 2007. As an artist and educator, his inquiries have been increasingly intertwined around questions of knowledge production and the social scaffolding of collaborative learning. In 2012, Carl co-founded Hundred Thousand Million Labyrinths, a constraint-based writing group, and in 2013, he co-founded Weird Shift, an artist-led initiative which has included a storefront exhibition space and an ongoing MicroTalks series.  

Through his creative practice, Carl has examined the specters of post-truth and algorithmic bias, complicated experiences of memory and place, and embraced multi-linear storytelling .  He has exhibited at venues including The International Symposium of Electronic Art, The Schneider Museum, Shapeshifters Cinema, and The &Now Festival of New Writing.  Carl Diehl teaches courses in digital time-based art at the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland.

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