Experi-mentalism: Gerard Senehi at TEDGlobal 2012

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Gerard Senehi

Gerard Senehi is a performer of tiny miracles or, if you’re looking for a more formal job title, a mentalist. A mentalist is someone who blows people’s minds by doing things that just can’t be explained through science or reason and Gerard is exactly that. Be it his hands-off approach to smoking a cigarette, his ability to mostly read your mind, or his delightful manipulation of cutlery and glassware, he is the one who asks you how much you know about your constructs of reality.

Using a small group of random volunteers, Gerard starts to play. He has some of them hold the contents of their pockets in their open palms and smiles politely as the untouched objects begin to jump up and down. He asks a volunteer to hold a TED supplied wine glass and with a fork laid across it and fills the theater with the sounds of cutlery bouncing on glass. He borrows a cigarette, and after making it float around a bit, catches it with his mouth and takes a casual drag. Was this telekinesis? “Maybe it was,” he says. “We’ll see.”

And then things start to get surreal.

Gerard Senehi

Two volunteers step up and are given forks. He asks who would like to have the power and the one on the left politely accepts. The two volunteers are instructed to try and bend their forks with their fingertips. One guess as to whose fork was broken into two and whose fork was completely unscathed.

A volunteer is asked to pick a random person from their cellphone. After a series of increasingly accurate directed questions, “What is his name?”


“OK. I got Isha. This proves that mind reading is not an exact science.”

It is this definitive vagueness that proves to be the linchpin of Gerard’s performance. Was he really able to read a woman’s mind and simultaneously draw almost the same exact thing as she did? Did he really guess the word a volunteer was thinking of (after telling her that her initial word choice was too easy)? From his perspective, it didn’t matter. In his mind, none of this is about bending spoons and reading minds. It is all simply a metaphor for the potential of when we question the most fundamental aspects of our life.

Photos: James Duncan Davidson