Joan Baixas in Cuba: a world apart.
Those who know his career know that - more than an inhabitant of La Mancha come out of a novel of cavalry- Joan Baixas is a dreamer, in the style of Jonh Lennon, which preach messages of peace and justice based on the teachings that the world has offered throughout his intense life. His works, of deep social content, are a hymn to life, to love and freedom; fundamental rights of the human being that Baixas claim and defend in every one of his shows.
Fusing theater with painting, music and, at certain times, dance, this Catalan artist has managed to become one of the main exponents of visual theater in Barcelona.
After founding Teatre de La Claca, which assumes elements such as conceptual art and performances, thus breaking with language and traditional forms of expression, Baixas works with important pictorial exponents of the time such as Joan Miró, Roberto-Sebastián Matta and Antonio Saura.
His work has been exhibited in the most diverse stages of the world: from remote places, such as the Australian desert, to landmarks such as the Guggenheim Museum in New York and Bilbao, the Pompidou Center, the Sydney Opera House, the Liceu Theater and the Hong Kong Arts Festival. He has also been in charge of the International Puppet Theater Festival in Barcelona and has been teaching at the Theater Institute of Barcelona and other international centers.
In the early days of December, Baixas fulfilled a dream he had long dreamed of doing: visiting Cuba. For those of us who had the privilege of interacting with him through the creative workshops he gave at Casa Pedroso, home of the El Arca Puppet Theater-Museum, and the performance of his show "Tierra Preñada" In the Historical Center we found it short, but very deep.
How do you start in the art world? Did the family environment influence your decision to do theater?
I come from a family of artists. Painting is the profession of my grandfather, my father and my sister. My father specifically practiced primarily as a teacher of fine arts. He had a very interesting school, well known in Barcelona. I was very interested in what he was doing. In my house art was something natural, I lived surrounded by that world. However, I was interested in art not because I came from family. Of course, they influenced me a lot, and I learned many things from them.
But I chose this way of my own free will, because I wanted to. I always thought I was not for art. Curiously I was the less gifted brother. I lacked a little skill and concentration; I really enjoyed playing and the family did not know what to do with me. And although my sister is a drawing teacher, of the five brothers, the one who has dedicated herself professionally to art is me.
Between the ages of eight and 14-a very important stage in the formation of the personality of an adolescent-I had the misfortune or the luck of being interned in a school run by priests. This was a very repressive experience for me. However, art gave me the possibility to leave those four walls and let my spirit fly.
I first discovered literature and began to read poems -which seemed wonderful- then novels ... When I finished my studies, I thought I was going to be a poet. But in the same boarding school I discovered the theater because I organized small pieces in which I represented clowns and other characters and I was the reader of the school, reading every day few hours for the community of arond five hundred people. I did that job at the Mass and at lunch and dinner time. Throughout the game, I began to discover the interpretation. That is, I discovered art for survival, so that my spirit could fly free.
What does it mean for you to be part of the Catalan theatrical avant-garde?
Artistic recognitions sometimes translate into money, especially when one plays the commercial letter; Other times they become public recognitions. I am very happy with my situation, which is a little special because I have the affection and recognition in my country. I have become transparent and that is what gives me independence, freedom, strength ... and I am very happy about it.
But I have the feeling that when the puppeteers get together they do not assume that I'm going to be there because they think I'm a painter; When the painters meet, they assume that I am a theater-maker; And for the theater, I am a puppeteer. So, I participate a little of the three worlds, but in reality I form a world apart.
And I like that a lot because I do not believe in these public acknowledgments that put you in an urn. What interests me is the contact with people and with life. That is the most important thing for an artist, and it is priceless.
What are the experiences of doing this itinerant work in different parts of the world and being able to work with young people to whom you transmits your experiences and of those who receive new ideas?
It is such a global experience in my life that it is very difficult to translate into words. I have a great time, it's a lot of fun. I always know many people and I feel at peace. The most important thing is that feeling of being a citizen of the world, feeling that the world is small and, at the same time, very big and diverse. It is a little that game of what unites us and separates us as human beings.
There is a dialogue between what we are individually and what we are as humanity. We are all humanity, but we are also of our house, our family, our culture, our people ... And I feel very good because this duality still works for me. I am very grateful for life and hope to have the strength to continue doing things.
After dissolving the Teatre de La Claca, founded in 1967, decided to make a personal career. What has been the line of work followed during these years?
Basically what I am interested in finding in artistic work is that feeling of life that is called poetry, that beating of the human being who is alive. And being alive means accepting pain, but also striving for joy, for happiness.
When I travel around the world I do not like to stay in top notch hotels. I prefer to be close to people, to reality ... and to understand each place as it is. Then I see a lot of pain of people who do not understand, who does not find love, who suffers from hunger or racial discrimination, gender ... That can never be forgotten because it is there, it is the spectacle of the world.
However, when you realize that there are still people who persist in their struggle to find happiness and love, that good feelings are still active and very strong, you achieve a very beautiful perspective of the human being. You have the feeling that the bad comes alone, the good things need to look for them and fight to get them.
I always make the anecdote of when I performed shows in the Sarajevo war, where jokes were made continuously. I was surprised to see those people who, under the worst circumstances, were determined to be good, to laugh and to help others overcome difficulties. I was very happy to have been able to know that dimension of the human being.
Are all these concepts present in the work "Pregnant Earth”?
I hope so! The big bet is to be able to transmit all the experiences that life gives me. In short, an artist is only one more link in the chain of assembly line of humanity and the fact of making art is to be fighting for the good side of life.
I remember someone saying that after Auschwitz you could not do poetry. And it seems to me that this is a great mistake because during the second half of the twentieth century, from this place came precisely some of the most beautiful poetry that have been made in Europe. And to be able to get something good and beautiful from the chaos strengthens us and increases the great hope of the human being.
How does the encounter between Joan Baixas and El Arca take place?
I met Liliana Pérez Recio, director of El Arca, at the Charleville Festival, held in France. She saw my work and liked what I did. I found she is a very enthusiastic and positive person. So we're looking for a way to get to Cuba. Sometimes for economic reasons this is a bit difficult, but we did it through the help of the spanish Ministry of Culture, the Oficina del Historiador de la Habana and the Embassy of Spain.
What was the fundamental objective of the Mapamundi - Sonrisas (Map of the World - Smiles) workshop, which was held in Havana?
My personal goal was to learn. And if what happened there - between what I know and what they did - made the kids learn something I think it's great.
In all the workshops that I have given I propose a game to the boys and try that the exercise transcends the group with which we are working. Because, after all, art we never do for ourselves; It is a service we give to others. Through the artistic work we feel personally fulfilled. That's my idea about art.
As this type of work is in danger of being locked in the group itself, I have proposed the idea of the Map of the World workshop, which we will post on the Internet so we can teach people from other places in the world what a group of young people has done in Havana. In this way an interesting exchange can take place between Cuban students and from other parts of the world and learn from each other. I think that until the end of our life we must constantly seek new knowledge.
The workshops are ideas that I am starting to make a reality. This is my fourth course. The other three I made in Barcelona (two) and one in the town of Olot. I have made others, but not with this idea of the World Map. Little by little I will make a package to show how the experience has been in different parts of the world. This will serve as a meeting point between all of them.
What is your opinion of the creation of an institution such as the El Arca Puppet Theater-Museum and the work being done here?
I was struck by the fact that in Cuba there are some things that in other parts of the world are not possible to find at present. When I started to do theater, in the decade of the 60s, companies could be created. In the Europe of those years there was a tremendous amount of creativity, thanks to the independent groups that erected the young, conformed by theatrical artists, painters, musicians…
I myself had an independent company that responded to this precisely. In Teatre de la Claca we were a collective. It is now impossible to achieve work in this way. Most of the young people are with their problems and because of economic difficulties, even legal difficulties, they can not consider creating a group. At this time it is impossible to do this.
Instead, it turns out that in Cuba it can be done. This institution seems to me a wonderful example that one can still aspire to the dream of having an institution where the museum, historical, creative and professional aspect is integrated into a single company, that there may be a public, familiar in this case, that is acquiring a teatrical culture.
Of course, that is a dream that does not exist in other parts of the world, nobody can do it. I was recently in Korea and Estonia and globalization there makes everyone manage as best they can. As each has its own difficulties, people find themselves in small projects that last for a while and then disappear. And all the collective work and creating a culture of its own and working on an audience has gone down in history. It seems to me a wonderful possibility this new reality that is El Arca. It is fortunate for those who can and will do it and for those who will benefit from it, who is the public.
Do you intend to carry out any other project with El Arca?
I would love to! I think we have a very good feeling. I always say that I am a Cuban who had never been to Cuba. From my childhood the presence of the Island in my house has been constant. My grandfather came to Cuba with his brother. Then he returned to Catalonia, but my great-uncle stayed and made family in Santiago de Cuba. Therefore, there has always been a very strong family relationship between Catalonia and the Island. I remember that for Christmas or in the summer many relatives from Cuba went to the house. We were poorer and we came less.
I've always felt like I'm a bit part of here. I have heard so many things and in my house on holidays, Cuban food was made. I remember with pleasure the Cuban rice that my grandmother used to make. I have always waited for the right time to come, because I have never wanted to do it as a tourist; I said, "Someday he'll be there" and it happened. Now I am in the Historic Center, in a puppet theater in front of the boardwalk, what more could I ask for! I have waited 60 years to get to know this country and I am very happy about how the meeting has taken place. Of course, I hope it will not be the last.
What did you think of what you could see in the Historic Center?
It really is a true World Heritage Site. This is huge. But I think it goes beyond the simple fact of being nice or not; It is life! It is a strong testimony of the human being, from the religious, the military, the historical ... There are places that constitute a World Heritage Site because of its unique construction or its beauty. But the Havana Historic Center is because it reflects the life itself, in all its aspects. I was very impressed, I still can not react.
Yamina Gibert, Matanzas 2008, Cuba.
INTERVEW JOAN BAIXAS, Tallin 2010
Vahur Keller. Tallin (Estonia) 8·6·2010
How would You define Yourself? Who are You: a painter, a poet…?
I’m an artist. I usually say that I’m a painter and a theatre director, because these are the two things that I’ve done most. I also like very much writing, but mainly I write for the scene. All my life I did lots of writing for nothing. Now I’ve started writing a book, because I think I’m old enough for starting to put it all together. I want to write about my experience with the theatre and with the world. I started to opening boxes and I saw that I have something right about that in my diaries. There is a lot: diaries with ideas, with drawings, with lots of things. The stories that people have told me all over the world, the stories of real people. I want to write this book this year. I don’t know the general idea yet. I’ll write about stories that people have told me, but also about my experience with people and with the shows. For example I want to tell all the story about my relationship with Joan Miró who really was a big master of life for me, not just of art, and I want to explain that. But also my relationship with other artists, I’ve met some so nice people from all over the world. I hope to have the power of writing to translate these impressions. I really don’t want to define myself also because I’m a bit transparent. In our capitalistic world You have to be somebody at least for these minutes of fame that Warhol talked about. You have to be a name and somebody.
But You know – I’m nobody. When I am with the puppeteers I love them and they love me and we have very good relationship, but the puppeteers feel – “Aah, his a painter! He did puppetry but really his a painter!”; and when I’m with the painters, I love them and they know me and they are very nice with me but then they think: “Yeah, he’s here, but he’s really a theatre director!”; and when I’m with the people of theatre, they think: “Ooh, he’s really a puppeteer!” So I’m there, but I’m nobody, and I’m very proud of that. I have not been doing an artistic career to be somebody, I have been living – meeting people, watching things, doing lots of things, but I’ve never worked for my career. I do not need the place on the wall to hang: “Joan Baixas” – because it’s nobody. I don’t care! You understand what I mean? If You have something on the wall, You need the definition: “it’s an impressionist painter” or “it’s a photo of a famous film director” but I don’t want to hang on the wall, I’m very proud of being nobody.
Transparency means independence and that’s important. I can do lots of things. I had a very funny situation with my last show about a girl who was a prostitute and killed her lover. I met her, she was some character! The show contained many images of her life and at the end I explained who she was. She killed and cut her lover with an electric knife – a horrible thing – it was a big impression for the audience when I told the story! It was very tender by the character but at the same time a horrible story of blood and all that. When I started performing the show with the audience, the end of the show was an impressive image of somebody killing the other human-being with an electric knife. I talked with the actors and the musician that we have to invent the way to finish it with the happy ending, for people wouldn’t go out of the theatre too sad. So we did one minute music and dance together, and it was the first time I’ve ever danced on stage. Afterwards I had a review of the show that I’m a very good dancer and the best of the show was the dance. I thought – “my god, now I’m a dancer!” I thought it was so grotesque to dance on the stage at my age but it works! I noticed that I can do anything – it works!
You’ve also founded a department of puppetry and visual theatre and You ran a famous festival of visual theatre and puppetry in Barcelona. What “animal” is this “visual theatre”?
Visual theatre is a crazy name, because all the theatre is visual but at same time we’re talking about musical theatre and all the theatre has music, or we talk – I don’t know – about gesture-theatre and all the theatre has gesture. I used that name to go one step further from puppetry without losing puppetry. The expression “visual theatre” is used a lot for example in England and also other countries, and I used it to put more focus on the image. The name of visual theatre was actually invented in Bauhaus. In there, at Oscar Schlemmer’s time, it was not just using images but making dramaturgy of the images – that’s the point. It was Schawinsky who named the visual theatre. Oscar Schlemmer was doing the “Triadic Ballet” and people asked – “what do we do, do we do dance? Is it a ballet, or if we do cabaret?” The ideas of Oscar Schlemmer were very much cabaret-like with numbers and music and parody and grotesque, it was not a ballet. He called it ballet triadic with the humour, he put it “ballet with humour”. Oscar Schlemmer had very-very good humour, nowadays not many people remember that he was a very humoristic man, he did clowneries and carnevals and all that. And one day they were talking with Stravinsky who said: “What we do, is visual theatre – theatre with image.” This saying was there around and I also like to put the focus on the image.
Is it telling a story through the images?
Telling a story or not, but making the show.
Do You think a story isn’t important in the theatre?
Sometimes, but not always. It’s not essential.
What is essential?
Essential is the show to me. To make something spectacular, that gives an emotion to the audience. Sometimes it’s through narrative, sometimes not. For example, one of the masters of this kind of theatre was Tadeusz Kantor and he didn’t tell stories but he made theatre. Fragmentary, very poetic, around the things that happened. Things are happening on scene, but they don’t tell a story.
Though he had very strong stories behind it, the stories of his life, of his childhood.
And of his country. Kantor defined very well the importance of the image on the stage. Sometimes we forget that he said: “Image on the stage needs density.”. We’re supposed to live in the culture of the image, but with the culture of the image we mean a light image. What is the culture of the image? The publicity, the signals on the streets for driving, the logos, the hollywood stars and all that kind of things are images, so we talk about our culture of the image – but it’s light image. Image that everybody understands. Avatar is an image that everybody, from children to adults, understands. But Kantor said that on the stage the image has to have density; so You don’t have to project images and to do nice beautiful images – no,You have to do images that will stay forever at the hart of the people. Important is that the image on stage has time. If You see an image of painting, You can stay one minute in front of it and then You have a general impression of it; but on the stage You are there, sitting in front of the image so the image has to have the density to go inside, to grow and stay inside of the mind and the imagination of the people – we have to remember the images from the stage. We can do the light images in the theatre – just flash – some people do it a lot, but it’s not interesting, You know. These are images that disappear. So I used the name of visual theatre for the festival and for the school because, more or less, the puppetry is an old art, it’s a bit a ghetto. Even if it’s very contemporary and there are lots of interesting things, for lots of people, it’s a bit a ghetto. It’s an island, you know. To break that, and to bring more audiences to the shows and to the festival, we called it visual theatre.
What is the reason for puppetry being a ghetto?
I think partly it’s a ghetto because of the puppeteers. Because puppeteers have made this world organization UNIMA and international festivals and all that. This movement of puppeteers around the world have made lots of contacts between people during the last century and it has been very positive, but at the same time it has become a ghetto where puppeteers are talking about puppets and other people doesn’t go to puppet shows.
You meet the same people at every puppet festival. It’s a fun in a way, but…
Exactly, You meet the same people, it’s very nice and at the same time it’s very closed. With puppetry world I have a relationship that I go in and out. During fifteen years I didn’t play at puppet festivals, I was performing at other places, but then I started again in a puppet circuit and it’s funny that I found there my old friends: in Australia, South Africa, Germany, very good friends who I know for thirty years, but they are only in the puppetry world and I know – if I go there, I meet these people. They are there – in this puppet-tube around the world. It has very positive senses and also some negative.
Still, why this have happened to puppetry? For example painters are also dealing mainly with their thing and communicating mainly with each other. Why is puppetry so exceptional ghetto?
Maybe it’s because of the very close relationship with the tradition, I think. The puppet itself doesn’t change. The shows change and artists change, but puppet doesn’t change. It’s a strange thing, because what is a puppet? It’s a tool, an instrument, a copy of human-being, a symbol, a grotesque figure, it’s lots of things but it’s there. It’s like another humanity – a parallel humanity. It’s very much related to the tradition of the puppetry and it hasn’t happened to other arts. Contemporary poet can have the influence of medieval poets, nobody knows, it’s his personal vision and interest, but if he’s contemporary he’s contemporary. In puppetry, even if You’re very contemporary, there is always that root that goes to tradition. This is not bad, it’s a good thing. This root is always alive and goes further to the very old times – to animism and all that. It’s good but it forms that ghetto around itself. But puppetry is not just a ghetto of puppeteers.
For example when Robert Lepage used the puppets, nobody thought it’s a puppet theatre. Nobody thinks in cinema that “Avatar” is a puppet show, but if You analyze it – it’s a puppetry. “Alien” is a puppet and Jim Henson’s colleagues did the puppets for the first films of the “Star Wars”. Yoda is one of the best puppets in cinema – how it moves and the character are fantastic – and nobody thinks that Yoda is a puppet. Nobody says that Alien is a puppet, but it’s a traditional puppet that is moved by the hand of a puppeteer. It’s not virtual, made with a computer, it’s a real puppet made of wood and fabric but nobody thinks it’s a puppet. So, there is a lot of puppets out of the world of puppetry, which means that the ghetto is created by the puppeteers themselves. They are happy, good for their cultures and for their world, but at the same time they are closed. I think it’s very important for the new generations to know that. When I was teaching at the theatre institute, the students were very surprised when I showed the films with puppets starting already from Murnau. “Faustus” is a puppet film and also “Golem” which is a puppet that becomes alive. The monster of Frankenstein is a puppet. It’s a creature made by someone: it gets life, it’s animated so it’s a puppet.
The German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk writes at his most important book “The Spheres” most curiously about animation: he says that in the beginning it was animation. God is an animation of the human being. It’s a very nice idea, it’s the explanation of the puppet: God is the puppet of the human being. If You believe in God then God is God, but if You are not a believer but just a philosopher, then God is a creature made by the imagination of human being and the human being represents this character, this puppet, this animation, and human being talks for him and invents the dialogs of God. God is like Punch and Judy, he’s the creation of imagination of human being. This explanation of animation is fantastic because animation means: “to give an anima” – and the soul is the beginning of the puppet. It’s something out-inside, it’s the root of the puppet. So puppetry is much more than the puppeteers talk about. Puppeteers talk about puppets but they don’t talk about this animation.
Is this the thing that draws You to puppetry and gives You the energy to deal with it?
Yes, for that puppetry interests me a lot. Animation of mystery, of the things that we don’t know. There are so many things that human being does not understand, about nature and himself, about the world – how does this machine work? We improvise the explanations. What we do when we don’t understand something? We create something to represent our intuition – that’s animation. René Girard, a French philosopher who works in USA, puts all his anthropological work’s attention to what he calls “the sacrificial victim”. He says that human beings are the only animals that can kill one each other. All the animals in nature can fight, but when one lion wins the other, the looser goes away, the winner doesn’t need to kill him. Animals can dye by accident in fights but the purpose is not to kill each other. The purpose of the animals’ fights is to throw the other male away and to keep the females and the food. Human beings do not have that, if one human being have won the woman of another human being, he kills the other. The one who loses doesn’t go away, he comes back and tries to kill the other in an other way, maybe at night. This have really happened in the fights of different cultures: one group killed everyone from the other group to get food or women and kids for sex or for work or for eating them, and to stop that killing, they did put something in-between: “the sacrificial victim.” This is very clear in the bible: instead of killing you, I kill something that I offer to You. Instead of killing the whole tribe, I say – “Ok. I’ll give You the best I have – my son. You can kill my son and we will be in peace.” Girard describes how all the cultures tell that in myths, like Oedipus or Christ. Christ is the sacrificial victim that God offers to himself. I need to excuse the falls of the human beings so I transform my son into a human being and human beings will kill him as an offer to me and so we’ll be in peace.
The sacrificial victim is the beginning of the culture, beginning of myths. Girard has written five or six books about that, analyzing this process on Greek and biblical mythology, and this sacrificial victim is finally a puppet. We use puppets to do some things that we can’t do with human beings. Why is Punch – a very-very bad character who kills people etc – so strong and powerful? Because in the end he fights with death. He is the one that can fight with death. Also Petruschka and Pulchinella are fighting with death – all the big characters of puppetry finally have their important fight with death. They can’t win death, but they can escape or put death in a bag or in a box. They escape from death – that’s the power of these characters. So the relationship of a human being and a puppet is very deep. It’s the sacrificial victim, the offering, so for that it doesn’t disappear and for that it creates a ghetto around itself. Because it’s very magic, very deep, very strange.
Too deep for everybody?
Yes, maybe it’s too primitive for contemporary art – too religious, too mythical. At the same time some of the most famous artists used the puppets. Kantor didn’t use a puppet, but his actors are like puppets. All the actors have a double mannequin, and they carry their mannequin and they see the mannequin and they talk with it and they dance – it’s a puppet. I remember Kantor saying: “No-no-no, I don’t do puppets!”, but finally he was at the Charleville school doing puppets. There are a lot of artists of the twentieth century that used puppets without saying that these were puppets: Robert Lepage, Peter Brook or Bob Wilson etc.
You said that working with Joan Miró was a great inspiration for You. Was his work driven from same ideas?
When he went to Paris in 1930, one of the first things that he discovered was Alfred Jarry and his character Ubu. Miró had a table in his studio where he was sitting and writing and organizing the world of his and had all his life there. When he was 85 I saw that he had there the original edition of “Ubu Roi” from when he was 27, the time he came to Paris. This small book was the thing that was with Miró all his life, he wrote there notations and did drawings. He did the illustrations for three books of Ubu: of “Ubu Roi”, “L’Enfance d’Ubu” and “Ubu aux Balearés”. The theme of Ubu was with him all his life. One thing that I lent from Miró as an artist was his absolute concentration to his world. He had this all along his life – every minute he was concentrated to his inner-world. For an artist it’s not easy because we go in-and-out. We say, we go to work and then we concentrate – he was all the time concentrated. His concentration started when he was about 19 and his father put him to work to his friend’s shop. He was working there for seven or nine months and got sick of the money, so he told his father – “I can’t work like that, I can’t do a normal work, I have to concentrate on my inner world.” I think that is the important point of art. He decided to live 24 hours a day in the art world. There are people who live 24 hours a day for money, to make business and to be somebody, or people who live 24 hours a day for religion or for helping other people, or for nothing, but art – it’s a place, art is somewhere.
Some kind of passion for the purpose?
We say passion, we say concentration – we say words like that, but it’s different, You know, the art is there.
Do You have this kind of thing Yourself also?
More or less. Not as Joan Miró, of course. He was absolutely concentrated. I remember the last time I saw Miró at the hospital, and I asked him – “How are You?”, and he said – “Now, it’s perfect – I’m all day magnetized.“. He meant that he was all the time at the other side – at the art’s side. He said – “Everything is part of my painting, everything.” He was 24 hours a day there, at this space that we call art. That is a form of knowledge, a form of research – it’s a space in the human mind, a space of questions and emotions – finally a space of knowledge. Spanish physicist Jorge Wagensberg, the designer and director of the science museum at the Barcelona, said that there are three forms of knowledge: one is science which is asking the reality all the time and nothing is never sure for science; second is intuition, which means spirituality; and the third one is art, which is doing things. The spirituality is more about receiving, the art is more about doing. You ask the world by doing things: experimenting life and making forms out of these inner experiences – sometimes psychological, sometimes historical, sometimes political and sometimes just natural experiences. This is the experience of the world through the art. I like very much this definition of Wagensberg: three languages to understand the world. He doesn’t say religion, he’s very critical about religion, because he says that religion is about power, spirituality is different.
Do You think religion could be the fourth form of knowledge?
Religion is organized for power, I agree. Religion takes it’s power from spirituality. It’s a very formal power like all the forms of power. Power of money and power of military are stupid powers. All the powers are stupid, power is about the stupidity. Power is about “I don’t understand, but I will win.”, I will say that “No way, fuck You!”. Power is the bad side of the human being, in any field. The strongest powers that we know, the military powers, are killing people, making wars, causing disasters and destroying the human lives, and religious power is the same. This is different from spirituality.
So in a way You’re an anarchist?
No, I believe in organization, I do believe in democracy, for example. I don’t like if democracy means that some people have took all the power. The idea of democracy means different kinds of powers – it’s a very good idea.
But is democracy really possible? What we see every day, is not the idea that we like.
This is like happiness: You can’t wait until everything is perfect, You have to use as much as You can. No one is happy for 24 hours a day all of his life, happiness is some moments and if You make the bridge between one happy moment and next happy moment with a lots of troubles in between, You can become a happy person. With democracy it’s the same – it goes up and down. The general vision of anything is a disaster, the details are important, not the general vision. We see the world, and we see the people who went to Gaza with their boats and that disaster that happened to everyone, because everyone did the wrong thing. It was the moment of the travel, a very long travel – but not the whole world is Gaza. We are not in Gaza, so we have to enjoy life, because we are at this bar.
Do You think we should only enjoy or should we somehow fight for our ideas also?
I think we have to work but not fight. We have to make things better, to improve things and to make a life better, but it will never be perfect. There will always be problems – political, economical, car that kills somebody at the street, someone who can have everything and make more love than You… That’s always happening, all the time, so we have to work for the good things and I think it’s very important to enjoy the good moments. We have to be happy when happiness happens at our lives and not to complain – “Oh, it could be better!”. To enjoy these moments, this music, this bar…
It’s a really Catalonian thought. But still, is it important for You as an artist to express Your political views to people?
Yes, I did a lot and I still do. I work with the things that I have in mind, but the first thing is pleasure. I think that, first of all, art is about pleasure and we don’t have to forget that. It’s about pleasure of being alive, about being together, about shapes and forms: to make a song, to make a poem, to hear a poem – this is a nice thing. Firstly – life is a pleasure. I think human being invented art as a pleasure and does art as a pleasure, because we enjoy it, because it’s good. Then, sometimes there are so nasty things that You have to talk about. It’s like Paul Celan making poems at concentration camp. What it means – “we can’t make poetry after Auschwitz” – no, it’s Auschwitz where we can make poetry. Some of the most beautiful poems ever wrote in Europe were written in Auschwitz. What it means, that even there is at least one human being who takes the pleasure to put words together, to express the horror. No, in the middle of horror, in the middle of death, he finds a pleasure to put the words together and do a poem. That’s art. That’s art through pain, suffering, politics, bad moments, problems etc. You can still do the big poems in concentration camp as Paul Celan did – very beautiful and very strong, but he didn’t tell about the horror. When he says this image – “the black milk of dawn” – it’s so strong! Imagine the dawn at Auschwitz, one more day – one more day of life in the middle of horror, but it’s one more day! I always explain to Young people that place where I heard most jokes was in Sarajevo during the war, when I was playing at the hospitals. I’m sure you were telling more jokes during the soviet period than now.
Absolutely, we had a parade of great humorists then.
Like in the Spain in time of the francoism: we were telling jokes every day – lots of jokes! Humor is a form of art.
Then art had also more essential importance for people. Theatres were full, for You could say things through art that You couldn’t say otherwise. Now I feel that art has became somehow headless. What could be the importance of art for the society, for human being? Why does a human being need art?
I think that it’s a form of knowledge, language of knowledge. It’s fantastic that a dictatorship period is finished and You have a normal life. It’s a pity that we can’t do an art that is just joyful, about happiness and pleasure. But the thing that we have finished our period of tyranny doesn’t mean that we did change very much the world. The end of Franco is for me and my generation at my country very important, but in the middle of the world it was very small thing. Humanity has still many problems. Europe has big problems and we, Europeans, have to wake up and to think what to do.
It’s happening, we are there, and it involves Europe economically, politically, financially, artistically, religiously, spiritually. The idea of how we consider family is going to be reinvented in Europe. We proposed to the humanity a way of life that we practiced because we were rich, but it looks like we’ll not be rich anymore so we’ll change this life. We’ll throw away the immigrates, we’ll not take care of old people, we’ll not give help for the elders when they finish their work, we’ll not have the social security for everybody – will it mean that, or we want to keep all that with no money? Does it mean that we, rich people, will have to pay more – or what it means? How will we keep that form of life that we’ve proposed to the humanity? It’s a good form: we believe in social security and democracy and culture for everybody, taking care of the elders, receiving the immigrates, being multicultural – we believe in all that but we can’t pay it anymore. So, what we will do? We will renounce and we will be racist and we’ll close Europe and we’ll close the cultural institutions and we’ll leave the old people with the families on the corner without attention and we’ll have to pay for the medicines and the poor will dye earlier – does it mean that? This model of Europe is based on the richness that we get from exploitation of other countries and not on our own production. It was based on good prices of petrol, on good use of the basic materials etc. On that base of richness we invented Europe – this idea of democracy and wellness for everybody.
Can You propose any solution?
No, I don’t know. I think we Europeans have to think and talk because it will not be easy. The other cultures, Latin America, India, China, have their own ways and they’ll work for them, they’ll not work for Europe.
What kind of function does art have there?
I think at least art is one of the spaces to think, to talk, to be aware, to put the problems on the top of the table. It’s one of the things that art can do. Artists are the luxury of Occidental cultures and just the survival of their-self is the problem for artists. European artists are confident in the idea that the society has to take care of the them: “we are the richness of the country so we all need subsidies”. If someone says that we have other things to pay so we can’t pay the artists and You have to manage by Yourself, artists will say – “oh, they’re not culturally elevated” – and all that. I think we are not the problem of the society, we have to do our work with money or no money, with institutions or no institutions. I think it’s very good if the institutions take care of the culture, but if the institutions don’t take care because they are political or they don’t like to or they don’t have money or because they have problems with unemployment in incredible numbers etc – the artists can’t stop. If an artist stops because the government doesn’t pay, he’s a liar, he’s a shit!
Exactly this is one problem of the art – the survival of itself. What are we doing? Are we doing something because we believe in life and in the model of our society or are we just parasitizing our own society and hanging on the fee and thinking – “ooh, give me food, I’m an artist!” – – “What do You do?” – – “Oh, I’m doing modern things.”. In last fifty years we, artists in Europe, believe that we all have to be helped by some government. Everybody! True or not? and everybody has something so important that needs subsidy. Ok, I prefer to have subsidy, I mean, who wouldn’t prefer! But when I started, there were no subsidies so I worked and made my life from the first day that I decided to go into that business. I’ve always said to my sons – “Look, I have a business with what I can go to any corner of the street and I can do so good show, that the people are willing to by me a plate of soup.” I’m sure that I can make my life and the life of my sons anywhere in the world. At least art itself has this problem and I really do believe that artists could think of the society. It’s a place to think, a place to have experiences, a place to be together, place of talking about things – so it’s important part of our society.
You were acquainted to Kantor. How did he influence You?
I met him at his first season in London at Riverside Studios, and after that I saw him in Paris and in Barcelona and other places, we had in-common friends, who introduced us, and I liked him very much. He was one of the big masters. So intense! I didn’t have very strong relationship with Kantor because he was a person closed in himself. It was not dialogue: he was talking and I learned a lot from him. Joan Miró was living out of the society, closed to his world in his studio at Mallorca, but Kantor was living his artistic life in Poland, which has been one of the harts of Europe. It’s the country that suffered so much – invasions from everybody, incredible punishment during the two wars, and Kantor was there. So it was very different for me to talk with Miro, who was like a monk in his studio, or talk with Kantor who was from there – from Poland, living the war and the camps and the Soviet period.
Kantor was expressing his own and his country’s past all the time. Do You feel something like that with Your creation also, that You are somehow connected to Your past – Catalonian, or else?
Yes, everything is there. The whole world and the closed community at the same time. I do not analyze that very much.
You don’t want to?
I don’t do it. I don’t analyze very much my own situation. I have been traveling around the world for forty years already. I started traveling when I was nineteen, so I really feel that I am from the world. I live in Catalonia and I like it very much and it’s my culture – my roots, it is my mother-tongue, my culture and I’m happy with my language but I’m not nationalistic at all.
You don’t dream about separate Catalonian Republic? When I was in Barcelona some five years ago, I heard from many Catalonian people, that they would like to have their own republic.
I don’t want to think about that now. It’s not important for me at all. I’m in the world. I’m really the citizen of the world and I feel very comfortable talking with people, knowing people from all over the world, thinking of the world. Maybe at one day I will think about that, it depends in which moment. Because it’s just a matter of organization, it’s just the matter of politics, it’s not so important.
You have worked in a lot of countries. Is it somehow feeding for You to work in different cultures, backgrounds, histories? What does it mean to You?
The main thing is that I learn. I do my job, this is the main thing, but working with the people gives a lot. I receive much more than I give. There are still lots of new worlds for me. Last trip was in Latin America: Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina. I received the experiences of different people, of different cultures, of different situations and I’m very curious. I ask and they talk and I go and I watch and I read – so I receive a lot. I’m very happy with that.
Was Your school also international?
Not really, there were some students with Erasmus programs. There are some sections like gesture theatre, where a lot of students come from other areas of Spain or Latin America, because they don’t need language. In our school the main group is the actors, and acting is based on language so they need catalan. Therefore it’s difficult for foreigners to come to acting school. The main work that I do in the school, for ten years now, is that the Rose Bruford College from UK sends their students to Barcelona to work with me. These are the students from speciality called – “European Theatre”. Twenty or twenty five students from all over the Europe, and even from America and Japan, come to Barcelona and work with me very intensively during three months. We work very day, eight hours a day, and then we do a show. But I’ll do it for one more year and then I’ll stop. I don’t want to work anymore in the schools, because I feel that what I can do, is done. Here in Tallinn I had the proof when I saw the lecture of Rene Baker. I know her really well, she came to Barcelona to work with my company and after that I asked her to teach at the Theatre Institute, and now when I saw her lecture, I thought – it’s done. This woman takes a piece from here and a piece from there, takes my ideas, the ideas of Philip Genty and ideas from Theatre du Mouvement – all the ideas of my generation, puts it together, organizes it and does a pedagogy out of it. She does it very well! So, there is a new generation of teachers of visual theatre that are doing very well. I have nothing more to say. She is better, she is using my experience, and so does lots of other people. I think it’s very important to know if something is finished. I’ve done it for several times of my life: I was working with the theatre La Claca for twenty one years, and one day I said – it’s finished. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to work with the company, but this project is finished. I come, I chop that tree and I go away. I open new doors – new things, new projects – it makes me more alive. I don’t want to be “the one that teaches puppets at the Theatre Institute forever. He came to the school and became old there.”.
What is the new door that You will open now?
Now I’m in between. This means writing this book and new door for me is “Mapa Mundi”. It’s the work with Young people, who can use my experience, but not in the classroom at the school. Out of the school, with direct collaboration.
You’re going to make the “Mapa Mundi” with the prisoners. Why are You doing this?
Charleville’s festival proposed me, that they would like to do something at the prison of Charleville. There are Young people who had problems with robbery and drugs etc.
Is it also important for You what backgrounds the prisoners have – what crimes etc.?
No, it is their problem. I like to work with the people from the prison because the prison is one of the places where people think a lot. I want to know what do they think and how do they see their situation, how do they see our society. I want to learn. It’s a place where they have lots of time to think, and they have a big thing to think about – “I did something that was forbidden and so I’m in jail. I’m out of the society – I’m the bad one. I have the title of “bad-one”.” I Want to know what do they think, what do they want to do and what do they want to explain to the others.
Is it somehow essentially connected to “Mapa Mundi” also?
Yes, I think it’s a good idea to do it in the prison. One of the problems of Europe for me is, that everybody becomes bourgeois – all of us. All of us like to have nice cars, holidays and bla-bla-bla – to have a comfortable life. It’s like the purpose of life. I don’t think that this idea of Europe – “comfortable life is better” – is a very good idea . It’s not sure that it’s better, for comfortable maybe means eating too much, but eating too much is not better than eating just what You need – for obesity, and sickness and heart-attacks and problems with the knees. So the European idea of comfortability is maybe a stupid idea. In the Europe we all become bourgeois and very comfortable. If someone is too comfortable it’s not too interesting.
Before You said that art is about pleasure?
Pleasure is different than comfort. Sometimes pleasure is not comfortable at all. If You want the pleasure of going to the top of Himalaya, it’s not comfortable. If You want to have the pleasure of the most beautiful girl to go to bed with You, it’s not comfortable – You’ll have to work. No, comfortable is not the best, for me it’s not the purpose of life for sure. I prefer the pleasure of effort. If I want to do something, I don’t care if it’s hard to do it – I’ll do it! I have done crazy things that made me very happy and very strong. I walked at the Australian desert for days, it was very hard, but it was a pleasure. So asking about Europe, the most interesting is not to ask about comfort of people because probably everyone will say the same – “Oh, I don’t want to lose my sofa! I don’t want to lose my air-conditioner!” I prefer to talk with people who don’t have sofas and air-conditioners, it’s more interesting, and people in prison don’t have it. I did a work in association of men who had rheumatoid arthritis, it’s something with what You’ll have pain for whole day, and it’s a pain that makes you cry. But it was incredible when I asked them – “How can You live with the pain every day?”, they answered – “It’s like that, we have to be happy. We can’t take pills every day, so we have to be confident and go through suffering.” So I thought, these people have the experience of life that nobody can believe. So it’s good to ask these people and to learn from these people – they know more about life.
Is there some-kind of connection with artists also? Does art also have to come through the pain?
I think this suffering of artists is a legend. Artists suffer the same as waiters or taxi drivers: if You’re not happy and have to drive a taxi every day and wait at the taxi station for hours until somebody calls You. If You have problems with Yourself, You suffer the same. Suffering of being a mother in the kitchen, cooking for somebody who is at the factory and having no smiles at home, and no savings and no good food – all that can be a horrible suffering. Suffering is always there, that’s the reality of human-being. Even the most rich people, who have everything they need, suffer from inner-reasons. Suffering is something of the human-being – it exists. In one moment or another, we’ll all suffer: for death, for sickness, for somebody from our family, for a friend. For stupid things: for things that we don’t understand, for our education, for things that some teacher, a mother, a father, a friend or a lover have put into our head.
Suffering is a part of the life – it’s the normal state of life. I always say, suffering it happens itself, we have to to an effort for happiness. So we don’t care of suffering – when it comes, it comes and we try to not talk much about suffering, it happens. But the nice thing is that the artists can turn their suffering into something very good. Looks like Kafka suffered very much from his inner life: from his relationship with his father, from his society around him but he transformed it into beautiful pieces of art. Those pieces of art go through suffering, You can see the suffering of Kafka in his work and You understand that suffering. It’s like Paul Celan with the poems in concentration camp, or Frieda Kahlo suffering so much with her destroyed body and at the same time she is a song for life and for happiness. That’s what an artist can do, but it’s the same suffering as of the other human-beings.
Do You sense it as some-kind of thrive for Your creation – to make some staging or painting?
I’ve tried to escape from suffering, but the frame of suffering is always there. I think we all are aware of that suffering all the time. It’s like the presence of death or even the time passing by. We all would like to stop life for a while – for a little moment and be blind and transparent. What the Buddhists say about the illumination – we all dream about jumping out of this daily suffering, but it doesn’t happen, at least I haven’t had this experience. The art is the way to talk with the suffering, not to try to take it out and forget it, but to have it near by: “Okay, come hear, You are the part of the life, so let’s go together!” I bought today a postcard of the fantastic painting from Tallinn – “The Dance of Death”. Death dancing with the emperor, with the pope… – this is fantastic! The presence of death and the image of dancing with death – making art with death. It’s very wise image, it’s an ethic representation because it says that the emperor and pope and everybody will dye and the death is always there – sitting nearby. Death that means the maximum suffering. It’s always there and we can’t complain of something that is always there, that is part of ourself – we have to dance with it: make art, poems, songs and jokes.
Conversacion entre titiriteros;
Toni Rumbau i Joan Baixas
TONI RUMBAU A JOAN BAIXAS
Tú eres titiritero pero también pintor o artista plástico. De hecho, durante unos años dejaste los títeres y te dedicaste a la pintura.
Luego volviste al teatro al incorporar tus prácticas pictóricas en directo, apostando por una clara línea de « teatro visual » y ahora parece que de alguna manera regresas al mundo de los títeres.
¿Te identificas pues con esta figura que llamamos « titiritero » ?
¿Qué representa para ti?
Lo de « teatro visual » no es una profesión, podríamos decir que es una categoría académica para estudiar ciertos espectáculos que ponen una atención especial en el tratamiento dramático de la imagen en escena o es una categoría que se usa en el marketing de un festival para dar algunas pistas al público sobre espectáculos que desconoce. Es una denominación que yo he usado y sigo usando, pero no hay que confundir, todo el teatro es visual y el uso de la imagen de una u otra manera no determina una profesión.
Pero yo soy un titiritero y estoy muy contento de mi profesión, en primer lugar porque no está considerada una profesión seria y eso ya es estupendo. No ser considerado serio es un honor, con la que está cayendo en los círculos artísticos. Pero sobretodo me gusta esta profesión porque en ella puedo desarrollar al mismo tiempo y en diálogo entre ellos, varios lenguajes artísticos que me interesan: la pintura, la literatura, la dirección escénica y puedo hacerlo de una forma muy maleable, muy directa, artesanal.
Luego hay también una circunstancia bastante peculiar y es que los espectáculos de títeres se presentan en contextos muy diversos, un dia uno está con el público más popular y a los pocos dias te puedes encontrar en un ambiente sumamente sofisticado, de vanguardia, como fue, por ejemplo el festival de Nueva York, el que hacía la fundación Henson, que pasaba por ser lo más moderno de la ciudad y en los espacios más exquisitos. Esta heterogeneidad de públicos es muy saludable para el artista, porque al final de lo que se trata es de que el público conecte con lo que hacemos, que se sienta interpelado, conmovido quizás.
Me convertí en profesional de los títeres desde 1967 y lo fuí completamente desde el primer dia. Quiero decir que los titiriteros de esa época, que eran muy poquitos y todos dando vueltas entorno a una tradición en franca decadencia, se dedicaban a las mas diversas profesiones y lo de los títeres era un complemento que se presentaba en gran medida en fiestas familiares. Yo decidí dedicarme a ello en exclusiva y resultó difícil económicamente pero muy fácil en otros aspectos.
En aquella época para poder subsistir había que hacer más de doscientos bolos al año y algunos años hicimos casi trescientos. Éramos Putxinel.lis Claca y durante diez años, con mi mujer, mis hijos y algún colaborador, nos tragamos miles de kilómetros en furgoneta, básicamente por Cataluña y España, pero tambien por Europa.
Lo fácil fue la relación con la gente, no había subvenciones ni instituciones para darlas, pero recibimos la ayuda entusiasta de artistas, maestros, agitadores políticos, párrocos, gente de la cultura, asociaciones de vecinos, la política se hacía en la calle por personas de carne y hueso y no se decidía en las cúpulas de los partidos. Fueron diez años, hasta que la compañía se amplió y nos convertimos en el Teatre de la Claca. Y esos diez años calzando muñeco dia a dia, con los más diversos públicos pero siempre con los mismos títeres, con las mismas obras, de alguna de las cuales llegamos a hacer un millar de funciones. Las manos iban solas, el personaje se cocinaba en lo más profundo del alma, las voces deformadas eran « mis » voces que salían desde las entrañas. Esa fue mi escuela, mi universidad y mi doctorado y por ese motivo siempre me he considerado un titiritero.
¿Te atreves a definir lo que es un títere ?
Es muy curioso, los titiriteros nos pasamos la vida definiendo lo que son los títeres, es un ejercicio muy raro, yo no veo eso entre mis amigos pintores o escritores, no sé porque lo harán los titiriteros. Quizás porque los títeres pueden ser tantas cosas diferentes e incluso opuestas que cada uno quiere llevar el agua a su molino. Bueno, mientras no sean definiciones demasiado pomposas, resulta divertido. Por mi parte me considero mal definidor y buen admirador de Barthlevy, o sea que « preferiría no hacerlo »
Durante tu carrera, siempre has intentado pisar terrenos de innovación, enrolándote en proyectos complejos dónde el teatro, los títeres y la plástica interactuaban en igualdad de condiciones, como lo fueron tus distintas colaboraciones con pintores. Sin duda, han habido aquí adquisiciones y aprendizajes importantes. ¿Podrías resumirlos? ¿Qué líneas de exploración crees tú que tiene ante si el Teatro de Títeres?
Cuando pienso en estas experiencias que comentas me emociono por la suerte que he tenido. Una suerte que me la he currado, claro, pero una suerte enorme. Haber trabajado con Miró, con Saura, con Tàpies, Brossa, Mariscal, Matta y otros, ha sido una maravilla y aunque pasen los años, son unas experiencias que están siempre presentes, muy cercanas. De hecho tengo el estudio lleno de sus dibujos y sus fotos porque considero que son maestros que siempre están junto a mi.
De ellos aprendí muchísimas cosas y podría hablar de cada uno durante horas, pero si algunas cosas tienen todos ellos en común son tres regalos: el primero, el artesanado, entendido como trabajo metódico, reiterativo, insistente, personal, la vieja consideración de que no se consigue nada sin esfuerzo. Eso es una cosa muy fácil de decir pero extrañamente difícil de hacer, requiere concentración, humildad y convencimiento. La artesanía es la base del arte porque permite al ego retirarse a un segundo plano, permite que la obra se haga por si misma a través de nosotros, que no somos más que un soporte.
Esta sensación la cuentan todos los grandes artistas, la vivencia clara de que la obra se hace por si misma, a través de nosotros. Pero esta sensación es potentísima en el intérprete, en el artista que actua en directo y con los títeres en la mano es incomparable. Parece una afirmación retórica y un poco pedante, pero creo que muchos titiriteros la conocemos, la sensación de que el títere te posee, que tu le sigues, le acompañas, le provocas, pero la vida es él. Creo que el hecho de que el titiritero no actua con su propio cuerpo, sino que entre él y el público hay un objeto humanizado, hace que este instrumento genial se cargue de poder, se convierte en el chivo expiatorio de los rituales primitivos que renueva su vida en cada función y cumple un rol catártico muy divertido y muy sano.
La segunda lección-regalo de los maestros fue la generosidad. Para ser artista hace falta ser generoso en el sentido más completo de la maldita palabreja. Para decirlo sin mucho protocolo, el artista trabaja para el buen rollo del mundo. El mal rollo ya viene solo, ya va viniendo a oleadas constantes e insistentes sin que nadie lo llame y sin que nada pueda pararlo. Estoy hablando del hambre, la violencia, la explotación, la enfermedad, del mal rollo verdadero. Pero el buen rollo hay que buscarlo, hay que crearlo, perseguirlo, construirlo poco a poco. Eso quiere decir generosidad con la vida, entrega a la experiencia, al conocimiento, a la comunicación. Miró decía que lo importante no es la obra en si misma, lo importante son las semillas que la obra hace germinar en el interior de las personas.
Y la tercera cosa es la radicalidad, ir a las raices, al fondo de las cosas. En las raices está la energia primera, el intercambio de jugos con la naturaleza, lo que nace de lo oscuro, de lo subterraneo. La radicalidad es lo que importa, la brújula. Esto es una postura personal, un sentimiento constante. Brossa decía que la novedad no es necesariamente interesante por si misma, la novedad a veces puede ser muy vulgar y muy muerta, lo interesante es la originalidad y originalidad viene de origen. El artista tiene que ir al origen de si mismo para entregarlo a la tribu, es su trabajo, dar, repartir juego, revolver el fondo para que el agua se enturbie y el corazón se aclare, sumergirse en la invención constante e insistente de la originalidad más antigua. Lo original es ancestral y radical, cada persona es bien distinta de todas las demás en su origen, en su raiz.
Y contestando a la segunda parte de tu pregunta, creo que los títeres tienen tanto campo por delante como las otras artes, inagotable y de un modo especial. Siempre me gusta pensar que los títeres en el teatro (no los del cine ni de la tele, que tienen unas obligaciones de codificación que los empobrecen excesivamente) los títeres en el teatro son al teatro de actores como la poesía es a la novela: un mundo aparte, hecho de las mismas palabras, ceñido por la misma gramática, pero de una vivencia totalmente diferente. No se como poner esto por escrito, no tengo palabras, pero me parece que en la poesía el palpitar de la vida es como mas puro, mas candente.
La poesía solo puede explicarse en palabras poéticas (tu lengua en mi boca como la flor del agonizante), pues otro tanto le pasa al teatro de títeres, que es pura poesía y su hábitat el universo, ole!
Tras cuarenta años de profesión, ¿qué rescatarías de tus comienzos ? ¿Qué es lo que más valoras de los mismos ? Dentro del contexto de tu larga carrera, ¿cuáles son los objetivos artísticos actuales y futuros ? ¿Crees que el titiritero se crece con la edad y la experiencia, y en qué sentido?
Como sabes, pues nuestra amistad se remonta a esos tiempos lejanos, mis inicios fueron de furgoneta y bolos y de ellos conservo un recuerdo impagable. Me divertí y aprendí mucho. Lo que más me queda de esa época es el contacto con los públicos diversos y el entusiasmo de la gente en esos sesentas y setentas, cuando todo nos parecía posible. Fueron diez años de aprendizaje duro y bello. Pero toda mi vida profesional está llena de ilusiones, alegrías y amigos, no siento ninguna nostalgia por un momento en particular.
Ahora estoy metido en el proyecto de hacer una nueva compañía y salir de nuevo al circuito internacional, del que me he alejado un poco estos últimos años. Estoy preparando un espectáculo, “Zoé”, sobre una chica brasileña que comete un asesinato horrible. Es un espectáculo con varias escenas de títeres y me gusta porque hace muchos años que ando metido en la dirección y la pintura y no practico como intérprete. Al mismo tiempo estoy preparando una instalación con pinturas y pantallas de video y otros proyectos que van viniendo.
Mis trabajos siempre tienen una gestación larga y se superponen unos sobre otros.
Lo de crecer con la edad, no sé, ¿qué quieres que te diga? Desde luego uno se hace viejo, eso es indudable y no tiene remedio y por el camino aprende cosas, claro, pero el valor de la experiencia es muy relativo. No creo que sea mejor la experiencia que la inexperiencia, esta puede ser una herramienta con una fuerza muy grande. Cada momento de la vida tiene su ángel, su duende, la flor que decía Zeami, al principio porque tienes fuerza y despues porque tienes más picardía, no sé, gato escaldado… Lo que realmente interesa es el proceso, el devenir e ir puliendo la herramienta. Lo mejor de tener una larga trayectoria consiste en mirar hacia atrás y poder sonreir.
JOAN BAIXAS A TONI RUMBAU
Tu has pasado por casi todos los recovecos de la profesión: interpretación, escritura, dirección de un teatro y de un festival, empresario, agitador cultural, si tuvieras que elegir, ¿con cual te quedarías y porqué? Y también, ¿recomendarías a los jóvenes que procuren conocer esos diversos ámbitos o crees que es mejor la especialización?
Si tuviera que elegir, sin duda la interpretación es lo mejor que me ha dado esta profesión. Actuar como titiritero es una experiencia que una vez catada, engancha. Creo que las razones son dos: el elemento catártico que tiene toda representación con títeres (desdoblamiento, pluralidad de los lenguajes utilizados que van del directo más inmediato a la más sofisticada distanciación) y el hecho de conectar con prácticas ancestrales que te “poseen” aunque no lo quieras. Eso es lo que me ocurrió a mi cuando empecé por azar en Portugal participando en las campañas de dinamización cultural con el ejército portugués, durante la Revolución de los Claveles.
Luego, a la que persistes y te ves obligado a ser lo que suele llamarse un “profesional”, entonces poco a poco las redes del oficio te van atrapando y, sin darte cuenta, un día te descubres empresario, otro “agitador cultural”, luego de pronto “director de un festival”, más tarde de un teatro, por supuesto escribes buena parte de tus obras e incluso los hay que se lo hacen todo, desde los títeres hasta las escenografías. Incluso diría que una de las características de esta profesión es, sobretodo al principio, que uno hace de todo, o mejor, “uno se atreve a hacer de todo”, siendo ésta una de sus gracias a menudo más valoradas.
Desde luego, en unos casos es así, y en otros no. En eso hay toda la variedad que se quiera y la libertad de elección es, sin duda, máxima.
En este sentido, la carrera de titiritero oscila entre el solista que es autosuficiente en todo –y que en cierto modo, encarna algunas de las esencias básicas del titiritismo más antiguo– y el que crea compañía con más o menos complejidad.
Yo he pasado de un registro al otro, y la verdad es que dónde mejor me lo he pasado y dónde más cómodo me encuentro, es en el papel de solista. De hecho, ahora me estoy embarcando en un nuevo proyecto unipersonal. Aunque también debo decir que de las dos óperas que he hecho, la experiencia y el recuerdo que guardo de ambas es maravillosamente positivo.
Respecto a mi experiencia en la gestión, abomino bastante de ella, sobretodo la referida a relaciones con la administración: puro calvario y pesadilla.
A los jóvenes les diría que si pueden concentrarse en la creación, mejor que mejor. Creo que hoy en día las nuevas generaciones de titiriteros tienen eso más claro y saben distinguir entre lo esencial y lo superfluo, y buscar los complementos adecuados –buenos agentes, técnicos, actores, etc- cuando éstos son necesarios. Luego, los bandazos de la vida ya le van llevando de un extremo al otro, como es bien sabido.
En tu libro de memorias profesionales dejas aparecer, con elegancia y discreción, un espíritu anarquista demoledor de convenciones, pero después de leerlo me quedé con ganas de saber mas sobre este aspecto de tu pensamiento ¿te importaría contar más sobre ello?
Pues sí, me considero lo que antes se llamaba un “anarquista de salón”, aunque luego en la vida no está mal el “acratismo” que he practicado, seguramente más empujado por los azares y la necesidad que por convicción ideológica. Es una lástima que el anarquismo haya quedado tan en desuso y tenga tan mala prensa. Y sin embargo, muy me parece que la actualidad –ésa que intenta hallar vías de solución a la catarata de crisis que se nos viene encima– está recurriendo en muchas cosas al filón anarquista más señero. Sobretodo en la defensa a ultranza que hoy se hace de la autonomía personal o del “soberanismo individual”. Estoy muy de acuerdo con estas reivindicaciones. Sólo que el presente y el futuro están llenos de contradicciones, y junto a la defensa del individuo y su soberanía, hoy se impone también la perspectiva global para la resolución de problemas y conflictos. Es decir, individualismo soberanista por un lado, globalidad de los problemas y sus soluciones por el otro lado. El anarquismo que a mi me gustaría que existiera sería el que pudiera acoger estas paradojas y contradicciones entre lo global y lo local, lo individual y lo colectivo, aceptando los extremos en su más rotunda radicalidad.
Volviendo a los títeres, creo que la figura digamos “clásica” o “romántica” del titiritero encarna, en cierto modo, algunas de las cualidades ácratas por excelencia: ir a su aire, hacer lo que te da la gana, plantar la barraca dónde sea, vivir de lo que la gente te da directamente, ser autónomo en la construcción, organización y ejecución de tus labores, etc. Incluso, algunos titiriteros han enarbolado la bandera ácrata como signo de identificación –tenemos el ejemplo claro de Pepe Otal, casi un modelo ejemplar de “anarquista titiritero” al que deberíamos añadir el arquetipo tauromáquico del “torero” por su especial relación con la figura de la muerte, o el mismo Javier Villafañe, Paco Porras, y tantos otros. De hecho, cuando oyes a algunos titiriteros ya algo avanzados por la edad decir: “voy a volver a los bolos, éso es lo que importa y lo bueno de esta profesión…” (tú y yo, sin ir más lejos…), en realidad estamos profesando nuestro amor por este espíritu vital y libertario del titiritismo…
¿Y no son acaso Pulcinella, Punch, Polichinelle, Karakoz…, unos viejos anarquistas algo pasados de rosca y de moda, que defienden a ultranza los valores de la exaltación libertaria del individuo caiga quién caiga? Sin duda por eso recibían de inmediato el favor del público, al proyectar en ellos lo que soñaban poder ser y hacer, como es pegar a los mandamases de turno, fueran sociológicos (policías, banqueros, señoritos, tenderos, etc) o metafísicos (demonios, monstruos o a la misma muerte). Personajes, pues, que encarnaban el arquetipo libertario que el Renacimiento y las culturas urbanas de la modernidad pusieron en boga.
Una de las cosas que más me sorprende del arte de los títeres son las paradojas que uno observa a poco que los analice con atención. Veamos algunos ejemplos: el de los títeres ha sido un entretenimiento popular a lo largo de los siglos, pero paradojicamente ha dado pie, al mismo tiempo, a una literatura filosófica y especulativa muy considerable.
Otra paradoja: los títeres más populares del siglo pasado han sido los del cine (Alien, King-Kong, los de las Galaxias), pero nadie, cuando habla de títeres, se refiere a ellos. Y una más: los títeres se consideran una artesanía teatral, pero en todas las culturas donde se han dado muestras potentes de tradiciones titiritescas, en todas épocas y en todos los continentes, para este tipo de espectáculos se han usado los refinamientos técnicos más sofisticados de la tecnología propia de cada grupo cultural, desde las marionetas de hilo chinas a las animaciones de Antúnez, desde el bunraku a los autómatas. ¿Qué opinas de todo eso?
Creo que estas paradojas de que hablas al principio de tu pregunta (grandeza/miseria, popular/culto, tradición/vanguardia…) son una de las cualidades más interesantes, tanto a nivel sociológico como simbólico y de lenguaje, del teatro de títeres. Ir a un festival y poder ver espectáculos que van de las sombras ancestrales de Bali a los experimentos más atrevidos e innovadores, es todo un lujo y una constante lección de humildad y de abertura de mente. Por eso creo que se equivocan los festivales que quieren ser modernos y renuncian a las tradiciones –cómo le ha ocurrido al de Barcelona, que de tanto querer modernizarse y sofisticarse, ha acabado por esfumarse en el aire. Y viceversa, por supuesto.
Lo que dices de los personajes del cine es cierto, son los títeres más populares del siglo XX, pero creo que al estar enmarcados en la cinematografía, pierden en parte su carácter teatral titiritero. Es cómo decir que la mejor música del siglo XX es la de cine –algo defendido por muchos teóricos, pero que luego cuesta defender cuando hablas con músicos, programadores, etc. La realidad es que el cine y toda la industria de la imagen ha engullido muchas artes y especialidades visuales, poniéndolas a su servicio, es decir, al servicio del lenguaje cinematográfico, que las engloba, mientras que la especificidad teatral, sea de títeres o de actores, es el directo, que no tiene nada que ver con la reproducción mecánica. Debe entenderse esta distinción sin pretensiones de valoración alguna (sin duda el cine saldría con “mejores notas”), sino como simple diferenciación técnica, de lenguaje. Es por ello que sólo se refieren a los “títeres del cine” los estudiosos, mientras que los practicantes muchas veces se olvidan de ellos. Pero tienes razón que “están aquí”, por supuesto.
¿Cual debe ser la causa para que sigamos considerando los títeres una artesanía y los presentemos en general en ambientes restringidos y minoritarios?
Creo que la consideración de los títeres como “artesanía” es una vieja costumbre que a veces deriva en pelea, al distinguirla de “Arte” en mayúscula. Los hay que consideran peyorativa la palabra, pero también hay otros que la ensalzan.
Si consideramos los títeres como teatro, aplicarle la palabra “artesanía” no deja de ser congruente como especificidad definitoria, en el sentido de que el “lenguaje teatral” que se utiliza se hace más con las manos que con la voz, o con las dos cosas a la vez, de modo que vendría a significar algo así como un “teatro que se hace con las manos”.
Hoy en día, además, se valora mucho el aspecto “artesanal” de las puestas en escena –en el sentido de que se hacen con lentitud y por la aportación mimosa de muchas manos. En este mismo sentido, podría decirse que la ópera de grandes escenarios es en si pura artesanía teatral, pues en ella la labor de montaje y de orfebrería escénica es descomunal. Y lo mismo cabe decir de un espectáculo de títeres: si es complejo, es artesanal por su complejidad; si es sencillo al estilo popular, lo será por sus características de algo hecho completamente con las manos y por uno mismo. En todos los casos, la palabra artesanía define bien y ensalza los valores de lo definido. A mi me gusta utilizarla aunque no en demasía, pues insistir mucho en ella es como quedarse con la semiótica del lenguaje, con su inmediatez. Digamos que la artesanía está y es buena, pero cuánto menos se vea, mejor. A veces, importa desvelarla. Otras, es mejor esconderla. En fin, cualquier títere se hace con las manos. Y también podríamos hablar de la “artesanía de Picasso” en la elaboración de sus cuadros, o de Barceló manipulando sus masas pictóricas. Y no creo que se sintieran insultados. Y llegados aquí, bien podríamos decir que la diferencia principal entre Arte y artesanía, aparte de la intención, es el precio que se paga por ello: mucho el primero, poco el segundo. Un titiritero que se quiera del partido del Arte, cobrará más sin duda que uno que no lo sea. Etc.
Cierto que a veces hay un “complejo artesanal” de los titiriteros, un no atreverse a llenar grandes escenarios y atraer a grandes públicos. Como si la artesanía justificara lo pequeño y, por lo tanto, lo minoritario.
Estos complejos existen, también se dice que en la pirámide teatral ocupamos el sector más bajo y marginal. Aunque como tu mismo dices, aquí hay valores positivos, pues es fantástico estar en las minúsculas, buscar la relación informal y directa con el público, bajarse de los pedestales, etc. En eso estoy completamente de acuerdo contigo. La humildad no quita lo valiente, al revés, debería acentuarla, y por la ley de la paradoja y de la contradicción, lo más pequeño debería aspirar a ser lo más grande.
Creo que el Teatro de Títeres tiene estas enormes potencialidades en su seno, un campo aún por explorar. Yo pondría todo el énfasis en sus cualidades de Síntesis: cuando más sintético y concentrado, más universal y explosivo. Es como el átomo: en un pequeñísimo espacio –un títere, un átomo, un retablo…-, una carga inmensa: el espacio-tiempo de la atención del público se curva a su alrededor y su “gravedad” (capacidad de captación de los espectadores) se dispara. He aquí el secreto del títere, ese actor minúsculo –o mayúsculo, pero sintético– que, como las marcas, se carga de contenido y de atributos. Algo que ocurre con los más primitivos teatros de títeres, y con los más vanguardistas.