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Mundo a parte, Yamina Gibert. Matanzas 2008, Cuba.

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 John Lennon, which preaches 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. I 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 a 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 didn't 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 a few hours for the community of around five hundred people. I did that job at 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 don't 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 in a little of the three worlds, but in reality I form a world apart.

And I like that a lot because I don't 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 transmit 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 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 don't 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 couldn't 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 has 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 lives 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 cannot 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 theatrical 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 I returned to Catalonia, but my great-uncle stayed and made a 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's 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 life itself, in all its aspects. I was very impressed, I still can't react.


Yamina Gibert, Matanzas 2008, Cuba.

Interview Vahur Keller, Tallin 2010


Vahur Keller. Tallinn (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 theater 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 to start putting it all together. I want to write about my experience with the theater and with the world. I started to open 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 capitalist 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 a very good relationship, but the puppeteers feel – “Aah, his a painter! He did puppetry but really is 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 theater director!"; and when I'm with the people of theater, 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 don't need the place on the wall to hang: "Joan Baixas" - because it's nobody. And don't care! Do 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 theater too sad. So we did one minute of 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 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 theater and You ran a famous festival of visual theater and puppetry in Barcelona. What “animal” is this “visual theater”?

Visual theater is a crazy name, because all the theater is visual but at the same time we're talking about musical theater and all the theater has music, or we talk – I don't know – about gesture-theatre and all the theater has gesture I used that name to go one step further from puppetry without losing puppetry. The expression "visual theater" 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 theater 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 theater. 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. I called it triadic ballet with the humor, I put it “ballet with humor”. Oscar Schlemmer had very-very good humor, nowadays not many people remember that he was a very humorous man, he did clowneries and carnivals and all that. And one day they were talking with Stravinsky who said: "What we do, is visual theater - theater 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 theater?

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 theater was Tadeusz Kantor and he didn't tell stories but he made theater. Fragmentary, very poetic, around the things that happened. Things are happening on scene, but they don't tell a story.

Although 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 a light image. Image that everybody understands. Avatar is an image that everyone, 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 heart 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 theater – 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 theater 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 ones.

Still, why has this happened to puppetry? For example painters are also dealing mainly with their thing and communicating mainly with each other. Why is puppetry so exceptionally 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 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 was 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 he 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 theater 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 in 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 dialogues 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 outside-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 beings do not understand, about nature and themselves, about the world – how does this machine work? We improvise the explanations. What do 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 the 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 another. 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 die 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 has 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 another way, maybe at night. This has 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 between a human being and a puppet is very deep. It's the sacrificial victim, the offering, so that it doesn't disappear and that it creates a ghetto around itself. Because it's very magical, very deep, very strange.

Too deep for everyone?

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 by the same ideas?

When he went to Paris in 1930, one of the first things 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. I 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 on 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 at 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. I 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 too?
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 magnetized all day." I mean that he was all the time on the other side – on 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 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 the 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 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 taken 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 the next happy moment with a lot 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 journey, a very long journey – 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 as well?
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, economic, because that kills somebody on 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 in 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 written 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, I find 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 the 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 Spain at the time of Francoism: we were telling jokes every day – lots of jokes! Humor is a form of art.

Then art also had more essential importance for people. Theaters were full, for You could say things through art that You couldn't say otherwise. Now I feel that art has become somehow headless. What could be the importance of art for 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 does not 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 a very small thing. Humanity still has many problems. Europe has big problems and we, Europeans, have to wake up and 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 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 immigrants, 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 does it mean? How will we keep that form of life that we've proposed to humanity? It's a good form: we believe in social security and democracy and culture for everybody, taking care of the elderly, receiving the immigrants, being multicultural – we believe in all that but we can't pay it anymore. So, what will we 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 die earlier – does it mean that? This model of Europe is based on the wealth 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 wealth 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 Western cultures and just the survival of their-self is the problem for artists. European artists are confident in the idea that society has to take care of them: "we are the wealth 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 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 the 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 society. It's a place to think, a place to have experiences, a place to be together, a place of talking about things – so it's an important part of our society.

You were introduced 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. Intense sound! I didn't have a very strong relationship with Kantor because he was a person closed in himself. It wasn't dialogue: he was talking and I learned a lot from him. Joan Miró was living out of society, closed to his world in his studio in Mallorca, but Kantor was living his artistic life in Poland, which has been one of the hearts 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 don't analyze that very much.


You don't want to?

I don't do it. I don't analyze my own situation very much. 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 a 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 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 theater, 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 specialty called – “European Theatre”. Twenty or twenty five students from all over 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 Theater 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 Theater 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 theater 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 in my life: I was working with the theater 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 eat, 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 Theater 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 they think and how they see their situation, how 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 society – I'm the bad one. I have the title of "bad-one". I want to know what they think, what they want to do and what they want to explain to 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 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 the Himalayas, 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 in 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 too? 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 from 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 richest people, who have everything they need, suffer from inner reasons. Suffering is something of the human being – it exists. At 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 part of life – it's the normal state of life. I always say, suffering it happens itself, we have to make an effort for happiness. So we don't care about suffering – when it comes, it comes and we try not to 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 a lot 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 are all aware of that suffering all the time. It's like the presence of death or even the passing of time. 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 enlightenment – 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 a very wise image, it's an ethical representation because it says that the emperor and pope and everybody will die and death is always there – sitting nearby. Death that means the maximum suffering. It's always there and we can't complain about something that is always there, that is part of ourselves – we have to dance with it: make art, poems, songs and jokes.

Conversación entre titiriteros; Toni Rumbau i Joan Baixas


Conversation between puppeteers;

Toni Rumbau and Joan Baixas






You were a puppeteer but also a painter or plastic artist. In fact, for a few years you left the puppets and dedicated yourself to painting.

Then you returned to the theater by incorporating your pictorial practices live, opting for a clear line of "visual theater" and now it seems that in some way you are returning to the world of puppets.

Do you identify with this figure we call "puppeteer"?

What does it represent for you?

"Visual theater" is not a profession, we could say that it is an academic category to study certain shows that pay special attention to the dramatic treatment of the image on stage or it is a category that is used in the marketing of a festival to give some clues to the audience about shows they don't know. It is a denomination that I have used and still use, but there is no need to confuse, all theater is visual and the use of the image in one way or another does not determine a profession.

But I'm a puppeteer and I'm very happy with my profession, first of all because it's not considered a serious profession and that's great. Not being taken seriously is an honor, which is falling in artistic circles. But above all I like this profession because in it I can develop at the same time and in dialogue with each other, various artistic languages that interest me: painting, literature, stage direction and I can do it in a very malleable, very direct, artisanal way.

Then there is also a rather peculiar circumstance and that is that the puppet shows are presented in very diverse contexts, one day one is with the most popular audience and the few days you can find in an extremely sophisticated, avant-garde environment, as it were, for for example the New York festival, the one held by the Henson Foundation, which used to be the most modern in the city and in the most exquisite spaces. This heterogeneity of publics is very healthy for the artist, because at the end of the day what is at stake is that the public connects with what we do, that they feel challenged, moved perhaps.

I became a professional puppeteer in 1967 and was a complete puppeteer from day one. I want to say that the puppeteers of that time, who were very few and all revolving around a tradition in frank decline, were dedicated to the most diverse professions and puppetry was a complement that was presented to a large extent at family parties. I decided to dedicate myself to it exclusively and it turned out to be difficult financially but very easy in other aspects.

At that time, in order to survive, you had to make more than two hundred bowls a year, and some years we made almost three hundred. We were Putxinel.lis Claca and for ten years, with my wife, my children and some collaborators, we traveled thousands of kilometers in a van, mainly in Catalonia and Spain, but also in Europe.

The easy thing was the relationship with the people, there were no subsidies or institutions to give them, but we received the enthusiastic help of artists, teachers, political agitators, priests, cultural people, neighborhood associations, politics was done in the street by people of flesh and blood and it was not decided at the top of the parties. It was ten years, until the company expanded and we became Teatre de la Claca. And those ten years wearing a doll day by day, with the most diverse audiences but always with the same puppets, with the same works, some of which we ended up doing a thousand functions. The hands were alone, the character was cooked in the depths of the soul, the deformed voices were "my" voices that came from the bowels. That was my school, my university and my doctorate and for that reason I have always considered myself a puppeteer.

Do you dare to define what a puppet is?

It's very curious, puppeteers spend our lives defining what puppets are, it's a very rare exercise, I don't see that among my painter or writer friends, I don't know why puppeteers will do it. Maybe because the puppets can be so many different and even opposite things that each one wants to grind water to his mill. Well, as long as the definitions aren't too pompous, it's fun. For my part, I consider myself a bad definer and a good admirer of Barthlevy, i.e. "I would prefer not to do it"


During your career, you have always tried to step on ground of innovation, involving yourself in complex projects where theater, puppets and plastic interacted on equal terms, as were your different collaborations with painters. Undoubtedly, there have been important acquisitions and learnings here. Could you summarize them? What lines of exploration do you think the Puppet Theater has before it?

When I think about these experiences that you mention, I am moved by how lucky I have been. A luck that I've had, of course, but a huge luck. Having worked with Miró, with Saura, with Tàpies, Brossa, Mariscal, Matta and others, it has been wonderful and even though the years pass, these are experiences that are always present, very close. In fact, I have a studio full of their drawings and photos because I consider them teachers who are always with me.

I learned many things from them and I could talk about each one for hours, but if there are some things they all have in common, they are three gifts: the first, craftsmanship, understood as methodical, repetitive, insistent, personal work, the old consideration that no nothing is achieved without effort. That is something very easy to say but strangely difficult to do, it requires concentration, humility and conviction. Craftsmanship is the basis of art because it allows the ego to retreat to the background, it allows the work to be done by itself through us, who are nothing more than a support.

This feeling is shared by all the great artists, the clear experience that the work is made by itself, through us. But this sensation is very powerful in the performer, in the artist who performs live and with the puppets in hand is incomparable. It seems like a rhetorical statement and a bit pedantic, but I think many puppeteers know it, the feeling that the puppet puts you down, that you are it, accompany it, provoke it, but life is him. I think that the fact that the puppeteer does not act with his own body, but between him and the audience is a humanized object, makes this brilliant instrument charged with power, it becomes the scapegoat of the primitive rituals that renewed its life in each function and fulfills a cathartic role that is very fun and very healthy.

The second lesson-gift of the teachers was generosity. To be an artist you need to be generous in the most complete sense of the damn word. To put it bluntly, the artist works for the good world. The bad vibe already comes alone, it is already coming in constant and insistent waves without anyone calling it and without anything being able to stop it. I'm talking about hunger, violence, exploitation, disease, the true evil. But the good roll has to be sought, it has to be created, pursued, built little by little. Eso quiere decir generosity with life, dedication to experience, to knowledge, to communication. Miró said that the important thing is not the work itself, the important thing is the seeds that the work causes to germinate inside people.

And the third thing is radicality, going to the roots, to the bottom of things. In the roots is the first energy, the exchange of games with nature, what is born from the dark, from the underground. Radicality is what matters, the compass. This is a personal position, a constant feeling. Brossa said that novelty is not necessarily interesting in itself, novelty can sometimes be very vulgar and very dead, what is interesting is originality and originality comes from origin. The artist has to go to the origin of himself to deliver it to the tribe, it is his job, to give, to distribute game, to stir the bottom so that the water becomes cloudy and the heart becomes clear, to immerse himself in the constant and insistent invention of originality oldest The original is ancestral and radical, each person is very different from all the others in their origin, in their root.

And answering the second part of your question, I think that puppets have as much field ahead of them as the other arts, inexhaustible and in a special way. I always like to think that the puppets in the theater (not the ones from the movies or TV, which have coding obligations that impoverish them excessively) the puppets in the theater are to the actors' theater as poetry is to the novel: a world apart, made of the same words, surrounded by the same grammar, but of a totally different experience. I don't know how to put this in writing, I don't have words, but it seems to me that in poetry the throbbing of life is more pure, more burning.

Poetry can only be explained in poetic words (your tongue is in my mouth like the flower of the dying), then what happens in the puppet theater, which is pure poetry and its habitat is the universe, ole!

After forty years in the profession, what would you take back from your beginnings? What do you value most about them? Within the context of your long career, what are your current and future artistic goals? Do you think that the puppeteer grows with age and experience, and in what sense?

As you know, because our friendship goes back to those distant times, my beginnings were with vans and bowls and I keep a priceless memory of them. I had fun and learned a lot. What I remember most from that time is the contact with different publics and the enthusiasm of the people in those sixties and seventies, when everything seemed possible. It was ten years of hard and beautiful learning. But my whole professional life is full of illusions, joys and friends, I don't feel any nostalgia for a particular moment.

Now I'm involved in the project of making a new company and entering the international circuit again, from which I have distanced myself a little these last years. I'm preparing a show, "Zoé", about a Brazilian girl who commits a horrible murder. It's a show with several puppet scenes and I like it because I've been involved in directing and painting for many years and I don't practice as an interpreter. At the same time I am preparing an installation with paintings and video screens and other projects that are coming.

My works always have a long gestation and overlap each other.

About growing with age, I don't know, what do you want me to tell you? Since then one gets old, that is indubitable and there is no remedy and along the way you learn things, of course, but the value of experience is very relative. I don't think that experience is better than inexperience, this can be a very powerful tool. Every moment of life has its angel, its elf, the flower that Zeami said, at the beginning because you have strength and then because you have more mischief, I don't know, scalded cat... What is really interesting is the process, becoming and polishing the tool The best thing about having a long career is looking back and being able to smile.


You have gone through almost all the nooks and crannies of the profession: acting, writing, directing a theater and a festival, entrepreneur, cultural agitator, if you had to choose, which one would you choose and why? And also, would you recommend to young people who seek to learn about these different areas or do you think that specialization is better?

If I had to choose, interpretation is undoubtedly the best thing this profession has given me. Acting as a puppeteer is an experience that, once tasted, is addictive. I think the reasons are twofold: the cathartic element that every representation with puppets has (disambiguation, plurality of the languages used that go from the most immediate direct to the most sophisticated distance) and the fact of connecting with ancestral practices that "possess" you even you don't want it That's what happened to me when I started by chance in Portugal participating in cultural revitalization campaigns with the Portuguese army, during the Carnation Revolution.

Then, when you persist and you are forced to be what is usually called a "professional", then little by little the networks of the profession trap you and, without realizing it, one day you discover an entrepreneur, another "cultural agitator", luego de pronto "director of a festival", later of a theater, of course you write a good part of your works and even there are those who do everything, from the puppets to the scenographies. I would even say that one of the characteristics of this profession is, especially at the beginning, that one does everything, or better, "one dares to do everything", this being one of its most valued graces.

Of course, in some cases it is, and in others it is not. In that there is all the variety you want and the freedom of choice is, without a doubt, maximum.

In this sense, the career of a puppeteer oscillates between the soloist who is self-sufficient in everything - and who, in a certain way, embodies some of the basic essences of the oldest puppetry - and the one who creates a company with more or less complexity.

I have passed from one register to another, and the truth is that where I have passed it best and where I am most comfortable is in the role of soloist. In fact, I am now embarking on a new one-person project. Although I must also say that of the two operas I have done, the experience and the memory I have of both are wonderfully positive.

Regarding my experience in management, I hate a lot of it, especially the one related to relations with the administration: pure ordeal and nightmare.

I would say to young people that if they can concentrate on creation, all the better. I think that nowadays the new generations of puppeteers have that more clearly and know how to distinguish between the essential and the superfluous, and to look for the right complements - good agents, technicians, actors, etc. - when they are needed. Then, the bands of life are already taking him from one extreme to the other, as is well known.

In your book of professional memoirs, you let appear, with elegance and discretion, an anarchist spirit that demolishes conventions, but after reading it I was left wanting to know more about this aspect of your thinking, would you care to tell me more about it?

Well yes, I consider myself what used to be called a "salon anarchist", although later in life the "acratism" I have practiced is not bad, surely more driven by chance and necessity than by ideological conviction. It is a shame that anarchism has become so obsolete and has such a bad press. And yet, it seems to me that the current situation – that which is trying to find ways to solve the crisis that is facing us – is resorting in many things to the older anarchist strand. Especially in the extreme defense that is being made today of personal autonomy or "individual sovereignty". I agree very much with these claims. Only that the present and the future are full of contradictions, and together with the defense of the individual and his sovereignty, today the global perspective is also imposed for the resolution of problems and conflicts. In other words, sovereign individualism on the one hand, global problems and their solutions on the other. The anarchism that I would like to exist would be the one that could welcome these paradoxes and contradictions between the global and the local, the individual and the collective, accepting the extremes in their most resounding radicality.

Returning to the puppets, I think that the let's say "classic" or "romantic" figure of the puppeteer embodies, in a certain way, some of the qualities that are acratas par excellence: go to his air, do what you want, plant the hut where that is, live on what people give you directly, be autonomous in the construction, organization and execution of your work, etc. Even some puppeteers have raised the Ácrata flag as a sign of identification - we have the clear example of Pepe Otal, almost an exemplary model of "puppeteer anarchist" to which we should add the bullfighting archetype of the "bullfighter" due to its special relationship with the figure of death, or the same Javier Villafañe, Paco Porras, and so many others. In fact, when you hear some puppeteers who are somewhat advanced in age say: "I'm going to go back to bowling, that's what matters and what's good about this profession..." (you and me, without going any further...), in reality we are professing our love for this vital and libertarian spirit of puppetry...

And aren't they Pulcinella, Punch, Polichinelle, Karakoz... old anarchists who are a bit out of date and out of fashion, who fiercely defend the values of the libertarian exaltation of the individual who falls, who falls? Undoubtedly that is why they immediately received the public's favor, by projecting into them what they dreamed of being and doing, as is the case with the officers on duty, whether they were sociological (policemen, bankers, gentlemen, shopkeepers, etc.) or metaphysical (demons , monsters or la misma muerte). Characters, pues, who embodied the libertarian archetype that the Renaissance and the urban cultures of modernity put in vogue.

One of the things that surprises me most about the art of puppetry is the paradoxes that one observes as soon as one analyzes them carefully. Let's see some examples: puppetry has been popular entertainment for centuries, but paradoxically it has given rise, at the same time, to a very considerable philosophical and speculative literature.

Another paradox: the most popular puppets of the past century have been those of the cinema (Alien, King-Kong, those of the Galaxies), but nobody, when talking about puppets, refers to them. And one more thing: puppets are considered a theatrical craft, but in all cultures where there have been powerful examples of puppetry traditions, in all eras and on all continents, the most sophisticated technical refinements of the technology specific to each cultural group, from Chinese thread marionettes to Antúnez's animations, from bunraku to automata. What do you think of todo eso?

I think that these paradoxes that you talk about at the beginning of your question (greatness/poverty, popular/cult, tradition/vanguard...) are one of the most interesting qualities, both at a sociological, symbolic and linguistic level, of the puppet theater. Going to a festival and being able to see shows that range from the ancestral shadows of Bali to the most daring and innovative experiments, is all a luxury and a constant lesson in humility and open-mindedness. That's why I think that the festivals that want to be modern and renounce traditions are wrong - as happened to the one in Barcelona, which wanted so much to modernize and become sophisticated, it ended up vanishing into thin air. And vice versa, of course.

What you say about the movie characters is true, they are the most popular puppets of the 20th century, but I think that by being framed in the cinematography, they lose part of their theatrical puppet character. It's like saying that the best music of the 20th century is that of cinema - something defended by many theorists, but which then becomes difficult to defend when you talk to musicians, programmers, etc. The reality is that the cinema and the entire image industry has swallowed many visual arts and specialties, putting them at its service, that is, at the service of the cinematographic language, which encompasses them, while the theatrical specificity, whether of puppets or of actors, it's direct, which has nothing to do with mechanical reproduction. This distinction must be understood without pretensions of any valuation (no doubt the movie would come out with "better notes"), but as a simple technical differentiation, of language. This is why scholars only refer to the "puppets of cinema", while practitioners often forget about them. But you're right that "they're here", of course.

What should be the reason for us to continue to consider puppets a craft and present them in general in restricted and minority environments?

I think that the consideration of puppets as "artisanía" is an old custom that sometimes leads to quarrels, when distinguishing it from "Art" with a capital letter. There are those who consider the word pejorative, but there are also others who praise it.

If we consider puppets as theater, applying the word "craftsmanship" to them is still congruent as a defining specificity, in the sense that the "theatrical language" that is used is done more with the hands than with the voice, or with both things at the same time, so it would come to mean something like a "theater that is made with hands".

Today, in addition, the "artisanal" aspect of staging is highly valued - in the sense that they are done slowly and with the gentle input of many hands. In this same sense, it could be said that the opera on large stages is in itself pure theatrical craftsmanship, because in it the work of montage and stage goldsmithing is enormous. And the same can be said of a puppet show: if it is complex, it is handcrafted because of its complexity; if it is simple in the popular style, it will be because of its characteristics of something made completely with hands and by yourself. In all cases, the word craft defines well and exalts the values of what is defined. I like to use it but not too much, because insisting on it too much is like staying with the semiotics of language, with its immediacy. Let's say that the craftsmanship is good, but the less you see, the better. Sometimes it's important to reveal it. Others, it is better to hide it. Anyway, any puppet is made with hands. And we could also talk about the "craftsmanship of Picasso" in the elaboration of his paintings, or of Barceló manipulating his pictorial masses. And I don't think they would feel insulted. And here we are, well we could say that the main difference between art and craft, apart from the intention, is the price that is paid for it: much for the first, little for the second. A puppeteer who wants to be part of the Art Party will undoubtedly charge more than one who is not. Etc.

It is true that sometimes there is an "artisan complex" of the puppeteers, a reluctance to fill large stages and attract large audiences. As if craftsmanship justifies the small and, therefore, the minority.

These complexes exist, it is also said that in the theatrical pyramid we occupy the lowest and marginal sector. Although, as you yourself say, there are positive values here, because it is fantastic to be in the lower case, to seek an informal and direct relationship with the public, to get off the pedestal, etc. I completely agree with you on that. Humility does not take away the brave, on the contrary, it should accentuate it, and by the law of paradox and contradiction, the smallest should aspire to be the greatest.

I believe that the Puppet Theater has these enormous potentials within it, a field yet to be explored. I would put all the emphasis on its synthesis qualities: when more synthetic and concentrated, more universal and explosive. It is like the atom: in a very small space - a puppet, an atom, an altarpiece...-, an immense load: the space-time of the public's attention curves around its "gravity" (capability of capturing the spectators) is fired. Here is the secret of the puppet, that tiny actor – or capital, but synthetic – that, like brands, is loaded with content and attributes. Something that happens with the most primitive puppet theaters, and with the most avant-garde ones. 

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