Spanish visual artist, performer and director. In 1968, allied with a new generation trying to revolutionize Franco’s Spain, Joan Baixas and Teresa Calafell created in Barcelona the first Catalan professional puppet company. They named it Putxinel·lis Claca – a Catalan title reflecting its connection to popular theatre. The company became the famous La Claca, grabbing the public’s imagination through its puppets, masks, objects and abstract forms, while still fitting the Catalan village tradition of “giants and big heads”, costumed figures known in Catalan as gegants i capgrossos (known in the Basque language as erraldoi eta buruhandiak and in Spanish as gigantes y cabezudos; see Giant Puppets).
Comprising fifteen performers, La Claca gradually moved towards a genre of visual theatre, collaborating with important contemporary artists including Joan Miró for Mori El Merma in 1977, Antonio Saura for Peixos abysmal (La Espada Azul – Peces Abismales 1 The Blue Sword – Great Pieces), Roberto-Sebastian Matta for Laberint (Labyrinth) and Antoni Tàpies for Juan El Del Oso – Peces Abismales 2 (Juan of the Bear).
In 1971, Baixas founded the puppetry department of l’Escola Superior d’Art Dramàtic de l’Institut del Teatre (Higher School of Dramatic Art in the Theatre Institute) in Barcelona and the Festival Internacional de Teatre Visual i de Titelles (International Festival of Visual Theatre and Puppetry) of which he was the director on several occasions. Joan Baixas led La Claca for twenty-one years before closing the company in 1989, the same year in which he was appointed Professor in the Institut del Teatre. In 1998, he again directed the Festival Internacional de Teatre Visual i de Titelles de Barcelona, an extensive and ambitious celebration of its 25th anniversary, with the participation of 32 municipal bodies. Alongside this event, he published Escenes de l’imaginari (Imaginary Stages, 1998), in which he manifested his views on visual theatre. Since then the festival’s name has been changed to Festival NEO (Noves Escenes Obertes, at www.festivalneo.cat.).
Throughout this period Baixas engaged in performance research, poetic experiments on the language of theatre, using the materials of the earth (clay, sand, water) as an essential basis for his pictorial performances. The year 1997 marked the beginning of a series of unclassifiable but puppetesque shows that had a significant influence on other practitioners. These included Terra prenyada (Pregnant Earth, 1997), Adios XXe siglo (Goodbye 20th Century, 2000), Antonio (2000), Música Pintada (Music in Paint, 2002), Dopamina Suite (2004). These shows, played by Joan Baixas and a musician, vibrate with the energy of the painter who circles a large canvas where his visual landscapes are erased as quickly as they are created. His performances have toured the world.