Happy New Year! This is always our wish when we see the new year in, and we say it gleefully and with excitement, convinced we are beginning something new. We know of course it isn’t true, but does the truth matter here? I don’t think so. The joy at this time of year is to affirm our ability to erase the past so as to celebrate the future. What we call turning the page and renewing energy.

If only we had more such rituals; so the past remains where it ought to be, behind us, and we could unfurl the future with the necessary hopeful anticipation. Which is to say, with the optimism that reason always calls into question. Because, as we know, carefully considered thinking can only lead to pessimism. Today there are few reasons to be optimistic. And yet we need to be so, in order to pursue our lives. Any project, whether personal or related to any kind of business, requires a degree of optimism in order to carry it out. The more optimism there is, the better the results.

Larraitz Urruzola, flanked by Dona Barriga Verde and the Devil, after a performance at Festival Titiriberia. photo T.R.

Utterly puppetry, or one hundred percent puppeteering? We refer to the ability of puppets to reflect on that which is radically ‘other’, the object, the inanimate thing that can nevertheless be alive. We project ourselves on to this object and give it part of our identity; we incorporate it as something belonging to us.

The problem with ‘otherness’, that unattractive word used to express the idea of alterity, is considered by many to be at the root of today’s multiple crises. Accepting difference can be hard. It is easy enough to preach the ideals of openness and acceptance of one’s neighbour, but in the end we always find ourselves in the same place, disparaging those who think and act differently from us. What’s needed is some kind of social mutation that, like all mutations, will come through the asphyxiation of the old, of what should die. Perhaps these outsized crises are the preamble of mutations that are just around the corner. Although it may be that we mutate into rabid and obsessive demons or dogs, filled with hate, which in many cases already seems to be happening.

Luís Zornoza Boy in his Punchinelis puppet booth, Parque de las Marionetas in Zaragoza. Photo T.R.

As puppeteers, we are accustomed to dealing with dogs, demons, dragons, Death itself, executioners, and all sorts of villains and disorderly folk. In fact, very often they are the most highly anticipated characters, being those who add spice to the show. We accept them as normal expressions of our left hand, while the right wields the slapstick and keeps everything in balance. They are the two faces of the puppeteer, of life, of people. Many faces exist, but having only two hands we reduce them to A and B, to black and white. This allows us to play with these oppositions, to caricature them and relativise them; when all is said and done, they are the normal expressions of our two faces. News articles and moralists also reduce behaviours to good and bad. Wars are the blood rites that put it into practice.

Puppi prepared for battle. Museo Internazionale delle Marionette Antonio Pasqualino, Palermo. Photo T.R.

This is why puppets are important: they allow these rites to be realised without spilling blood, from the distance created by humour, laughter and observation. It would be a good idea to invite the opponents of war to play out their differences in a puppet booth, acting alone, each with the puppets of both sides. It might be a good system for opening possible ‘peace negotiations’. The location is important: to put distance between the individuals and the events. For example, treaties should be signed in elevated countries far away. Bolivia could be the solution.

Puppi heads after the battle. Museo Internazionale delle Marionette Antonio Pasqualino, Palermo. Photo T.R.

These are methodologies of puppetry, supporting our desire for a 2024 that is optimistic and “utterly puppetry”. At least, that’s what we think, here at a magazine we consider so utterly fascinatingly Puppetring!