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Anti-fascist artwork generates controversy in Spain

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Eugenio Merino, "Punching Franco," 2012 - Collection of Santiago Sierra
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OKLAHOMA CITY – When critics of your artwork complains that your pieces are “generating hate and confrontation” and that “(t)his is a serious offense against the former head of state. It is turning him into a caricature, a puppet,” well, you know you’re doing something right.

Such is the case in Spain where Spanish artist Eugenio Merino is being sued by the National Francisco Franco Foundation, which is upset by Merino’s recent pieces that ridicules – through art – the life and memory of fascist dictator Francisco Franco, who ruled Spain from 1938 until his death in 1975, murdering hundreds of thousands of political opponents over the years. And so these days Franco is not remembered particularly fondly by many Spaniards who recall his years in power.

And yet, Franco’s legacy looms large in that European nation and there remains a vocal faction in Spanish society who admire and miss the dictator and his iron-fisted control of Spain.

The art pieces – “Punching Franco” and “Always Franco” do just what Jaime Alonso, vice-president of the FNFF told the media, Merino’s art does turn the ruthless autocrat into a caricature and a puppet. I mean “Punching Franco” is actually a boxing-style “punchball” (dictator sunglasses included!) while the other piece, “Always Franco” has Franco crouching in a Coca-Cola drink dispenser.

Interestingly, wsws.org, the socialist website that featured the story “Spanish artist sued for insulting fascist dictator Franco,” notes that while insulting a head of state is illegal in Spain, the judge hearing the case dismissed it, saying Merino’s art is protected by his right of artistic expression.

And speaking to wsws.org’s Paul Mitchell, Merino said his metaphoric artwork criticizing Franco was “a way to get back the dictatorship … to punch Franco in the face.”

And when you research recent Spanish history, you realize that a fascist dictatorship could return were the right circumstances put into play – and that concerns anti-fascist artists like Merino.

For example, just this week we learn that a new fascist political party – the extreme right-wing VOX Party – whose founding members feature people connected with the old Franco regime, is heavily connected to the Spanish military, right-wing think tanks, the Spanish monarchy and big business.

There is growing concern in Spain that the Spanish Constitution of 1978, established after the fall of the Francoist dictatorship and the rise of democracy in Spain, is collapsing. As a result, it appears the old ghosts of Francoist Spain are re-emerging. And if you think it can't happen, look at this Catholic website and the article saying that "While the rest of Europe was paying the butcher’s bill for the Enlightenment—chaos, decadence, immorality—Franco helped Spain to preserve the best ideals of the ancien regime." 

We will continue to monitor this situation from afar.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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