In recent months, both Spanish society and the international artistic community have witnessed with astonishment the legal proceedings which the Fundación Nacional Francisco Franco (FNFF) has initiated against the artist Eugenio Merino.
This foundation, whose objectives include “spreading awareness of the human, political and military aspects of the figure of Francisco Franco, and also preserve the achievements and accomplishments of his Regime”, is claiming €18,000 in compensation for damages to the dictator’s honor, while labeling Merino’s work as “artistic rubbish”. The FNFF described Merino’s work Always Franco, exhibited in that last edition of ARCO, as an “offense, that caricatures the former Head of State and constitutes a flagrant provocation”.
These proceedings have a double reading: on the one hand, it is striking that the foundation that protects the “legacy” of a dictator –who harshly persecuted the exercise of liberties and was directly responsible for the suffering of hundreds of thousands of exiles and victims of reprisal- is attempting to restrict freedom of speech, especially when the very existence of this organization and its systematic justification of the fascist legacy should shameful in a society that claims to defend liberties. Secondly, it seems inappropriate for a foundation of these characteristics to set itself up as judge of artistic expression, when the only aesthetic contribution of the Regime they vindicate was the destruction of all critical culture, accompanied by the cry of “Death to treacherous intellectuality”.
This situation makes us wonder if these lamentable events can only happen in a country like Spain, incapable of evaluating with distance the disastrous consequences of the military dictatorship that controlled the country for 40 years. It is hard to imagine an Adolf Hitler Foundation in Germany persecuting the work of Gerhard Richter, Maurizzio Cattelan and so many others for criticizing Nazism.
Therefore, we wish to express our firm support of Eugenio Merino, our desire to defend freedom of expression –in the visual arts but more importantly in any area of social life- against the increasing assaults by totalitarian attitudes, while clearly manifesting our profound rejection to the heirs of the dictatorial regime, who today represent the most abject values of Spain’s recent history.
Given the silence of spanish media stablishment, determined to maintain the amnesic silence with which the transition restricted any attempt at critical analysis of the Francoist past, we wish to denounce this perverse maneuver by the heirs of the dictatorship while urging every member of society to defend and expand our rights and freedoms.
Plataforma Artistas Antifascistas
Madrid, January 27, 2013.
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