“It’s a hate crime”: Eugenio Merino rolls the heads of Presidents Trump, Bolsonaro, and Putin
The groups “that have suffered the most with the resurgence of these characters” play it as a soccer ball, says Merino. In less than 24 hours, the video dedicated to Bolsonaro has become the national controversy in Brazil, where the artist is accused of violence against the president
A girl walks to the center of the pond on the esplanade in front of the Washington Capitol. To stop. Put your hands in the water. Pull out a garbage bag with a bundle inside. From it comes the head of Vladimir Putin. She places it on the ground. And a pachanga begins without rules where the whole game consists of passing the silicone head of the Russian president.
No one from Moscow has yet commented on this video that has been circulating on the networks since yesterday and was recorded in the US capital due to the danger of doing so in Russia. Yes, the son of Brazilian president Eduardo Bolsonaro has done it on another similar shot in Sao Paulo in which his father’s head appears. “Just change the characters and watch the magic happen,” he wrote on Twitter to criticize the social network for its alleged double standards in its application of censorship. Brazilian televisions related to the president and his followers on the networks have accused Merino of a hate crime and, in less than 24 hours, the video has become a national scandal.
What the scion of Jair Bolsonaro probably does not know is that the author of those heads turned into soccer balls is the Spanish artist Eugenio Merino (Madrid, 1975). The same man who put Franco in a refrigerator seeking a lawsuit with the Francisco Franco Foundation, installed the lying bodies of Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol, and bundled it two editions ago in Arco with a four-and-a-half meter ninot of King Felipe VI together to another provocateur of contemporary Spanish art, Santiago Sierra.
“The piece has been very pertinent. He talks about who these characters are, but with their management of the pandemic it has become much clearer, “says Merino by phone. The third protagonist of the series that he has called Freedom Kick is, of course, the president of the United States, Donald Trump, whose head he already sent in a cardboard box to the Unix gallery in New York shortly after he won the elections. In this case, the hair of the White House tenant crashes against the wall that separates the US from Mexico with a disheveled effect that – we suspect – would not be to his liking.
The three videos are part of his first collaboration with the collective of American artists Indecline , responsible for launching them on social networks. It is a kind of Anonymous of art founded in 2001 and composed of graffiti artists, filmmakers and photographers who practice activism with street interventions against the social, ecological and economic injustices of governments and corporations.
“We work along the same lines of playing with the limit of the symbolic and the real in different contexts,” says Merino. They met in September 2019 at the exhibition The Ends of Freedom, organized by the Halle14 museum in Leipzig (Germany), to which the Spaniard brought his Punching Putin, the head of the Russian president with whom you can box, and the Americans, to one of their naked Trump that they installed in 2016 in five cities in the United States.
Right there they decided to collaborate and take football as a stage. “It is a very symbolic game. It emerged as entertainment and now it has become another giant of capitalism, ”says Merino.
To put the project in context, they had the collaboration of Peter and David Kennedy, authors of several essays on the commercialization of football and its influence on politics. The authors recall in their thesis that many of the working-class neighborhoods that were the basis for turning soccer into a global pastime are now the venues where populists seek to preserve their hegemony with identity messages.
The players who cross the heads of the three world leaders in games where there are not two defined teams – contrary to what the populists want to impose – are workers from a Tijuana factory, their children, and several LGTBI activists. “The part of society that has suffered the most with the resurgence of these characters,” explains Merino.
The technical challenge for him was to reduce the usual weight of his silicone human heads from seven kilos to about two and a half so that they could bounce, but at the same time that they had the necessary weight, higher than that of a light ball, so that he did not lose the feeling of reality. The videos can be seen in November in an exhibition curated by Fernando Castro Flórez at the Sala Amós Salvador in Logroño.
The project does not end there. Next will be the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, and the British, Boris Johnson.
Before hanging up, we asked him about the plans of the PSOE-United We Can coalition government to outlaw the Francisco Franco Foundation, which he won a lawsuit over four years ago. “It was a good thing to happen,” he says