Merma Never Dies by Joan Miró and Joan Baixas took place in 2006 in the interior and exterior spaces of the Tate, beginning at the Millennium Bridge and ending at the Tate Modern Turbine Hall.
First conceived in 1978 by renowned surrealist painter Joan Miró in collaboration with La Claca, a Barcelona experimental theater company headed by Joan Baixas, this reinvention of the work for Tate was the first time the production had been staged in twenty-five years. . Originally titled Mori el Merma (Death to Merma), the 1978 production was created in response to Franco’s death three years earlier and the end of his autocratic rule in Spain. Seeking to reflect on the trauma of Spain’s recent history and also to celebrate the country’s liberation from Franco’s rule, Mori el Merma took the form of an avant-garde theatrical production, using puppets designed by Joan Miró to tell an allegorical story of government despotic characterized by greed and cruelty, but ultimately overthrown by the public. The plot revolved around the adventures and misadventures of the central character Merma, a fictitious and mad king, representative not only of Franco, but also of all the tyrannical leaders throughout history. Alfred Jarry’s 1896 play Ubu Roi (and its main character, the grotesque and violent Ubu the King) provided Miró with a dramaturgical model. The production also featured a number of colorful supporting characters, including Merma’s wife and court, and a mob of angry and downtrodden peasants, who ultimately succeed in overthrowing King Merma. From seven-foot giants with monster heads to tiny creatures that whispered and shrieked, the entire production seemed to have sprung from the canvas of one of Miró’s paintings.
The new version of Merma by Joan Baixas highlighted the continued and ongoing abuse of power by political figureheads. Speaking of the central character, he said: “The name is not important because, unfortunately, there are now many Merma’s. In recent years we have seen leaders who wage wars with lies and who play with democracy. The least we can do is laugh at them.”