If it isn’t clear from the logo of ±MaisMenos±, duality is the pervasive theme of the work and also of the man behind it, Miguel Januário. The relationship between art and politics, between the street and the art gallery is complex at best. But it’s on these shaky foundations that Januário has been constructing his politically-charged work for the last 12 years.
Influenced as much by theory and criticism as real-life political and social movements, the usually short text-based pieces he creates present scathing criticisms of the world around him. Channeling Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky into sharp and concise headline-worthy statements, Januário’s advertising background has granted him a rare insight into that which he criticizes.
It’s not uncommon for street artists to react against advertising, or to subvert it, but end up falling into the same traps of the system they are attacking – they’re advertising their brand and their product to stop others doing the same. The need to communicate opinions, feelings and moods is the lifeblood of successful advertising and also essential facets of artistic expression. Whilst it may be a dirty truth to many, the two are closely linked and rather than shy away from this, the work of Januário embraces it. The statements in his artwork can be just as easily read as campaign taglines or political proclamations. Again, it’s the balance of society’s polarization.
Instead of claiming to be working outside of the system, it’s from inside it that Januário is taking it down. It’s as an observer and consumer that stimulates his critical eye. He refers to his work as having the ‘Che Guevara t-shirt’ effect –a product about something profound, like public opinion or political and economic misdeeds, rather than being profound in and of itself. Using mainly monochromatic symbols and letters, his work is a performative means of creating a façade that simultaneously blends in and stands out. He’s not Che, he’s the t-shirt. Remember though, without the t-shirt, a lot less people would know about the man.
Given that the artwork exists now, in a time of information overload, is telling. Januário manages to collect and channel his thoughts through the guise of ±MaisMenos± to better make sense of all these things that are around him. What we get are artworks that appear simple, but are pointing the finger at something altogether more complex.
The artwork is a mirror that he holds up to society, challenging it to come to terms with its own dishonesty, prejudice and contradictions. The divide and conquer tactics employed by global media outlets certainly isn’t a laughing matter, but when Januário pokes fun at the absurdity, it begins to seem so trivial that it is actually seems funny, if only because it is a nervous laugh.
His work, partly based on the idea of analyzing the way the media transmits its messages might seem somewhat hypocritical considering he is doing just that too. But by existing in this unique space of contradiction he is able to produce his most scathing work. He seems comfortable being where other artists don’t want to find themselves. From this place of purgatory, always somewhere between two extremes, he draws our attention to the subtleties of manipulation that we might otherwise have missed amongst the distractions of force-fed entertainment.
MaisMenos has been prolific over the past few years, it would be unfair to leave out some of the other pieces. Here's a handful of his best:
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