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MaisMenos - Embracing Duality at IMNT

Words:

Edd Norval

Photos:

video: @expandingroots
June 30, 2021

Miguel Januário, better known by his alias MaisMenos, embraces the contrasts and contradictions of contemporary life through his art that picks apart the everyday dualities that govern our thoughts, behaviour and perspectives of the world. Where better to explore these themes that at one of the world’s most innovative and eclectic festivals?

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Running from day until night, the very essence of duality in nature, a physical manifestation of the chaos and order dichotomy present in the Biblical tale of the Garden of Eden, Festival Iminente in 2019 housed one of Januário’s most exciting interventions, largely because of the holistic nature of his work - appearing throughout as stencils, flags and performances that almost completely consumed the event. 


Recognised for his intelligent and satirical statements, both in Portuguese and English, the work of MaisMenos is encapsulated by his logo ‘±’ derived from a mathematical signifier of two possible values, or of a standard deviation. Interestingly, the symbol in engineering represents the concept of tolerance, of what a particular object or form can withstand. 


This ‘more or less’ approach to understanding the world started back in 2005 as a critical look at a system that he was hoping to understand, yet perpetually perplexed by. Our current economic model of capitalism has at once offered opportunity to individuals, emancipated ideas, yet enslaved the vast majority of the world’s population. It is the ultimate contradiction.

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Whilst not explicitly political, Festival Iminente can be understood as an activist space, where voices are amplified through their togetherness. Each piece has value, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. MaisMenos chose to emphasise his own artistic language at the festival by employing such a variety of interventions that they functioned as his own form of subversive propaganda, lampooning the same regimes that so blatantly employ these techniques.


Although the goal of propaganda is to control, Januário’s approach is to highlight their process and use that to free people, starting with this campaign of awareness. Place is a hugely important aspect of his work. Namely, challenging what it is to be a public and private space - what houses people, what facilitates fun, where we can and cannot enter. Festival Iminente takes place at Lisbon’s iconic Panorâmico de Monsanto, a place where the artist is able to consider what this area means to various groups of converging people.


Before it was used as Festival Iminente’s home, the grand building was an abandoned space, technically private, but regularly visited and explored by locals and tourists alike. Before then, it was a restaurant with sweeping views across the breathtaking surrounding landscape. In many ways, having the work of MaisMenos in such a place feels deeply intuitive, almost as if the two were made to amplify each other, bringing out the very best of what the two parties represent.

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Interested in the way narratives are formed within society, from politicians to media and grassroots voices, Januário aims to deconstruct the complexities of the subtle forms of truth, Truth and coercion that various societies impose upon their populace. At Festival Iminente in 2019, he was able to build his own microcosm, where the only truth was his truth, however we wanted to interpret it. 


Held together by the talismanic centrepiece, the metallic ‘± REAL ±’ textual installation wrapped around the front of the building, we weren’t able to shy away from the questions he wanted to pose to the audience, rather, those in attendance were forced to grapple with what it all meant. What is real, fake, truth, lies? Who do we believe and, at the end of the day, what does it even matter?


Video by @expandingroots

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