MAISMENOS is a 12-year-old on-going artistic project of an artist and a graphic designer Miguel Januário from Portugal. MAISMENOS offers critical perspectives on political and social issues by performances, installations, paintings and videos.
‘MAIS MENOS’ means in English ‘MORE LESS’. It often plays with this duality by minimizing the visuals of the works yet keeping the message open for several different interpretations (see photo below).
MAISMENOS is one of the artist in this year’s Nuart festival that starts later this week. Last month I had a change to talk with Miguel about how he sees the power of street art and what kind of impact he hopes to achieve through his works.
Tell me, what does street mean to you?
Well, street has always been a kind of canvas, inspiration and a public forum where ideas can be placed, discussed and distributed. Street is apparently a free place for everyone but sometimes you have to go against some laws or regulations. It is also a dominated place. It is dominated by those who have more power to control the streets, like brands and corporations.
How did you start painting works that criticize the society?
It is something that I started already when I was a young boy. I was always interested in politics and how things shaped our society. So I started to do graffiti at very young age and the pieces I did were very political. For me graffiti is a political act. My first tag was CHAOS so even the name I chose had a message. I wanted my name to have a political message just in case I didn’t have time to write or draw anything else next to it. I started writing my tag name with political punch lines and questions. Basically it all developed to this moment where I’m MAISMENOS so it all made sense.
Why is it important for you to paint political street art?
I think it is a way to get exposed the things I have inside. The works are projections of my interior. I have an urge to do it. Through art I have a way to liberate, to show and to question my ideas and make people to talk about politics. My works are very ambivalent. They are generators of discussion.
Do you consider yourself an activist or an artist?
I consider myself an artist that promotes activism. This is because I feel myself more of an observer or a critic than activist. Someone who wants to shake things up.
Your works are criticism towards society for example social or economical system. Do you see your works as a resistance against these systems?
Even if they might not seem like it, in a way they are. My works try to make people to think: what is resistance?, what is the denial about the system?, what is not to care about the system? So my art is more like stimulator to people to rethink and question the system.
So do you make a living with your art or do you have a day job?
Actually at the moment I have a scholarship from the Portuguese Ministry of Science and Education – and this is a paradox. At the same month I was granted this scholarship I was lecturing in a high school of Arts in Porto. The students came to talk to me after my lecture and they told me that my website is censured from the school’s internet which is controlled by the same ministry. So my site is banned from the most of the schools in Portugal yet I’m receiving a scholarship from the same institute.
What would you like to achieve with your artistic work?
Well, I want to continue doing it as long as I’m inspired to do it. I wouldn’t mind if one day my pieces would be a reference of works that made people think and act more critical.
Want to read more how street artists see their own works? Well, do not miss the interview with Spanish street artist Sabek.