±MAISMENOS± is a conceptual intervention project – viral, direct and decisive – that makes us reflect on the model organisation that manages life in today’s societies. It questions, above all, its social implications and consequences, showing its programmatic expression reduced to an equation of simplicity and opposites: more / less, positive white / negative black. Simple sentences painted in emblematic places, capable of stimulating passers-by to reflect, an avant-garde work carried out both indoors and outdoors since 2005, which through various phases is now entering the art gallery circuit.
The project is the work of a Portuguese designer, Miguel Januário, born in 1981, who is in his fifth year at the Faculty of Design and Fine Arts at the University of Porto and has been given a challenge: to create a symbol that means nothing but can “sell itself” through anonymity.
The student’s response was ±maismenos±, a simple concept that unites two opposites and confronts them. With this symbol, the artist questions the contemporary political, social and economic situation, demonstrating the active role that the artist must and can play in society.
So, from an idea, the project was born and the first collaborations were born… in 2004 the one with the Cultural Space of the city of Porto “Bad Habits”, for which Miguel Januario was responsible for the graphic design… then the beginning of the freelance activity.
As far as graffiti is concerned, his ‘streetments’ are a source of inspiration for him and his viewers, but it often takes time to find the right words to subvert the ‘Portugueseness’ (Portugueseness refers to the ‘commonplaces of thought’ inherent in any popular culture, or those social contradictions that everyone can recognise in their own country) of the audience he is addressing. This is the case of “± O povo vencido jamais será unido” (“The vanquished people will never be united”), “± Creditamos em Deus” (“Give credit to God”) “± Poupe a agua. Assim podemos jogar golfe” ( ± Save water. So we can play golf).
With his provocative phrases, he explores new ways of doing street art, leaving aside the large graffiti letters and drawings that we are used to admiring for their colours and design.
Januário’s interventions are seemingly simple, but they carry powerful messages that push the public to reflect on issues of social implications and the consequences, both positive and negative, of contemporary urban societies regulated by bureaucracies. His artistic project of ‘Portugal’s Funeral Procession’, escorted by the GNR (Republican National Guard), led to the dismissal of the district commander of the same military force.
Januário studied graphic design, but it was the experience of graffiti that gave him a new perspective on how to use public space to convey his message and encourage people to raise questions… His works can be found on his website ±maismenos± and in Porto and Lisbon, as well as in Brazil, Angola, Norway and many more places and countries.
All images: ±maismenos±