Interview with Januario Jano
10 Novembro 2020
A few days before the exhibition, I arrived at the gallery a few minutes before the interview to get the “vibe” of how it would play out. Little did I know that I would be basked in a conversion filled with more laughter than predicted. After greeting each other and taking photos for the interview, it was time to unpack all I need to know about the exhibition “Departure”, the curator and artist in charge of it.
Ivolpichella: So, what was the inspiration for this project?
Januario Jano: Oh that! We have to talk about how the project comes to Lisbon. I was invited by a German gallery owner based in Frankfurt to do an exhibition there and in Lisbon, responding to that invitation, I decided to do a group exhibition. It was an excellent opportunity to extend the theme of the preview group exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery and to push my curatorial practice. Acting as the curators and artist, I began by selecting the theme and subsequently, the artists of which, their practice responded to the curatorial proposal. There are ten artists chosen for this project, including myself. The overall theme was extracted from the “Flatten the Dream: The Exit” from the exhibition presented at Saatchi Gallery. In the “Departure”, a large part of the artists included in this project was in the London project as well. They are two Portuguese artists, an Australian artist, a Latin- British artist, one artist from Peru, an artist from Cuba, two Angolan artists, Alice Marcelino and I, an Israel-Russian artist and a German-Russian artist. There is common ground that ties all these artists (except one): London academic art institution, notably Goldsmiths University.
IV: Like a college reunion...?
JJ: Haha, yes! It makes sense for my curatorial approach to work with these artists; I know their artistic practice, where they are right now in their careers, and also, I have spent two years with them sharing thoughts and resources. One of the artists I did not know well, and for that, I relied on the curator and researcher Anastasiia Laukhina from “Laukhina Projects” for assistance. The theme of the exhibition, inspired by TS Eliot poem “Departure and Arrival” and a fragment of my preview curatorial text: “Flatten the Dream: The Exit”, gave me the base to continue to push the current theme of my research practice, which resonate well with the present moment that we are living on, the ongoing pandemic, and the idea of longing for a place to escape.
And that reflects well on all the artists on the exhibition, including the gallerist, Jean Claude Maier, and Christopher Jone, the Lisbon base liaison. We’re three days to the opening, and as you can
see, there’s still a lot to be done, all the works are here and ready to be installed.
IV: The calm before the storm, right?
JJ: Hahaha, sounds poetic, and it’s true!
IV: Speaking of “storms”, did the pandemic alter anything in your mood board or
JJ: A little. It’s something that affects us all directly or indirectly; nevertheless, my process of working is intact, I would say. My approach is not instantaneous; I do not react to things that are happening right on. Usually, I would already have ideas of what I want to do processing for some time; my areas and theme of interest do not shift quickly. Whatever I want to address are, still the same with a pandemic or without it. However, when it comes to global issues, it’s inevitable not to be affected. For instance, the production, mobility fell into crises and for someone like me, who officially lives as a nomad, going from place to place, it's a near-catastrophic experience.
IV: Between the three “L's” (Lisbon, Luanda and London)...
JJ: Yes! Among them (three L's). I navigate between them frequently, but the pandemic has affected this interception.
IV: I noticed that being a multifaceted artist, you use performance a lot in the exhibitions, is theatre something you see in the future?
JJ: Hmmm! I've never even thought about it, I perform but not necessarily with a theatrical approach in mind. The photographic work that I do has this undertone to it. I sometimes staged the action to be captured and sometimes resembled the dramatic process. I would say it has a performative aspect to it. My idea is always to try to freeze the action, which runs like a film, but not a traditional 35mm on 25 frames per second. I would rather unframe it and freeze all the action as if it's running from point A to point B and between this path from point A to point B I portray what's going to happen there. The thing about my photographs is that many people don't read it as traditional photography, they mostly read it as a performance, and it works well for me because I perform but not necessarily thinking about the theatre.
IV: So it’s more than a person's physical space...
JJ: Yes, the process is a bit like a theatre director on the set or conducting the play. I think about the idea, the research and theme, then I script it to serve as a guide. From the research point of view, I would already know all the necessary, from the costumes, the location, the
lighting and all the equipment required to make the project come to life and even how it would work... and this is the mood-board.
IV: I’m a little amazed that you didn't make the connection with the theatre, as soon as I saw it, I thought "this is very theatrical, really a different touch.”
JJ: I think some performances can fall into the theatrical pattern; they may have a connection, but unconsciously.
IV: What do you have prepared for 2021? Are you thinking of doing something different, or out of your comfort zone?
JJ: I still haven't even done all the things I have planned to do, but if you look closely into my practice, the answer is already there. Honestly, I know well how to hide the repetitions.
IV: You still haven't done it and yet, you’ve done so much already...
JJ: No, no and no. I barely started. 2020 cancelled! This year has been a turbulent year, and it will end like this, This is a general feeling. 2021, I’ll continue to do what I have already been doing. Since the pandemic started, I have not stopped, and feel a little increase in activities, even though I have been resisting the idea of mass-migration to the virtual world and accepting the new normal.
IV: But even the lockdown was inspirational in a way, don’t you think?
JJ: Not only that, but it was also productive! When it comes to taking actions, moving the (art) material from one place to other, it’s essential to take a bit of time and seat down and meditating on how stories, so that time (lockdown) was a time to meditating on everything, on my practice, personal life, and questioning everything. There were many layers to think about, but that's it. Next year, will be the aftermath or maybe the continuation of 2020. In almost everything, the pandemic, the new way of living, and more in between. We will get used to it and accept the new normal as we learn how to live with the Covid-19 and deal with it.
IV: After this exhibition, do you have any projects already in the making?
JJ: A THOUSAND... They are already happening, and listening to them would sound sketchy.
IV: A thousand things and you still don’t stop...
JJ: I think after here I'll be working on three new projects. There is an upcoming exhibition for next year in March/April, which I have to overhead because of the trips, etc. Next week I'll be a speaker for an international platform in Johannesburg, I should already be there actually, but it will be via Zoom. I have a Masterclass and panel talk in Braga scheduled for January. For now, I have to stay in Lisbon to work with the gallery and set up the schedule for 2021. It’s a lot already!
IV: For those who haven’t stumbled across your work, how would you describe it?
JJ: There are several layers to it. I think those who are closer to me have one way to ready the work which differs from those who are following the pieces from a distance without direct contact to the artist. The multiples level embedded into the practice offers the viewers an invitation to explore and navigate through by browsing the multi-layers surface of it, this way the viewer is forced to operate as an activator agent and to add to work unconsciously. There is a conductive and consistent line into the work even if the formats change, the similarity runs through photography projects, sculptural, performance, videos, textile pieces and installations. But usually who knows me and sees my work
will always find something that has reference to a place and time, and if the viewer is familiar with these places or time, it would be much easier to resonate. For others, it would give them a joy-ride and discover something relatively new.
IV: Your work is very rooted and always highlights the relevance that the past will ever have in the present and future.
JJ: There’s no way not to bring it (the past to the present); therefore, my practice is undoubtedly a vehicle to getting to know the self. Initially, through the research, I learn and discover a great deal of what it takes to be me and how important is my upbringing. It’s a continuous learning process. The work I do teaches me things I didn’t know something that I never knew was there or didn’t expect to understand. The practice opens unexpected doors, and it sometimes makes me feel like a kid lost inside of a candy shop - “woooow, seriously ?!”- this is a kind of reaction I sometimes have. I find interest in being the spectator, it’s an amazing experience, therefore, the final work is not the main element on activating these feelings to me, it's in the process where the magic happens.
IV: Well, thank you, Januario Jano for taking a little bit of your time to talk to us. #Hatsoff to you.
Ending the conversation with a little more understanding of who Januario Jano was as an artist, now, all there was left to do was to wish him good luck with the exhibition "Departure", which takes place in Lisbon from November, 13 to December, 10.
Januario Jano is wearing the Yellow Joshua hat.