by Saira Viola
Ooh la la! Quelle Vois! Gonzo goes ga ga for Mimi The Clown, French Dadaist and Satirist.
Mimi The Clown a.k.a. Miguel Donvez has been teasing and testing the boundaries of art for almost a decade with his marvelously irreverent take on celebrity, politics and current events. Gonzo gets to grips with the Enfant Terrible of the French art world and asks:
What is the core philosophy of your art?
Mimi The Clown:
I am heavily influenced by the Dadaist movement. For me the spirit of Dada is alive and more relevant than ever before. The facet of Dada is different for each city but the underlying idea remains the same where art, and all thought on politics and celebrity is combined to challenge, to provoke, and to redefine. So the main heart of Dada is to pursue everything with complete freedom.
S.V. Why did you pick the name Mimi The Clown?
I invented the character of Mimi the Clown ten years ago. I felt that in order to express the sentiments of my work I needed a character to speak through me. A little like the grandfather of French literature Jean de la Fontaine. His collection of animal fable stories were actually a way to attack French royalty and censorship and for me the clown was a natural choice because of the absurdity of modern society. A world where profit comes before humanity and celebrities are treated like gods. That is why I am a firm believer in Dadaism. I needed a name that was easy to remember not elitist like taggers, but accessible to rich and poor, old and young. It was Mimi. My real name is Miguel and my mother and family used to call me Mimi when I was a child. It stuck and it works.
What do you believe is the role of the artist today?
For me the artist is a witness to what’s going on in society. The true artist has an essential political role that’s part of life. But, not only in dark times, an artist also has a duty to bring colour and music into people’s lives like a troubadour. In medieval France the troubadour was essential. They were poets, composers and artistes, lyrically gifted, bringing their performance then to the French court, and I follow that tradition by bringing my art to the people of France and the world.
The growth of street art, Stenicilism, and graffiti has redefined the language of art taking it out of often inaccessible luxury studios to the people, there for everyone to see. Why did you choose the street as your principal canvas?
Increasingly, there are huge differences between rich and poor and the gap gets wider and wider. The streets have no red tape they are free for me to express myself and free for the people to look at. As I was walking through the avenues I knew I wanted everyone to be able to see my work up close. My message gets instant feedback, people respond immediately and the greatest critics are the people. Here in Lille where I am now based, I have become a part of people’s lives and I enjoy that aspect of giving the people some art. The longevity of the street is also a pulling factor, once I have had a show my work is packed up in boxes and stored away, with the street my work can live for ever.
Much of your work satirises the gluttony and excess of consumer culture. What is your ideal utopia?
I wish that man would abandon their stupid ideologies on religion and turn to the truth and knowledge. In my perfect utopia everyone would be imbued with a library of epic proportions providing universal knowledge like that described by Jorge Luis Borges in his “Library of Babel” book. I dream of a free and liberal society who rely only on knowledge and expertise to guide their lives not dogma and prejudice.
If you had just one hour left on Earth, how would you spend those 60 minutes?
I’d take my family in my arms hold them tight and tell them over and over again how much I love them. That I loved every minute we were together, try to explain how much I appreciated their support and love but c’est la vie: The Show Must Go On.?
Visit Mimi the Clown’s website