Art in the Divided City: The Representation of the Rio de Janeiro. Favela in Participatory Art Projects

Simone Kalkman | University of Amsterdam | Art in the Divided City: The Representation of the Rio de Janeiro. Favela in Participatory Art Projects | Supervisor: Christoph Lindner | 2014-2019

This research investigates the increasingly popular practice of contemporary art projects in Rio de Janeiro favelas (slums). In recent decades, many (professional) artists have worked in marginalised communities, making the interaction with disadvantaged groups an essential part of their work. Through participatory processes, these artists often aim to combine artistic meaning with tangible, socio-political outcomes. In Rio de Janeiro’s favelas such projects have become widespread. This relates to the societal position of these neighbourhoods, characterised by a strong local identity, an important place in national narratives, and a recent international popularity. Based on the idea of Rio de Janeiro as a “divided city”, favelas are often wrongly considered territories of absolute “otherness” and various artists are trying to change this imagery by actively crossing the borders between the favela and the formal city. The research analyses and compares four art projects that have worked with local participants and received considerable international attention: Projeto Morrinho, Paula Trope, Mauricio Dias and Walter Riedweg, and Favela Painting. The comparison has three focal points. Firstly, it analyses how the projects represent the favela to international audiences. Secondly, it considers how the projects physically cross the borders between favela and “formal city” in their participatory processes. Thirdly, it examines the projects’ international art world’s reception. This will not only provide a critical account of this popular tendency in contemporary art, but also contribute to the debate on how the favela is internationally represented and how the integration of favelas might be improved through artistic practices.