Art in the Divided City: Participatory art projects in Rio de Janeiro Favelas

PhD project, Simone Kalkman (2014-2018)


My PhD project (started in September 2014) is about contemporary art projects in Rio de Janeiro favelas (informal neighbourhoods). In recent decades, many artists have worked in marginalised communities, making the interaction with disadvantaged groups an essential part of their work. In Rio de Janeiro favelas, several local and international artists have done such projects. This relates to the recent popularity of favelas in cinema and tourism, but also to a continued fascination with these areas as places of poverty and criminality. The idea of Rio as a ‘divided city’, with absolute borders separating formal and informal neighbourhoods, is important in this respect. I am especially interested to see how art projects cross these borders and what this means for the imagination of Rio as a ‘divided city’. I will analyse and compare case studies based on fieldwork in Rio (in 2015), looking at (1) the ways in which the art projects are considered and received locally by favela residents, (2) the position and reception of the art projects in international exhibition contexts and debates around participatory art, and (3) how these two contexts influence each other.

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