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Favelas at the biennale: Exhibiting Brazilian informality in Europe

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Brazilian favelas have become world-famous through representations in cinema, tourism and art. This article discusses engagements with Brazilian favelas in art and architecture, focusing on the 2016 Venice Biennale of Architecture. This exhibition is analysed as a practice of worlding, focusing on how artists and curators transform favelas into objects to be seen, experienced and thought about. The article shows that the incorporation of favelas into European art contexts is inextricably related, first, to imaginaries of Brazilian nationality and, second, to the idea that the global North can learn from favelas. Building on this, I argue that ethical and epistemological questions are inextricably intertwined when exhibiting Brazilian favelas in Europe, which implies recognizing the complicity of academic research in this process of knowledge production.
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Keywords: Europe; Venice Biennale; architecture; exhibition practices; favelas; inequality

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Amsterdam

Publication date: June 1, 2018

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  • Cities have been increasingly at the forefront of debate in both humanities and social-science disciplines, but there has been relatively little dialogue across these disciplinary boundaries. Journals in social-science fields that use urban-studies methods to look at life in cities rarely explore the cultural aspects of urban life in any depth or delve into close readings of the representation of cities in individual cultural products. As a platform for interdisciplinary scholarship from any and all linguistic, cultural and geographical traditions, the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies prioritizes the urban phenomenon in order to better understand the culture(s) of cities.
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