Performing Diversity: Art, Culture and Contested National Identities during the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Dr. Jon Croose explored attitudes within the arts community in Rio de Janeiro towards representations of Brazilian national identity in the 2016 Olympic Opening Ceremony. His presentation outlined a small-scale research project, supported by the AUB Research Fellowship programme.

The presentation investigated the role of art and culture in processes of place branding and inter-place competition: “There is no reality – only perception” (Speaker, Rio 2016 Tourism and Branding Conference).

It also considered the social and cultural realities of city redevelopment as part of Olympic mega-events:  “We say these are the exclusion Games … we call them the Murder Olympics” (Inês: art student and anti-Olympics activist). 

This research-in-process involved ethnographic fieldwork and interviews with artists from the Ministry of Culture occupation protest, transgender artists, black artists, street performers, clowns and countercultural visual artists, as well as Olympic cultural producers and practitioners involved in the official ceremonies. 

Dr Croose’s early research findings critiqued the cultural idealism of Olympic Opening Ceremonies and considered how subjects’ art and cultural performance expressed alternative notions of community, place and identity, set within the contemporary political and social context in Brazil:

It wasn’t just a show. We did something that went beyond the show…to rescue dignity and hope, to show what we are capable of, because we were all so desolated, right? I think it was a beautiful start… ‘Gambiarra’ from the beginning. Gambiarra? It is to make something out of nearly nothing… [After the Olympics] we are expecting chaos… I think this ceremony showed that without culture and education we won’t get anywhere… I think that at least this was proved with the opening ceremony, you know?”  (Costume Designer, Rio 2016 Opening Ceremony). 

The presentation also briefly considered methodologies, early findings and potential outputs, the challenges of international research and translation of data, and the value of qualitative research approaches.

You can read more about Jon’s work here.