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The sweet burnt smell of history : a self-reflexive analysis on the conception of the 8th Panama Biennial


This text is witness to the research process leading to the theme and concept of the 8th Panama Biennial. Entitled The Sweet Burnt Smell of History, the Biennial took on the former American Canal Zone as its main theme, with the purpose of bringing about a reflection on the nation's recent social and political history, through the lens of contemporary visual arts. This text analyzes the historical backdrop against which the works that composed the exhibition developed, and draws a conceptual background of its curatorial framework. It consists of three chapters. Contrasting the historical, political and ideological significance of the building of the Canal both in the Panamanian and North American contexts, the first chapter describes the construction and projection of the Panama Canal Zone as a social tropical utopia. The second chapter is an analysis of the historical evolution and transformation of the 19th century model of exhibitions as it leads up to the prevailing format of contemporary art biennials. Chapter three is a reflection on how the 8th Panama Biennial rethought its own model in order to problematize its localization in the contemporary global circuit

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