Baraya, Alberto (1968 - )

Expedición Machu Picchu: Orquídea parásita verde (2013)
Machu Picchu Expedition: Green Parasitic Orchid

Found object, drawing and photographs on paper
height: 60cm
width: 40cm
Mixed Media


Mimicking in a way the expeditions of the 17th, 18th, 19th centuries intended to establish a scientific knowledge of the nature and people of the New World, Alberto Baraya defined himself as a “pseudo botanico viajero” (pseudo-traveller botanist), pursuing his own “expeditions” throughout the world creating an herbarium and realising anthropometric surveys. In countries such as New Zealand, China (Shangai), Colombia (Tenuya), Australia, and Peru (Machu Picchu), Baraya collected and catalogued artificial plants for his Herbario de plantas artificiales. The Orquídea parásita verde is a plastic and fabric flower “made in China” that Baraya collected during his expedition to Machu Picchu. Fastened to this plank of the Herbario, it is accompanied by detailed drawings of the specimen and information about its collector and finding place. During his expedition Baraya also continued his project Antropometrías aproximadas constituting a photographic survey of people he encountered. In a parody of colonial anthropometry that aimed at classifying different races, he switched the role of the observer, making portraits of himself (the traveller, “discoverer”, tourist) being measured and studied by the people he met. To the right of the orchid , Baraya is shown in Machu Picchu holding the flower, his head being measured by a police officer, and a town crier . The drawing in the middle of the work shows complex calculations and measurements of a head and of the orchid in an absurd seemingly scientific study.

By creating a botanical knowledge of fake plants, Baraya ironically comments on the scientific paradigm, and the subjectivity implied by those who create knowledge. The presence of pictures from Antropometrías aproximadas in the work links the herbarium to the role of natural history in anthropological attempts to define cultures and frame identities, meanwhile highlighting the implication of the Other’s gaze in the construction of these identities.

Carine Harmand, 2018

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