Herbario de plantas artificiales

Alberto Baraya

Until 22 May 2011

Found objects, pictures and drawing on cardboard. Variable dimensions

Courtesy of the artist; Pepe Cobo & Cía., Madrid; Galería Nara Roesler, São Paulo; and private collections

In the early days of the Scientific Revolution, museum classification systems had broken down into a complex miscellany of vague categories which were more useful for their symbology than for their analytic capacity to reconstruct reality. As Susana Gómez López explains, “unlike modern classifications of nature, the external appearance of natural objects and beings did not determine their place in the museum: animals, plants and minerals were displayed like hieroglyphics that had to be deciphered in order to reveal the secrets of nature. It was not yet the collector’s task to collect, catalogue and classify as many natural creatures or objects as possible, observing their similarities and differences. Rather, the collector endeavoured to discover the secret thread that unites all things and all beings in the natural world.”

Herbario de plantas artificiales by Alberto Baraya (Bogotá, 1968) is a re-working of scientific expeditions, but in this case the object of study is botanical reproductions – artificial plants – rather than real botany. The project brings together a collection of plastic plants that the artist has been collecting since 2002 in different parts of the world, from the Amazon jungle to New Zealand, Venice and, of course, Colombia, the country where Baraya was born and lives.

Herbario de plantas artificiales currently contains around 300 formal taxonomies of artificial specimens, gathered by means of urban and rural expeditions based on standard scientific methodologies of observation and classification. The samples are carefully labelled with the details of the place and date of collection. The pieces are arranged for analysis and dissected in the form traditional botanic plates, annotated with other relevant data, texts and sketches.

Following in the footsteps of Celestino Mutis (1783- 1816) and other scientists and botanists who took part in the great geographic expeditions of the 18th and 19th centuries, Baraya adapts these exploratory journeys to the 21st century, questioning the scientific paradigm, colonial expeditions, archival and documentation practice and popular tastes, as well as contemporary aesthetics and industry.