“Botanists and explorers already exist. I just change one of the objectives to point at the mechanism itself. It’s an absurd project that points to the absurdity of cataloguing the whole world.
” —Alberto Baraya [Source
With the unbridled passion of an 18th-century explorer, Colombian artist and acting-botanist Alberto Baraya
travels the world collecting specimens of nature. His bounty, however, is made of plastic. In the footsteps of the European explorers, who returned from expeditions to America bearing framed plant specimens for their herbarium collections, Baraya travels the world in search of artificial plants to collect, dissect, and classify under the guidance of Jorge Luis Borges’ mythical Chinese encyclopedia. “By picking up some plastic flowers on the street, I behave like the scientists that Western education expects us to become,” Baraya has said
. “By changing the goals of this simple task I can resist this ‘destiny’.”
Baraya has followed his map on expeditions to New Zealand, China, Australia, Peru’s Machu Picchu and Colombia’s Lost City, Teyuna, and recently, to the West Coast of the United States in “Expedition California” (see images, at right). As a world traveler critiquing world travelers, Baraya presents a parody of exploration that encourages questions of environment and the replacement of nature—in this case, via plastic foliage scavenged from waiting rooms, homes, and restaurants.