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This document was published in the Colombian cultural magazine piedepágina [Footer] (2004–7); it includes the artist Alberto Baraya’s account of his travels up the Putumayo and Amazon rivers on a Colombian military boat as a documentary maker for the Centro de Integración Fluvial de Sur América [South American River Integration Center]. Baraya’s other reason for taking this journey was to continue the task of collecting samples of plants (of the latex family) that he began a few years earlier for his most emblematic work, Herbario de plantas artificiales [Herbarium of Artificial Plants] (2002). While on the trip, Baraya also read the novel One River (3) in which the anthropologist and writer Wade Davis describes his own expeditions through the Amazon jungle as well as those of the ethnobotanist Richard Schultes. This reading stimulated reflections and images that Baraya later referenced in his creative work.
This document makes an important contribution to the study of the work of Alberto Baraya (b. 1968) because it includes the artist’s own references to some of the things he thinks about, such as how scientific explorers from the power centers of the world see South America. What is interesting about these reflections is that they identify the main themes that run throughout his work, for example: his commitment to a critical relationship with the power centers of the world, or his interest in the prevailing discourses of the time on subjects such as science or tourism. This text is also of great significance because it includes the artist’s own photographs and narrative about a period during which he created some of his most important works, including his video Río [River] (2004–5); the oil paintings that were shown at his exhibition Expedición [Expedition] (2005)—landscapes of the Putumayo River that evoke the images produced by European explorers of our America; of course, not to mention his Herbario de plantas artificiales [Herbarium of Artificial Plants] (2002). The influence of this document is underscored by the fact that Natalia Gutiérrez studied it while preparing her critical essay “Alberto Baraya o el arte de desplegar, coleccionar en fin, el arte de encontrar las relaciones que están ahí y que no vemos” [Alberto Baraya or the Art of Displaying, Collecting, or at Any Rate Finding the Relationships That Are There but That We Do Not See] (2006) [see doc. no. 1130395].
Alberto Baraya is a graduate of the Facultad de Bellas Artes [Faculty of Fine Arts] of the Universidad Nacional de Colombia at Bogotá. In 1995, he earned a master’s degree in aesthetics and art theory at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, and a multimedia specialist degree at the Universidad Complutense, also in Madrid. His work, which expresses his reflections on subjects, such as travel, migration, exoticism, and tourism, has been included in many exhibitions and other important events in Colombia and abroad. After an outstanding artistic career and many academic awards, including a Beca Reina Sofía [Queen Sofía Grant] for postgraduate studies from the government of Spain, and the “Mejores Egresados” [Top Graduates] grant from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia—Baraya has worked as an art teacher at the Universidad de Los Andes and the Universidad Nacional de Colombia (both of which are in Bogotá).