En busca de un mito (In Search of a Myth) is the second chapter of my project Mi país imaginado
Museums were built as temples of art and culture reflecting Europe as an ideal image, mostly portraying native people as frozen in time. The decades around 1900 witnessed a re-distribution and re-location of antiquities from Peru to North America and Europe, several prominent collections were sold abroad around these decades in the absence of an appropriate state policy to withhold exportation.
In this body of work, I insert my body in the pages of The Art of Old Peru, a publication of the Ethnological Institute of the Ethnographical Museum in Berlin published in 1924. By inserting my body in the book, embellishing pages and holding cutouts from this publication, I am interacting and in dialog with objects that now lay dissected in an institution far away from the spiritual places they were taken. This project was done in the historic Saxonville Mill established in the 1800s as a woolen mill now turned into artist studios.
The Ethnographical Museum in Berlin was created as a universal “archive of humanity”. Adolf Bastian, its first director, was also the first academic anthropologist in Germany. He personally travelled to Peru to secure antiquities for his institution. Today this museum contains the most impressive collection of Peruvian artifacts outside my country purchased mostly from three private Peruvian collections around the time of the War of the Pacific (1879-1884) when Peru was recovering from a devastating war with Chile. The museum collection also contains historical photographs mostly of native people taken for anthropological studies.
This body of work aims to raise questions as to who are the real owners of those artifacts and photographs that museums own and the importance of taking into account the ideological background of their genesis and the different actors, past and present, involved in the exhibits.
© 2023 Claudia Ruiz Gustafson . All rights reserved