In his extensive artistic research project Within Heritage Movements (2013–21), Oscar Lara examines the history of the rare Peruvian pre-Columbian Paracas textiles: How a great number of them were stolen from an approximately 2,000-year-old grave in the 1930s in Peru and smuggled to Sweden, before eventually being returned over the course of the past 20 years. Both times, the exchange took place via diplomatic pathways. Baffled by these events, Lara explores how it is possible for him in his position as artist to arrange a similar journey. Lara has the textiles reproduced and sends them in the opposite direction — from Peru to Sweden.
In this research project, rooted in the specific political context of the repatriation of the textiles, Oscar Lara seeks to prompt debate around cultural and institutional policies, but also to test the limits and possibilities of artistic strategies aiming at structural change.
In this talk Lara reflects on various aspects of the project and the strategical considerations made in response to the challenges faced in such art projects when seeking to move beyond the symbolic political gesture and instead generate their own politics in order to achieve real structural change.
Oscar Lara (PE/SE) is a visual artist and graduate of the University of Wollongong, Australia. He is currently a PhD candidate at the Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm. Lara’s practice researches social structures and relationships, often recontextualizing ethnographic material to examine colonial power relations.