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A 25 Day Walk in Nepal 1975 consists of three black and white photographs which are mounted on cream paper and framed separately in dark wooden frames. The first photograph is in landscape format and shows two pieces of ragged cloth hanging from a thick wire rope, with a blurred view of a river in a valley or gorge in the background. Handwritten on the mount in graphite pencil below the photograph is the caption ‘DAY 11 CROSSING THE DUDH KOSI RIVER FOR THE FIRST TIME’. The central photograph, in portrait format, presents a view of a snowy mountain which occupies almost all of the frame. The handwritten graphite pencil caption on the photograph’s mount reads ‘DAY 20 LOOKING TOWARDS EVEREST FROM THE HIGHEST POINT OF THE WALK’ followed by ‘A TWENTY FIVE DAY WALK IN NEPAL’ written in red pencil, with the date ‘1975’ written below in graphite pencil. The third photograph, in landscape format, shows a close-up shot of a broken rock, parts of which have been exposed, revealing unblemished white patches. Below the photograph is the caption ‘DAY 15 AND 23 PASSING THE IMPACT MARK OF A FALLING ROCK’ handwritten in graphite pencil. All the inscriptions have carefully drawn pencil guidelines visible around them.
A 25 Day Walk in Nepal was made following Long’s first trip to Nepal in 1975 with the artist Hamish Fulton, with whom Long has shared many walks since the artists’ student days at St Martin’s School of Art in London (Long made a later trip to Nepal in 1983). From the 1970s onwards it became easier and more affordable to travel overseas, enabling the artist to ‘get on an aeroplane and end up a few days later in a different continent, in a different culture, in a different landscape’ (Long cited in Tufnell 2007, p.70). While in Nepal Long produced several works including Stones in Nepal 1975 (reproduced in Clarrie Wallis (ed.), Richard Long: Heaven and Earth, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2009, p.98), A Line in the Himalayas 1975 (reproduced in Fuchs 1986, p.86), Brushed Path: A Line in Nepal 1983 (reproduced Fuchs 1986, p.189), and Countless Stones: A Twenty One Day Footpath Walk, Nepal 1983, which he published as a book (see Wallis 2009, p.116).
The three photographs that comprise this work record specific moments from a twenty-five-day walk that the artist took across the country. The first, taken on day eleven, shows two prayer flags attached to a thick wire, probably the handrail of a suspension bridge over the gorge seen in the background. These flags, which are produced in five bright colours (blue, white, red, green, yellow) representing the elements, are traditionally hung along mountain paths to bless the land. The flag on the right seems to have faded over time, while the flag on the left still has a visible illustration of a horse among several lines of writing, likely to be a prayer or Buddhist mantra. The second photograph shows the view looking towards Everest, the base of which was the destination of the walk. Long has explained:
The first time we went to Nepal we did the famous track to Everest ... But you cannot say that you are on the footpath to Everest. You are just on a footpath that goes from one village to another. When you pull all these different footpaths together then you come to Everest.
(Cited in Tufnell 2007, p.82.)
The expansive view provided by the second photograph contrasts with the more intimate details offered by the first and last. The third and last photograph shows the damage caused by a falling rock, a hazard that occurs frequently in Nepal. The white rock beneath the outer surface reveals where the impact of another rock caused it to shatter.
The descriptive captions accompanying the photographs indicate that Long walked back the same way he came: ‘CROSSING THE DUDH KOSI RIVER FOR THE FIRST TIME’ implies that he must have crossed it again, while the final photograph is marked ‘DAY 15 AND 23’ indicating that Long passed this particular spot twice. In that it features only three photographs from what was evidently a long walk (taking more than three weeks) A 25 Day Walk in Nepal provides only a partial record of the walk, a succession of points along a continuous line. Long’s preference for photography over film (which the artist has only used once in his career, in 1969) invites the viewers to imagine the path that joins these three points along the journey together. As with many of his text works, Long uses the present participle (‘crossing’, ‘looking’, ‘passing’) to caption the photographs, which has the effect of placing Long’s actions in a continuous present, making his experience more immediate to the viewer.
Long has remarked how walking in Nepal is different from walking in other countries:
But if I go to Nepal to make a walk, there is a social aspect, because I’m passing through villages, or staying in people’s houses sometimes, or drinking tea in little teahouses. So on some walks I really do need villages and local people, for help or directions, or the odd great meal. Meeting some amazing characters along the way can turn a whole walk.
(Long 1991, pp.104–5.)
However, while Long has emphasised the importance of the geographical and cultural specificity of Nepal for the works he produced there, the artist has also talked about the universality of footpaths throughout the world: ‘A footpath in Nepal can be the same as a footpath in China or a footpath going up Ben Nevis’. (Cited in Tufnell 2007, p.82.)
R.H. Fuchs, Richard Long, exhibition catalogue, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York 1986, p.231, reproduced pp.82–3.
Richard Long (ed.), Richard Long: Walking in Circles, exhibition catalogue, Hayward Gallery, London 1991, p.242.
Ben Tufnell (ed.), Richard Long: Selected Statements & Interviews, London 2007.
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