Almost a year and a half of "uninterrupted, unaccompanied travel", from the North to the South end of the world, across the endless stretch of land of the Americas: Danish artist Adam Jeppesen gave himself the task to turn this enormous portion of our planet into one single body of work, a sequence of images which has become The Flatlands Camp Project, now on show at The National Museum of Photography in Copenhagen. And almost unaccompanied are also the photographs of this work, introduced by little more than the simple description of the effort of Jeppesen's wandering.
The first thing that came to my mind visiting the exhibition was exactly the disproportion between the immensity of the subject matter and the limited space provided by an exhibition to convey the scope and the length of Jeppesen's work.
The photographs show only natural, almost pristine landscape, where the perception of time does not come from the places we see, but it unfolds like physical layers over the surface of the photographs. Scratches cover most of the prints, as if bearing witness of the months of travelling, with little defence against the elements slowly penetrating the films and the camera.
Jeppesen chose to further emphasise this feeling of precariousness by printing many large photographs using a xerox copier, then carefully pinning the photographs on their frames, as if they were specimens from a distant time.
One room presents a videoprojection of the slow movement of the prow of an icebreaker ship sailing through frozen waters, the equivalent in motion of Jeppesen's elusive photographs.
A dark photograph lit by countless white scratches shows a camping tent lost in the night, the only trace of human life, offered with a blurred self-portrait, with Jeppesen's figure effaced by a long exposure.
Only at the end of the exhibition I realised that those strong manipulations of the photographs, between the xeroxing, the nailing and the scars on the prints, seem like the most natural choice to present what remains in one man after such a long journey: pretending to capture the existence of all that land can only be vain, and the sole thing that survives is just the fragile memory of what we saw, the places merging into one another, the scars left on our skin.
Then, when we come back home, we draw something down on a paper, quickly before our memories fade away, we pin it on the wall and we take a step back to look at it, and remember.