Russell Leadbetter

ARTIST Anthony Schrag will this weekend embark on a distinctive way of reaching the 56th Venice Biennale - he is walking the entire distance, all 2,500 km of it.

In a modern-day equivalent of the pilgrimage of old, he has been commissioned by Huntly-based Deveron Arts to walk from Aberdeenshire to Italy. The journey will take him an estimated three-and-a-half months to complete, at the rate of around 30km a day.

Schrag's itinerary will take him through England, France and Switzerland before he crosses the Alps into northern Italy in mid-September. He is expected to reach the Parco delle Rimembranze at the Biennale on October 1. Events will be held in Huntly this weekend to mark his departure.

The Zimbabwean-born 39-year-old, who has been involved in artistic projects across the globe, said: "You could cycle, drive or fly to Venice for the Biennale but so much of the idea of the walk is the moment of reflection, and to ask why the Biennale is so integral to art. It genuinely is a sacred, modern-day site for may artists.

"The notion of making it a walking trip derived from that sort of thinking. The aim is also to link Huntly, and Deveron Arts, with Venice. Deveron Arts values the process of walking, and community, and the human pace.

"The project is really about meeting, and talking to, people, along the way - something you really couldn't do if you were making the journey by car or plane."

A campaign has been launched on the crowdfunding website We Fund, to find Schrag places to stay, and food to eat, en route to Venice. As of yesterday, the target of £3,500 had been halfway reached, thanks to donations from 34 funders, with 29 days before the deadline expires.

Added Schrag: "One thing we had offered funders was that, in exchange for funding, I could carry an artwork to Venice, to be displayed there. That aspect became part of the project, where we asked the question, 'Do you value being exhibited at the Biennale that much, that you would be willing to pay a random guy to carry your artwork for three-and-a-half months to get there?"

The walk itself will be an artwork, he added, "as there is a huge history of walking art, and a history of performance-art happenings."

He has done a lot of training walks to prepare for his marathon walk. "While I don't doubt it will be incredibly difficult, and that I will end up with endless blisters, the most questionable thing for me is the psychological side.

"I've noticed after four or five hours' walking that I start talking to myself if there's no-one around. We all do that, but I just wonder whether, after three-and-a-half months, I will end up being a guy who talks to himself."

Schrag intends blogging and tweeting during his walk - access to wifi signals permitting. Its Twitter hashtag is #contemporarypilgrimage