Utah’s state identity is comprised of a shared yet varied ancestry of pioneers whose personal and geographic journeys paved the way for its very existence.

The exodus of the Latter-day Saints from the Midwest to the Salt Lake Valley remains one of the most ambitious internal migrations in U.S. history. Early Mormon sites of great historical importance, such as Nauvoo, Kirtland and Winter Quarters, are highly visited by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the general public.

As a permanent fixture in Utah’s lexicon, “trek” denotes the faithful re-enactments carried out each year to honor ancestral pilgrimages.

For many Mormons, visiting the path of their ancestors is a way of paying homage to their sacrifices and gaining an appreciation for the arduousness of their cross-country journey.

Artist Adam Bateman recently took this ritual one step further. In a remarkable feat of physical and artistic endurance, Bateman walked along a section of the original Mormon Trail, starting in Florence, Nebraska, and ending in Salt Lake City. The walk took 74 days and totaled 1,132.53 miles.

“These trails serve as a major artery that made the settlement of the West possible," Bateman explained. "The travel across the landscape has so much to do with who we are as Americans."

A public discussion regarding Bateman’s walk is scheduled for today at 7 p.m. at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, 20 S. West Temple, and will give guests a glimpse into Bateman's experience.

Bateman is a well-known artist whose work is featured in both local and national exhibitions. He serves as the executive director of the Central Utah Art Center, a contemporary art gallery located in downtown Salt Lake City.

His art ranges in medium and dimension, as seen by the gigantic sculptures of stacked books he compiled for the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art’s "Cantastorias" in 2012.

Bateman often cites his personal history as a motivation behind his work. His familial lineage is comprised of 62 pioneer ancestors who made the journey West.

He envisions his walk as performance art — a symbolic and cultural exploration of the past. “People are (often) self-consciously engaging in the interpretation and creation of cultural narrative," Bateman said. "I wanted to claim part of that mythology for myself — the way artists do all the time."

As an artistic practice, performance art prizes bodily action over the material properties of traditional mediums such as painting and sculpture. Performance artists relish in actions that are free of such restrictions, using the body as both the medium and message of art.

In a traditional art museum, visitors are accustomed to having visual and tangible reminders of the artist’s process. Adversely, performance art often rewards the underlying message or process of creation over a final product.

In labeling his walk as “art,” Bateman acknowledges that the experience is highly personal.

“People want to romanticize what I did, but I want to normalize it," he said. "We all do hard things everyday, it was doable as long as I thought about it as a gradual process.”

Recognizing that most art is meant to be shared with others, Bateman documented his journey by taking photographs, drafting updates on social media and using mapping software to record the miles walked each day.

These methods of documentation present a commentary on society’s obsession with archiving every aspect of life. By dividing a over 1,000-mile walk into small sections, Bateman makes the seemingly overwhelming process more digestible for both himself and his audience.

“I wanted to acknowledge that I am not a Mormon pioneer — I live in a different time and place," Bateman said. "I didn’t want to pretend to be in a different era — acknowledging those differences is an important way to escape pure nostalgia and to let the experience speak for itself."

His performance invites ongoing questions about both contemporary artistic practice and the role of the past in shaping personal and cultural identity.

Visit adambateman.com for additional information about Bateman's experience or for links to his social media accounts.

Scotti Hill is an art historian based in Salt Lake City. She teaches art history at the University of Utah and Westminster College and works as a freelance curator and writer.