Critics’ Picks

Chris Larson, Land Speed Record, 2016, HD video, color, sound, 26 minutes 35 seconds.

Chris Larson, Land Speed Record, 2016, HD video, color, sound, 26 minutes 35 seconds.


Chris Larson

Walker Art Center
725 Vineland Place
June 9, 2016–January 8, 2017

When the legendary Minneapolis hardcore punk trio Hüsker Dü titled their 1981 self-released debut LP Land Speed Record, it was the perfect heading for the raucous single-take live recording, a seventeen-song masterwork. Chris Larson has fixated on the album’s twenty-six-minute, thirty-five-second duration in his own multipart film installation of the same name. The fixation stems from Larson’s longstanding friendship with Hüsker drummer and co-songwriter Grant Hart. In 2011, a fire partially destroyed Hart’s childhood home in St. Paul, and Larson quickly offered his nearby studio space to serve as a repository for the drummer’s belongings.

At the center of Larson’s Land Speed Record, 2016, is a slow-pan shot of Hart’s stuff, as seen from above, sprawled across the concrete floor of the artist’s studio. The video is projected onto an entire wall, the camera’s horizontal movement across the studio appearing as a careful cascade of Hart’s possessions down the wall. The work is joined by a black-and-white 16-mm film loop that shows Hart’s objects from more conventional close-up shots. It’s a material account of a collector of various rarities—drum equipment, vintage records, Studebaker car parts—and of a tireless custodian of a widely revered musical legacy.

Larson enlisted local heavy-metal drummer Yousif Del Valle to learn and eventually record an exact facsimile of Hart’s drumming from Land Speed Record. As Larson’s films repeat, Del Valle’s drumming plays intermittently. In spite of Del Valle’s virtuosity, dissecting Hart’s Dionysian approach to rhythm proved to be difficult, if not revelatory. Hart’s original contains manifold layers of meaning, intent, and idiosyncrasy that need to be understood or at least acknowledged before being reconstructed. But it works. The copy is sound. Hart and the band’s entire sonic character can be heard careening along with Del Valle’s re-creation.