A Walking Project by Larsen Husby

How I Began

November 7th, 2017 

On October 3rd, 2016, I decided to walk every street in Minneapolis.

There are a lot of reasons why this decision makes a certain sense, in the context of my art practice and personality. But all those explanations came to me retroactively. That October, the main motivation was strategic self-deception.

In the fall of 2016, I was in something of a rut. Over the summer, I had attended an artist residency in California, where I worked on a set of three sculptures, and drafted plans for even more. It was a heady time, spent in the company of friendly, like-minded artists and dramatic Pacific vistas. For those two weeks, I felt confident in the inevitable upward trajectory of my artistic career. When I returned to Minnesota, that confidence withered in the swelter of late August. My sculptures were damaged en route home, and with no forthcoming exhibition I couldn’t find the enthusiasm to repair them—what was the point? So I shoved them aside, and tried to ignore the sinking feeling that they had been a big waste of time and material. This thought in turn caused me to doubt my ability to make anything that wouldn’t also end up broken, gathering dust in a corner, so I for weeks I didn’t make a thing.

One of the dangers of choosing ‘artist’ as your primary identifier is that is hinged on action, and therefore inaction presents an existential dilemma. If I am not making art, am I an artist? And if I am not an artist, who am I? September came and went. I grew frantic.

Then, among my fretting,  I called up a half formed thought: what if I walked every street in Minneapolis? It was no more than that, a hypothetical question with no answer. The first answer I came up with was that it would be a distraction. If I could convince myself that going for walks was a form of making art, then all I had to do to be an artist was take a walk. A brilliant work around!

The first picture I took on my walks

Perhaps, but is it good art? That I wasn’t so sure of. Part of me never believed I would actually finish, that as soon as I thought of something better to do I would leave off. But there was also a part of me that thought that there might be other, more compelling answers which reveal themselves along the way. It was an experiment, and you can’t go into an experiment with too many expectations if you want to succeed. Besides, coming up with justifications for artwork after I have already made it is generally how I work. If I tried to do so beforehand, I would literally never make anything. 

With this attitude, I started walking, and in my head (and quite possibly aloud – I often talk to myself on walks) I came up with a set of rules to guide my new project:

  • I will complete this project within a year, therefore finishing the walking by October 3rd, 2017.
  • I will only walk along streets with sidewalks or other forms of pedestrian paths.
  • I am allowed to stop at businesses, parks, etc, en route.
  • I am allowed to have a utilitarian purpose, such as an errand, in mind when I begin.
  • I am allowed to drive, bus, or bike to a location in order to go for a walk; every walk need not originate at my home.
  • I am allowed to walk with other people.
  • I am not allowed to run or jog.
  • I must begin the walk with the intention of it being part of this project; I may not apply intention retroactively.
  • I will record each walk’s route, duration in minutes, and distance in miles.

I have not kept to all of these rules. A year has come and gone already, and I am supremely unconcerned with when I complete this project, as it doesn’t seem to have any bearing on its meaning or significance. And unfortunately there have been a few walks which I forgot to time, and therefore have no record of their duration in minutes.

But so what? These rules exist purely to help the project, not hinder it. Really, all that matters to me is that I follow that simple proposal: walk every street. As long as I don’t contradict any part of that directive, I’m ok.  

As for how I get there, what I see along that way, and what I find at the end — that will determine the true texture of this piece. For now, I’m still walking.