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Anne en Martine bij Sun Tunnels by Nancy Holt (1973-76). Artwork © Holt/Smithson Foundation and Dia Art Foundation. Photo Anne Reenders / Kunstmuseum M.
19 May 2024 

Travelogue: Sun Tunnels by Nancy Holt

In Utah, Anne and Martine visit Nancy Holt's Sun Tunnels and Spiral Jetty, the world-renowned work of Robert Smithson. This is a report on the visit to Sun Tunnels, written by Martine.

Sun Tunnels by Nancy Holt, not far from the Great Salt Lake in Utah

To see Nancy Holt's Sun Tunnels, we leave from Wendover, a small town with casinos and an old air base, where CLUI (Center for Land Use Interpretation) also has an exhibition space and residency program (see the report of our visit to CLUI). After a fat hour of driving with fewer and fewer other cars on the road, we turn onto a gravel road, on which we drive for another three quarters of an hour. There are some traces of human presence - an old railroad line and a vanished village - and next to the artwork, a farmer is still active. The desolation and the time you get to experience it are impressive.

Nothing secretive

Nancy Holt bought the 16-acre piece of land on which she realized the artwork. It was in her own possession until her death, after which it was willed to Holt/Smithson Foundation. Through a partial gift from the Foundation, Dia Art Foundation acquired it in 2018. Walter de Maria's The Lightning Field - also owned by Dia - is similarly remote, but there the “staging” of an overnight stay on the property also creates more noise in a way. Sun Tunnels just lies there. There is nothing secret or exclusive about it: no waiting lists, no inflated expectations, no other visitors.

Land art as a viewing tool

This work, more than others I've seen, is a viewing tool. It is as much something you look at as something that makes you look at the landscape. It is a sculpture, a place, something you want to walk around and through and touch, and at the same time it makes you look at the environment in the most intense ways. The four visors frame the mountains on the horizon and the small holes capture star constellations in the sky at night. In the end, it's all about you and your experience. The artwork lies waiting for you in all that remoteness, patient and confident.

See other (visual) trip reports here

Anne en Martine bij Sun Tunnels by Nancy Holt (1973-76). Artwork © Holt/Smithson Foundation and Dia Art Foundation. Photo Anne Reenders / Kunstmuseum M.
Sun Tunnels by Nancy Holt (1973-76). Artwork © Holt/Smithson Foundation and Dia Art Foundation. Photo Anne Reenders / Kunstmuseum M.
Sun Tunnels by Nancy Holt (1973-76). Artwork © Holt/Smithson Foundation and Dia Art Foundation. Photo Anne Reenders / Kunstmuseum M.