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Sun Tunnels, an artwork by Nancy Holt

Artist: Nancy Holt

Title: “Sun Tunnels” (1976)

Characteristics: Land Art, Concrete tubes

Keywords: Death, unknown, fear, community

            The Land Art installation made by Nancy Holt, is consisted of four concrete pipes placed in cross arrangement in the Great Basin Desert in northwest Utah. Holt worked with engineers and astronomers, to arrange the pipes in a way that the sun rises and sets in the center of each tubes during Summer and Winter solstices. Meanwhile, holes on the top of the tubes arranged in a certain way, enable sunlight to project the images of constellations inside the tubes.

            In her own words her motives were to “bring the vast space of the desert back down to human scale”, as well as to meaningfully indicate the “cyclical time” of the solar year. As it happens with her project “Western Graveyards” she tries to understand the way humans orientate themselves in time and space by delimitating them meaningfully, in history, science, art, politics, borders etc.

          The political nature of the seemingly apolitical Land Art by Nancy Holt, lies to the fact that by “delimiting” the vastness of space, she suggests that humans, by delimiting space and time, they may feel safe in a vastly chaotic and infinite universe, yet at the same time they risk locking themselves within the limits they construct all by themselves. Meanwhile, the symbolism of “sun” as “truth” and the “light” as “knowledge” beyond the “limits” might referring to the truth that is beyond the arbitrary, “logical” meanings we ascribe to space and time.

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‘Sun Tunnels: Sunset,’ 1976. (Courtesy Nancy Holt/Tufts University). Photo through observer.com/

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