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Site/Sight/Cite: The Cinema of Nancy Holt

Saturday, July 19, 8:30 PM $8/ $5 Members + Students
@ CineCycle, 129 Spadina Ave. down the lane

Part of Summer 2014

Nancy Holt’s art demonstrated a life-long quest for self-orientation in space, time, and in the relativity of perspective. Only a few years prior to her death this past February, Holt completed Breaking Ground: Broken Circle/Spiral Hill (1971-2011). A project spanning 40 years, this collaboration with Robert Smithson examines the ideas surrounding his final large-scale earthwork. In this rarely screened film, Holt assembles a sprawling self-reflexive account of both the earthwork and the collaborative film they were planning, materializing a world in constant flux and entropic return — where water turns to land, and land to water, culminating a career-long obsession of mapping time onto space.

In Sun Tunnels (1978), Holt records the construction and offers a mesmerizing demonstration of her most famous land art project—a mapping of solstices, celestial bodies, and their life-sustaining cycles.

Finishing with the short Swamp (1971), Holt glues one eye to the lens of a Bolex in extreme close-up and tries to navigate a treacherous landscape by following the verbal directions of Smithson. A tragi-comic game of obstructions and calculated aimlessness, Swamp is an allegory for human myopia and the failure of technology to navigate nature. Site/Sight/Cite spans the cinema of Nancy Holt and its activation (and never documentation) of site, perception, and collaboration.

Programme:
Breaking Ground: Broken Circle / Spiral Hill, Nancy Holt & Theo Tegelaers
1971-2011, 21:00 min, color, sound, 16 mm film on video

Forty years after the completion of the work Broken Circle/Spiral Hill, the film that Robert Smithson was never able to finish due to his untimely death has been completed in close collaboration between artist Nancy Holt, Theo Tegelaers and SKOR | Foundation for Art and Public Domain.

As an integral part of his earthworks, Smithson made films that reveal the spatial and environmental context of the work. Aerial shots in a symmetrical pattern were combined with close-ups, documentary footage of the construction of the work and views of the surrounding landscape. In this way, visitors to galleries and museums were introduced to the earthworks produced by Smithson in remote locations. As a result of a tragic aircraft accident during a reconnaissance flight in 1973, Smithson’s life and work came to a premature end. Smithson was never able to finish the video Broken Circle/Spiral Hill.

Forty years later, a video incorporating the original film footage has been completed on behalf of the Land Art Contemporary program in a collaboration between artist Nancy Holt and curator Theo Tegelaers of SKOR | Foundation for Art and Public Domain.
Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson made several films together and were married for a decade until his death in 1973. Holt has worked with a Dutch team in editing the video Breaking Ground: Broken Circle / Spiral Hill (1971-2011), which includes the original film footage she shot in 1971, and video shot recently in Emmen by a Dutch crew. The video was made guided by Smithson’s film notes and drawings.

Camera: Nancy Holt (1971), Benito Strangio (2011)
Editors: Nancy Holt, Theo Tegelaers (SKOR | Foundation for Art and Public Domain), Walter Stokman Films
(Land Art Contemporary, www.landartcontemporary.nl)

Sun Tunnels, Nancy Holt
1978, 26:31 min, color, sound, 16 mm film on video
Sun Tunnels documents the making of Holt’s major site-specific sculptural work in the northwest Utah desert. Completed in 1976, the sculpture features a configuration of four concrete tubes or “tunnels” that are eight feet long and nine feet in diameter. The tubes are positioned to align with the sunrise and sunset of the summer and winter solstices, and are also pierced by holes that allow light to be cast in patterns of constellations. A kind of American Stonehenge, Sun Tunnels charts the yearly and daily cycles of the sun, and calls attention to human scale and perception within the vast desert landscape. This document includes stunning footage of the changing sun and light as framed by the tunnels on the solstices.
Editorial Assistance: Dee Dee Halleck, Aline Lillie Mayer, Laurel Siebert, Howard Silver. Camera Assistance: Sidney Crandall, Trent Harris, Richard Menzies, Dennis Wheeler. Sound Assistance: Dee Dee Halleck, Judith Hallet, Hass Murphy, Susan Penner-Wheeler.(EAI)

Swamp, Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson
1971, 6 min, color, sound, 16 mm film on video
Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson collaborated on this seminal film, which viscerally confronts issues of perception and process. The action of the film is direct: Holt walks through the tall grasses of a swamp while filming with her Bolex camera, guided only by what she can see through the camera lens and by Smithson’s verbal instructions. The viewer experiences the walk from Holt’s point of view, seeing through her camera lens and hearing Smithson’s spoken directions. Vision is obstructed and perception distorted as they stumble through the swamp grasses. Holt has stated that Swamp “…deals with limitations of perception through the camera eye as Bob and I struggled through a muddy New Jersey swamp. Verbal direction cannot easily be followed. As the reeds crash against the camera lens blocking vision and forming continuously shifting patterns, confusion ensues.” (EAI)

A pioneer of earthworks and public art, Nancy Holt also worked in sculpture, installation, film, video, and photography for over three decades. She is best known for her large-scale environmental sculptural works, including Sun Tunnels in northern Utah and Dark Star Park in Arlington, Virginia. In the 1970s, Holt made a series of pioneering film and video works, including several collaborations with Robert Smithson. Holt’s early videos, which are among the most iconic works in the medium, explore perception and memory through experiments with point of view and process.

Nancy Holt was born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1938 and died in February 2014. She received a Bachelors degree in Biology from Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts, in 1960. She received five National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, two New York Creative Artist Fellowships, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of South Florida, Tampa. She produced site-specific environmental works in numerous public places around the world, including Sun Tunnels (1976), a large-scale sculptural work in Great Basin Desert, Utah; Stone Enclosure (Rock Rings) in Bellingham, Washington; Astral Grating (1987) in a New York City subway station, and Dark Star Park, in Arlington, Virginia, among many others. She also completed large-scale land reclamation projects, including Sky Mound (1988) in the New Jersey Meadowlands, and Up and Under (1998), in Nokia, Finland. Holt’s works, including her films and videos, have been seen in exhibitions at the John Weber Gallery, New York; The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Dia Center for the Arts, New York, and P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York. The solo exhibition Nancy Holt: Photoworks was presented at Haunch of Venison, London, in 2012.
The retrospective exhibition Nancy Holt: Sightlines originated at Columbia University’s Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery in New York, in 2010. Sightlines traveled to Badischer Kunstverein in Karlsruhe, Germany; Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Chicago, IL; Tufts University Art Gallery at the Aidekman Arts Center, Medford, MA; Santa Fe Arts Institute, Santa Fe, NM, and Utah Museum of Fine Arts at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT. The exhibition was accompanied by a monograph of the same name, edited by Alena J. Williams, Sightlines curator. Holt lived in Galisteo, New Mexico.” Electronic Arts Intermix

Robert Smithson and Nancy Holt filming, Emmen.

Robert Smithson and Nancy Holt filming, Emmen. Foto: Jan Niks, 1971. ©The Estate of Robert Smithson/Licensed by VAGA.

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still from Swamp
Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson
1971. Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York

holt_sun_xl

Sun Tunnels
Nancy Holt
1978. Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York

Sun Tunnels images

Still from Sun Tunnels, Nancy Holt (1978)

Broken 2

Robert Smithson, Broken Circle/Spiral Hill, 1971, Emmen, The Netherlands (View: Spiral Hill)
Photography: Robert Smithson, 1971
© Estate of Robert Smithson / Licensed by VAGA, New York. Courtesy: James Cohan Gallery, New York/Shanghai

Broken1

Robert Smithson, Broken Circle/Spiral Hill, 1971, Emmen, The Netherlands. Site: Sand quarry of the Z.E.M.
Emmen B. V. Company, owned by Gerard De Boer. Video still: Benito Strangio, 2011.
© Estate of Robert Smithson / Licensed by VAGA, New York. Courtesy: Land Art Contemporary / SKOR |
Foundation for Art and Public Domain.

Holt1

Still from Breaking Ground: Broken Circle/Spiral Hill, Nancy Holt (1971-2011)

Holt4

Still from Breaking Ground: Broken Circle/Spiral Hill, Nancy Holt (1971-2011)

Still from Breaking Ground: Broken Circle/Spiral Hill, Nancy Holt (1971-2011)

Still from Breaking Ground: Broken Circle/Spiral Hill, Nancy Holt (1971-2011)

Still from Breaking Ground: Broken Circle/Spiral Hill, Nancy Holt (1971-2011)

Still from Breaking Ground: Broken Circle/Spiral Hill, Nancy Holt (1971-2011)

Still from Breaking Ground: Broken Circle/Spiral Hill, Nancy Holt (1971-2011)
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