by Nancy HOLT
1978 / 16mm / color / sound / 1S / 26' 00

SUN TUNNELS was filmed in 1978 and it shows the making of the eponymous earthwork Sun Tunnels, located in the Great Basin Desert, Utah. In its portrait of an earthwork, this film shows Holt’s precise process and careful attention to site, place, time, and perception.

The earthwork Sun Tunnels is formed of four concrete cylinders arranged in the landscape in an X formation. Each is eighteen feet long and nine feet diameter, and perforated with a constellation of small apertures that create patterns of light inside the tunnel. As Holt described in a 1977 essay, published in Artforum, the tunnels mark “the yearly extreme positions of the sun on the horizon – the tunnels being aligned with the angles of the rising and setting of the sun on the days of the solstices, around June 21st and December 21st.”

The film starts noisily, showing construction of the tunnels and their transportation to, and installation in, the Great Basin Desert, Utah. Holt noted Sun Tunnels involved thirty-two co-workers – the team including two engineers, an astronomer, ten concrete pipe company workers, one road grader, and a helicopter pilot. In the film, she demonstrates the skill of, and her great respect for, the labor involved in creating this sculpture. The film closes with near silence, showing stunning footage of the changing sun and light in the tunnels on the solstices. The end titles note “inside the tunnels it is cool during the day and there is an echo.”

Distribution with the cooperation of the Holt/Smithson Foundation.


distribution format 16mm
notes Rentals of this film are subject to approval by the rightsholder. Please contact us for more information.
screen 1,37 - Standard (single screen)
speed 24 fps
sound optical sound
rental fee 136,00 €