Holt & Smithson

As pioneers of contemporary art, Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson paved the way for a host of artists working in sculpture, land art, film and other media since they emerged in the late-‘60s. The creative legacy of the husband-and-wife duo is commemorated through the Holt/Smithson Foundation, whose weekly Friday Film programme offers streams of their moving image works for a period of 24 hours.


Holt and Smithson married in 1963 before making paths into the art world as part of the Land art movement, which utilised the environment as both medium and subject. The couple collaborated on ‘Swamp’, a 1969 film shot on 16mm that documents a trek through swampland in New Jersey. The project confronts issues of perception as it immerses the viewer in a visual journey, where the only sounds are of Holt’s camera clicking, the undergrowth beneath their feet and Smithson’s verbal directions.

One of Holt’s most celebrated pieces, ‘Sun Tunnels’, consists of four concrete cylinders laid in the middle of the desert in Utah. The large-scale environmental sculptures act as viewing devices for the sky and surrounding landscapes – and are designed to work in synchrony with the rising and setting sun during summer and winter solstices. A film made alongside the construction of the work contrasts the noisy machinery used to build the tunnels with the harmonious final view of the sculpture from above.


Smithson’s art further explores science fiction, geology, popular culture and language. ‘Spiral Jetty’, a site-specific work made in 1970, is amongst his most well-known projects. Formed of 6650 tons of rock and earth formed into a spiral in the Great Salt Lake, Utah, it is designed to evolve and interact with the changing conditions of the landscape, before eventually disintegrating.

Spiral Jetty, Utah, 11/95 Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty, 1970. Long-term installation in Rozel Point, Box Elder County, Utah. Collection Dia Art Foundation, New York. Photo: Nancy Holt, 1995.

Friday Films will be live streamed from 12am MDT on the Holt/Smithson foundation IGTV channel and Vimeo.