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Zeroing In

Nancy Holt

1973 00:31:15 United StatesEnglishB&WMono4:3Video


Perceptual concerns predominate in my videoworks. In Locating #2, Zeroing In, and Points of View, large outdoor spaces — as much as five miles in depth and one mile in width from fifteen floors up — are spanned on the video screen. Space is flattened and contracted. By placing a prop (a movable tube or a piece of cardboard with holes that open and close) in front of the camera, I block off most of the static camera view, leaving one or more circular images to come and go. Background and foreground merge in the circular segments; ordinary objects become difficult to discern as they come into view. What is seen is immediately put into words in the audio system by two persons, chosen initially because of their interpretations of what is seen.

— Nancy Holt

Copyright Holt/Smithson Foundation.

About Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt studied at Tufts University in Massachusetts. In the mid-60s, Holt helped introduce a post-minimalist sensibility to the field of sculpture. She used video for the first time in 1969 "when Peter Campus rented a video camera and came over." 

"There was a tremendous sense of discovery because it was so accessible and so Bob [Smithson] and I immediately did a work of art. We invited a large group of people over to our loft that night, including Richard Serra, Michael Heizer, Nancy Graves, and Keith Sonnier to see it. It was very unusual [to] discover a medium, make a work of art and show it in the same day. That broke the ice and gave me a sense of what it was about—what were film ideas and what were video ideas." 

Holt's early tapes, like her site-specific sculptures, explore the recorded experience of a particular time and place and the function of memory in perception. Holt's tapes twist the technical limits of video, calling attention to the medium's artificial nature, and maintaining a critical distance between public presentation and private reality.