Drawing for Positioning of Holes in the Perseus Constellation for "Sun Tunnels"

Nancy Holt
Graphite on paper
18 x 24 in. (45.7 x 61 cm)

As the name suggests, this is Holt’s plan for the holes that were to perforate one of the concrete tunnels, as proxy for the Perseus constellation, in her landmark earthwork, Sun Tunnels. In selecting the constellations for each tunnel, Holt required that the stars be of different magnitudes, with enough stars in each constellation to encompass the top half of the tunnel. She wanted to ensure the presence of a few star holes at eye level, to allow for views from both inside and outside the tunnel. The constellation is a figure both fixed and ephemeral; it locates the viewer in place and time, yet its projection moves with the cycle of the Earth.


Published Writing
Nancy Holt

In choosing the constellation for the holes, I wanted only those with stars of several different magnitudes, so that I could have holes of different diameters. Depending on which of the twelve astronomical charts I consulted, the number and positions of the stars in the constellations varied, increasing my options considerably. Each constellation had also to have enough stars, and to encompass the top half of a tunnel with some holes at eye level on each side, so that the viewer could look through the eye-level holes from the outside and see through the holes on the other side of the tunnel. With those criteria there were only a few constellations that I could use, and from them I chose Draco, Perseus, Columba, and Capricorn. Together, they encompass the globe—Columba is a Southern Hemisphere constellation which slips over the edge of the horizon for a short time each year, but can’t be seen because of the dense atmosphere near the earth. Capricorn is visible in the fall and early winter, and is entered by the sun at the winter solstice. Draco and Perseus are always visible in the sky.

From Nancy Holt's Sun Tunnels, originally published in Artforum, April 1977, Vol. 15 No. 8

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