Nancy Holt
Single-channel video, black and white, sound
Duration: 9 minutes, 12 seconds

Holt’s ​Underscan ​features photographs from her Aunt Ethel’s home in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and excerpts of her aunt’s letters, which Holt reads aloud. The photographs were videotaped, and re-videotaped while being “underscanned” – a process used in video editing that Holt described in Art-Rite magazine (November-December 1974) as “a structural framework particular only to video; it compresses the picture so that the edges can be seen precisely; it does away with the variation that occurs between monitors in the amount of the image which is visible. [. . . ] Each static photo image, as it appears, changes from regular to elongated to compressed or vice versa.” The information presented from Aunt Ethel’s life is similarly constrained, limited by the contents of her letters, and what Holt has chosen to reveal. What results is a myopic archive of growing old, punctuated by life’s cyclical patterns.


Scholarly Text

Nancy Holt, "Underscan" (1974)

James Boaden

We locate ourselves in various ways: phenomenologically we understand our bodies within our surroundings, cartographically we measure our position on the earth, imaginatively we locate ourselves in relation to places we call home as much as those we have never visited. Much of Nancy Holt’s work pays close attention to these interlinked processes of locating. Holt’s 1974 video Underscan brings to the fore the act of imaginative location, and its ties to family and care. This act of locating had a lasting impact on her practice.

Holt described the complex tape concisely in a short text published in the Autumn 1974 issue of Art-Rite, an art world newspaper published in New York:

See Also