Utah Sequences

Nancy Holt
Rozel Point, Utah
Super 8mm film
Color, silent
Duration: 9 minutes, 26 seconds

Shot on Super 8mm film, Utah Sequences shows Holt’s deep investigation of Utah’s landscape. Holt thought Utah Sequences was lost for many years, but it was later found in her studio. Created six years before the completion of her landmark sculpture Sun Tunnels (1973–76), Holt’s earthwork situated in Utah’s west desert, this film explores the manmade and natural environment at Rozel Point on the north arm of Great Salt Lake. The film captures a wood cabin, an amphibious vehicle, and remnants of oil drilling that have largely disappeared from the site today. By contrast, the tar-seeps and salt-encrusted pelicans so present in this film remain a constant at the site today.

Holt’s film shows the artist Robert Smithson, the gallerist Virginia Dwan, the photographer Gianfranco Gorgoni, and the gallerist Douglas Chrismas as they prepare for the construction of Smithson’s iconic earthwork Spiral Jetty (1970), a giant coil of black basalt rocks that juts into Great Salt Lake at Rozel Point. Utah Sequences sheds light on Holt and Smithson’s time in Utah and invites conversations about entropy, timescales, and the human impact on the environment.


Published Writing
Hikmet Loe

Smithson enacts a rare performative action at the film’s halfway point. An abandoned cabin comes into frame. In and around it lie bags and piles of loose, crushed mica. Smithson kicks a pile of the mineral on the ground, then releases the glittering substance from several bags onto a cement platform. Mica consumes the air in a material gesture, complimenting the sparkling salt seen earlier. This action, though, is disruptive: atmospheric changes become activated not by natural forces, but by Smithson’s erratic, frenzied actions.

Single images and horizontal scans comprise the majority of the film until it is almost over. Holt follows Virginia Dwan — Smithson’s gallerist and the couple’s occasional travel companion — as the group proceeds through a narrow, open-air wooden structure. Utah Sequences concludes with a shot of the unencumbered sky, then the walkway’s beams are exposed in progression, rendering the structure as minimalist sculpture. Returning to the same horizontal view of the walk, Dwan is no longer in view. Holt continues alone until a central beam blocks her path, ending the film.

—Hikmet Loe, “A Rediscovered Nancy Holt Documentary From 1970” in Hyperallergic, 2020. 

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