Nancy Holt
Visual Arts Center of Alaska, Anchorage [permanently closed, 1992]
Steel, oil
Overall Dimensions: 30 x 32 x 15 ft. (9.1 x 9.8 x 4.6 m) (indoor section); 26 x 15 x 6 ft. (7.9 x 4.6 x 1.8 m) (outdoor section #1); 10 x 31 x 18 ft. (3 x 9.5 x 5.5 m) (outdoor section #2)

Holt visited Alaska in March of 1986 upon invitation from the Visual Arts Center of Alaska in Anchorage, who hoped she might create a work of art in celebration of the region’s beauty. Holt was instead struck by the infiltration of the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline through pristine wilderness. In July of 1986 Holt returned to Alaska to create the System Work Pipeline in response. The steel pipes of the structure twist in and out of the gallery and visually penetrate through the building to the interior space below. A section of pipe leaks oil, pooling thickly on an immaculate, snow-white base. One of Holt’s most overtly political works, ​Pipeline ​exposes the unspoken failures of industrialization, and the devastating consequences of unchecked audacity.


Writing by the Artist


Nancy Holt

In March 1986, I visited Alaska under the auspices of the Visual Arts Center of Alaska in Anchorage, an institution partly endowed by the oil companies in Alaska.

The Visual Arts Center invited me there to experience the vast Alaskan Environment, anticipating that the experience would generate an idea for an artwork. For ten days I roamed the land looking at various sites, including the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. In July I returned to Alaska and constructed a work, which evolved from the strongest of my main initial impressions of that place.

Writing by the Artist

Ventilation Series

Nancy Holt
Made of the standard materials of each system – plumbing, electricity, drainage, heating, gas, and ventilation – the sculpture are functional; the electrical systems light, the heating systems heat, the drainage systems drain, the ventilation systems circulate the air, and so on. Since the sculptures are exposed fragments of vast, hidden networks, they are part of open-ended systems, part of the world. Over the years these technological systems have become necessary for our everyday existence, yet they are usually hidden behind walls or beneath the earth and relegated to the realm of the unconscious. We have trouble owning up to our almost total dependence on them.

Related Info

See Also

Sky Mound
Nancy Holt
I-A Landfill, Hackensack Meadowlands, New Jersey, USA