Nina Sarnelle is an artist and musician living on stolen Tongva/Kizh/Chumash land that is often referred to as Los Angeles. She earned a BA from Oberlin College and an MFA from Carnegie Mellon University in 2012. A founding member of artist collectives Institute for New Feeling and dadpranks, her artwork includes intimate participatory performances, large public events, music composition, video and sculpture.

Her work has shown at Whitechapel Gallery (London), Hammer Museum (LA), Getty Center (LA), Ballroom Marfa (TX), MoMA (NY), Istanbul Modern (Turkey), Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (Berlin), NADA (Miami), Museum of Art, Architecture & Technology (Lisbon), Fundacion PROA (Buenos Aires), Black Cube (Denver), Southern Exposure (San Francisco), Recess (NY), Akademie Schloss Solitude (Germany), Jardin Essential (Brussels), UNSW Galleries (Sydney), Project 88 (Mumbai), Kevin Space (Vienna), Villa Croce Contemporary Art Museum (Genova), Center for Contemporary Arts (Santa Fe), Mwoods (Beijing), MoCA Cleveland, Human Resources (LA), Borscht Festival (Miami), SPACES (Cleveland), Threewalls (Chicago), Vox Populi (Philadelphia), Miller Gallery (Pittsburgh); and been featured in Frieze, Art in America, Vogue Italy, Huffington Post, SFMoMA, Creators Project, FlashArt, and Hyperallergic. >> CV PDF <<

A memorial for my grandfather, belief systems, and the pre-Internet scam economy.
Installed in the New Mexican desert, Summer 2019.
Constructed from artifacts of predatory transactions my grandfather bought into during his life: an upright freezer, a headlight from a Toyota Avalon, 5 decorative plates, penny stock certificates, 40 catholic votive candles and tourist paraphernalia from Branson, MO.
This public sculpture sits on a 1/4 acre plot of land sold to my grandpa in 1973 by a door-to-door salesman, a place to “build his retirement home.”
The site is 11 miles from the closest paved road in an undeveloped flood plain. No one else from my family has ever even seen the plot.
The monument is the subject of a video I'm making with my family.

POWERNAP is a system for outsourcing political engagement; a dark self-portrait of national depression and civic despair; breakfast in bed. Participants outsource their most minimal activist labor—the signing of an online petition—to the Amazon crowdwork platform Mechanical Turk.

POWERNAP is also the name of a fictional hardcore/grindcore/metal band whose songs are composed from online reviews for novelty robots (PancakeBot, Hobot, JOYFORALL Companion Cat, Spyce Restaurant)

Visitors are admitted one-by-one into a bedroom/exhibition space for a 20 min power nap accompanied by an assault of loud grindcore music. While they are resting, 100 online petitions are sourced according to the napper's pre-defined preferences, and signed in their name by workers on Mechanical Turk.

Meanwhile in the kitchen, the PancakeBot 2.0 is used to print their signature in pancake batter, then served to them in bed with berries and whipped cream.

Install image of solo show at She Will in Ski, Norway

Performers: Goatsucker, Ian Page, Michael Miller, Nayeem Mahbub, Ollin Galvez, Party at the Moon Tower and Zombie Eating Horse.

Thanks to: The Banff Center, Jacqueline Falcone from Bed & Breakfast, Coaxial Arts, Maren Dagny Juell & Liv Tandrevold Eriksen from She Will, Don Edler.

A collective post-consumer endeavor held at the Fulfillment Center in Denver, CO. Amazon boxes were collected from all over the country to be used in an opening ceremony modeled after the balloon releases of public celebrations and political rallies.

Commissioned by Black Cube Nomadic Museum; curated by Cortney Lane Stell.

A 30 min music/video essay situates this opening event within a history of excess and naïveté in mass celebratory spectacle, deflating recent fanfare around mass commercial development projects in the logistics and manufacturing sectors.
In the film's final scene, 500 Smile boxes rain from the ceiling like empty promises, untangling the complex relationship between politics and economic development that underlies these voracious—and nearly unregulated—“Megadeals.”
Thanks to: Don Edler, Cortney Stell, Hannah James, Gretchen Schaefer, Derrick Velasquez, Nicole Elliot, El Meek, Catherine Nelson, Maggie Keenan, Stacy Sawyer, Livy Snyder, Avery Glassman, Bryce Walsh, Nathan Beck, Hadia Nelson, Isla Hansen, Tucker Marder, Theo Triantafyllidis, Gottfried Haider, Ariel Herwitz, Laura Hyunjhee Kim, John Dombrowski, Lauren Yeager, Misael Soto, Rob Southard, Casey Kauffmann, Dave Kyu, Ian Charnas, Tatiana Vahan, Kara Hearn and Laura Dillon.

Video stills from a longterm video + text research project.

Silicon wafers are made from a specialized type of sand, and provide a semi-conductive surface onto which integrated circuits can be etched. These glittering disks embody the material core of today’s ubiquitous technologies — computers, phones, cameras — for the moment at least, anything with a microchip depends on silicon to function.

Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Playa Vista and nearby neighborhoods of West Los Angeles have been nicknamed “Silicon Beach” due to a rapid influx of tech companies. In this video, sunbathers and sand-castlers smash silicon wafers near the Santa Monica Pier, returning them to sand. This gesture reframes the very real problem of beach erosion in Southern California (exacerbated by human-caused climate change) with an even further anthropocentric twist, staging a participatory shattering of techno-optimism and neo-colonialism that is both quotidian and sublime.

An edition of mementos originally commissioned by the Living Room Light Exchange for their printed Publication "LXLR Pub 4, Spellwork: Technologies and Conjurings,” co-presented by the INTERNET ART BOOK FAIR. Each souvenir bottle contains a mixture of beach sand and hand-crushed silicon crystal. The bottles were subsequently included in the exhibition STACKED curated by Selwa Sweidan and Laura Darlington.

This work has expanded into a larger research project exploring intersecting histories of sand and colonialism, a portion of which has been published by Fulcrum Arts. The text is available here in audio and written formats.

This sprawling narrative observes movement, displacement, commodification and violence at the tide line, positioning sand as a fungible non-specific material largely responsible for the built environment and (transportation/communication/technological) infrastructures all around us. The second half of the text/video essay is forthcoming.

A series of 25 dog toys, live music performance, video diary of my chihuahua “Mr. President,” and accompanying text.
Solo exhibitions at Ditch Projects (OR, above), House Guest (LA), Navel (LA), and a group exhibition at Roger's Office (LA).

Review of the show at House Guest by Emma Kemp.

Thanks to Don Edler, Patrick Ballard, Chris Ballard & Karina Korol, Andy Bennett & Colleen Hargaden, Chelsea Couch, Aja Segapeli, Steph Kretovicz, Amanda Vincelli, my neighbors in Arlington Heights, my mechanic Bobby, my landlady Rosemarie, Temple Willoughby, Gu.

Back home we have a saying: “the marching goes on even when dogs bark.”
If he thinks he can scare us with the sound of a dog barking, that’s really a dog dream.

- North Korea’s foreign minister Ri Yong-ho
September 19, 2017

The only time Rodrigo Duterte gets to eat is during chopper or car rides in between events. On one chopper ride, he is handed a carton of coconut water to fend off the intense summer heat. He gives the carton to me with the advice, “Hydration is very important.” >>>>
On Trump Force One there are four major food groups: McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, pizza and Diet Coke. The plane’s cupboards are stacked with Vienna Fingers, potato chips, pretzels and many packages of Oreos because Trump, a renowned germaphobe, will not eat from a previously opened package. >>>>
Suddenly, Duterte grabs the lukewarm carton I’m drinking from and hands me his chilled carton instead. He drinks from my half-empty carton without a moment’s hesitation. >>>>
As a young student in Switzerland, Kim Jong Un wears Nike Air Jordans and spends hours making meticulous pencil drawings of Chicago Bulls superstar Michael Jordan. >>>>
Mr. Trump’s American coat of arms belongs to another family. The regal emblem, used at President Trump’s golf courses across the United States, displays three lions and two chevrons on a shield, below a gloved hand gripping an arrow. >>>>
It was granted by British authorities in 1939 to Joseph Edward Davies, the socialite who built the Mar-a-Lago resort that is now Mr. Trump’s cherished getaway. While prohibited from using the brand in the UK, at home the Trump Organization has taken Mr. Davies’s coat of arms for its own. >>>>
Mar-a-Lago's logo replicates the design nearly identically, with one small adjustment: replacing the word “Integritas,” Latin for integrity, with “Trump.” It is used on the company’s website, emblazoned on golf balls, shirts and bottles of body lotion. >>>>
Are defenses giving Vladimir Putin too much space or is the Russian President just that good at hockey? "Are you coming around the 2nd or before? If so, please can you bring a copy of Harry Potter Deathly Hallows Part 2?” writes Asma Assad in one leaked email. He skates fine in a straight line, but his turning radius exhibits the grace of a 500 foot-long Russian battleship. >>>>
President Trump reaches over to a small wooden box in the corner of the desk emblazoned with the letters POTUS, and presses the little red button on top. From the adjoining kitchen, a navel steward enters the Oval Office, carrying a tall glass of Diet Coke with ice. >>>>
What makes this crown prince the world’s most powerful millennial? Mohammed bin Salman works 16-hour days and draws inspiration from the writings of Winston Churchill and Sun Tzu's "The Art of War.” >>>>
Putin has an eighth-degree black belt and is named Grandmaster of Taekwondo even though he doesn’t practice the sport. He now ranks higher than Chuck Norris. >>>>
According to a former political adviser, Donald Trump “uses a weird bottle of hair spray. It’s bigger than the biggest can of beer.” He has never taken a drink of alcohol. >>>>
While his father was once named the largest single buyer of Hennessy cognac, Kim’s current spending reflects similar tastes. The family’s chef Kenji Fujimoto once quoted Kim Jong Il favoring his younger son, saying “The big one [Kim Jong-chul] has a weak heart and is feminine, but the young one is manly.” >>>>
MBS uses a proxy to purchase the most expensive painting in the world, the only privately-owned Da Vinci. ‘Salvator Mundi’— Savior of the World—depicts a Renaissance Christ holding a crystal ball in his left hand. >>>>
Despite it being illegal to import films in North Korea, Kim Jong Un has an impressive collection of 20,000 movies on DVD, many of them from the west. His film tastes are said to range from American classics like Rambo and Godzilla to Friday the 13th, with a particular love for Jean Claude Van Dam. >>>>
Trump’s secret weapon appears to be Farouk Systems’ “CHI Helmet Head” — a “humidity-resistant fast-drying hair spray.” Another Assad family email includes an amazon link to a fondue set with the note “Pls can we get one?” >>>>
Donald loves the smell. He doesn’t like people touching his hair. In Korean parlance, a dog dream is one that is scattered, meaningless, with no coherence or predictive wisdom.
The show at Ditch Projects included a Dogs-Only Vernissage.
Strength&Patience is a 7 min video shot the day after Trump's speech to the UN General Assembly, in which he threatened to "totally destroy North Korea." Attempting to make sense of these horrific words, I asked everyone I encountered that day to read the President's infamous sound byte for the camera.

Nike X and My Dead Hand is a video research project in Air Force Blue - the color of the sky on a clear day. Conflating a history of basketball celebrity and sneaker design with the Cold War-era Nike Missile Defense system, the project began with performative installations at Angel's Gate/Fort MacArthur in San Pedro, CA.

Nike is the Greek goddess of victory: a metaphor useful to branding both sporting goods and national security. As the research spirals outwards, Nike X attempts to destabilize free market ideology by excavating a shared language of sports, capitalism and war.

Shot by Nina Sarnelle and Don Edler. Many thanks to all of those who’ve made this project possible so far, including Casey Kaufmann, Jake Devito, Sara Drake, Don Edler, Genna Gmeiner, Keith Rocka Knittel, Javier Proenza/What’s My Thesis?, Frank Rodriguez, Tacos como en el D.F., Theo Triantafyllidis, Shevaun Wright, and Angel’s Gate Cultural Center.

On the grounds of Fort MacArthur, which once housed Nike nuclear surface-to-air missiles aimed at protecting the Los Angeles Defense Area from enemy ICBMs, today stands the Korean Bell of Friendship (a gift from the South Korean government), and an iconic basketball court in the clouds. The Angels Gate court is a popular filming location for commercials and music videos because it makes players look like they are flying, providing a cinematic backdrop for fantasies of flight, indestructibility and arch support.

Dead Hand is the name of the Soviet Union's fail-deadly automatic retaliation system, which likely remains active in post-Soviet Russia today. An example of the deterence theory known as Mutually Assured Destruction, this was designed to launch ICBMs at American cities if a nuclear first strike was ever detected by seismic, light, radioactivity, and overpressure sensors. In this way, even if Soviet leadership was devastated by a US-initiated attack, the Dead Hand system would lauch a massive retaliation without the need for Kremlin authorization. A similiar system existed in the US called ERCS.

In 2000, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright became the first US diplomat to enter North Korea, presenting Kim Jong Il with a gift: a basketball signed by Michael Jordan. As college students in Switzerland, Kim Jong Chol and his younger brother Kim Jong Un were basketball fanatics just like their father. Kim Jong Un wore Air Jordans and spent hours making meticulous pencil drawings of Michael Jordan.

When Dennis Rodman made his first trip to North Korea back in 2013, it was amusing to imagine the notorious NBA defensive legend as the United States’ de facto ambassador to the country. The idea was as preposterous as Donald Trump somehow being elected president.

According to, “pressure defense is how you destroy an opponent. The constant stress results in sloppy turnovers and lack of offensive flow, confusing the offense on almost every possession. Defense is not passive. Properly applied pressure can cause one’s opponent to make mistakes.”

According to, players caught outside during a nuclear blast should take cover behind anything that might offer protection, lying flat on the ground and covering their head.

The slogan “Just Do It” was reportedly inspired by Gary Gilmore, who gained international attention for demanding the implementation of his own death sentence for two murders committed in Utah. When asked for any last words, Gilmore simply replied, "Let's do it."

For four years living in Arlington Heights, my bedroom window looked out on an oil rig that rose above the green wall enclosing one block of Washington Blvd.

Sound for the long hole is a live music & video performance staged against this perimeter wall, camouflaged among the topiary trees.

The 40-min composition considers another world far below the surface: excavating production data from the site’s many historical owners, remembering the legacy of urban oil drilling that exploded a nearby Ross Dress for Less in 1985, and measuring out the length of one oil well in twine.

How long is 9514 feet? That’s like from here to the Chevron on Vermont.

Photo credit: Sara Drake

Short montage of live performance Oct 28, 2018
Event photography by Don Edler & Larin Sullivan.

Thanks to Ceci Moss, Don Edler, Jacqueline Falcone, Sara Drake, Brennen Perry, My Parents, Navel, Copy Service Express, Ochi Projects, Andres A. LeFont, A B Restaurant Equipment, H&R Sheetmetal, Dynasty Upholstery, Soul on Ice, Arlington Heights Market, Gruts Barbershop, Luciano’s Appliance, Circle City Coin Laundry, Burger Factory & Balam Tattoo Studio.

A video version of the work was installed as part of the exhibition "Anatomy of Oil" at Gas, curated by Ceci Moss.
The show traveled to many locations around LA during its run from Sept 15 - Nov 24, 2018

Photo credit: Andy Bennett

Gas install view | Photo credit: Andy Bennett

Gas install view | Photo credit: Andy Bennett

Performance at Human Resources (LA), Nov 2019.

Photo credit: Sara Drake

An ongoing music + video performance (excerpts of live performances). Included in the Fondle Tour, a recurring 3-person event with Megan Snowe and Mitra Saboury.
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group is a team-building session that uses 90 minutes of original music and projected video. This unique bonding experience is simultaneously meaningful and absurd, allowing participants to learn about each other without fear or discomfort as they progress together through our 7 platforms:


Collaboration with Scott Andrew, 2013


click here for full documentation of our sessions

Photo documentation of a group session.

Platform 1: Agree

Platform 2: Voice

Platform 3: Contact

Platform 5: Act

Platform 7: Release

A 7 min video tutorial for whale-assisted encryption, 1 min trailer above
Collaboration with Sara Drake

Camera: Don Edler
Drone: Zean Moore
Thanks to Joty Dhaliwal, Jacob Winkler, Benjamin Lotan, Tara Shi & This Will Take Time

Three person art collective with Scott Andrew and Agnes Bolt, started in 2012. All projects available at

Above, public performance in the LA River in conjunction with our show at Ballroom Marfa

Video still from Avalanche, commissioned by Black Cube in Denver, CO.

Video still from Avalanche, commissioned by Black Cube in Denver, CO.

Exhibition view from This is Presence at Ballroom Marfa

IfNf contact lens originally exhibited at Southern Exposure in San Francisco. Poster commissioned by Ballroom Marfa.

Video still from This is Presence, commissioned by Ballroom Marfa.

Video still from This is Presence, commissioned by Ballroom Marfa.

IfNf fragrance line, originally created in collaboration with the Institute for Art & Olfaction for Parckdesign Festival, Bruxelles; poster commissioned by Ballroom Marfa.

Video still from Lens, commissioned by Southern Exposure in San Francisco.

Cast concrete neck pillow, exhibition view from Ballroom Marfa

Video still from Avalanche, commissioned by Black Cube in Denver, CO.

dadpranks is a 6-person collective: Lauren Goshinski, Isla Hansen, Kate Hansen, Elina Malkin & Nina Sarnelle





A week-end long series of events and installations at Century III Mall, West Mifflin, PA.
Organized for Open Engagement 2015.

Dadpranks activities took place in two unused storefronts and two kiosks.

Custom mall camouflage created by Isla Hansen; performed by Isla Hansen, Dan Allende and Tucker Marder.

Nina Sarnelle & Laura Warman led tours of the mall, pointing out places of interest and introducing members of the mall community.

Tyler, the owner of AirTooFly airbrush shop, chooses someone on the tour to share their last text message & cell phone photo; he converts this into a t­shirt design that is displayed at the sensory3 kiosk.

Tour guides perform with the narrative demo loop of a 1988 Sega Genesis game called the Ocean Hunter.

Meditation Stop: The 12 Selves. Sites marked with a ≈ are chosen for their unusual energy properties. Visitors can stand/sit in these areas and listen to a sensory3 mallcast on their personal device.

Mall horticulture / survival / foraging presentation with Justin Lubecki.

Regis hair salon / A smell tasting. Stylists Miranda and Chelsea each share a hair product paired with the thing it smells like.

A maintenance worker named Gary (aka Darth D’Masta) performs “Your Song” by Elton John at the top of an escalator.

Custom Teez. The store manager shares their highest selling t­shirt from 2013: I Pooped Today.

sensory3 shopping bags by Laura Warman.

Short Term Loan
Performance by Misael Soto.

After removing all of the coins from the mall's fountain the night before ($131.26), they are replaced one by one over the course of one day.

Victoria, the carousel operator, gives the group a special ride accompanied by an apocalyptic techno track composed by Kate Hansen.

The tour ends with Tai Chi lead by Laura Warman, featuring custom mats by Isla Hansen and instagram meditations by Casey Kauffmann.

An interactive photo booth and crowd-sourced eRetail store created by Elina Malkin and Lauren Goshinski.

eRetail kiosk images composed by Century III shoppers.

eRetail kiosk images composed by Century III shoppers.

eRetail kiosk images composed by Century III shoppers.

eRetail kiosk images composed by Century III shoppers.


with Agnes Bolt, 2010-ongoing

The Sisters of the Lattice travel the world connecting people using the vibrational energy of Silicon crystal and common technological devices.

Link is the Sisters' feature-length interactive narrative that chronicles the the 2012 TransAmerican tour. From truck stops to salt flats, lush forests to casinos, the Sisters performed with hundreds of strangers in order to find 5 selected individuals. These five people from different parts of the country were “linked” to one another using an energy transference conducted over a conference call. The film tells the story of the 5 “Links,“ resulting in a sensorial experience that is part documentary travelogue, part psychedelic incantation.

Hotspot is a contemporary sweat-lodge ceremony featuring 10 personal steam saunas installed around the Sisters' 80-min video meditation, Link. The purpose of the ceremony is to establish a wireless connection between it's participants.

Forever grateful for your solicitation is a possession ceremony and group therapy that centers around the ritual purging of acquired SPAM mail. Participants gather around a live tabletop projection of the Sisters, an interface through which all of the built up SPAM in the room is received and accumulated. Through a concerted embrace and then release of this cacophonous energy, a new, calm state of mind is reached.

The Sisters provide a video chat therapy called Paralleling, through which participants may share the processing of a difficult situation in their lives.

The Sisters also create personalized ceremonies for gatherings and special events; above is a wedding ceremony.

Click here for more tour images

Click here for more tour images

Yours, truly

I mailed 400 identical letters to homes directly adjacent to my own. I received 14 replies, eight of which resulted in personal meetings and, for most, an overnight stay.


My recollection of the visits are contained in a 50-page book.


For each visit I brought this identical gift, a souvenir from our shared past.

From the moment I appeared at the door with my suitcase, we began to invent the narrative of our relationship.

For one year after the initial experience, I maintained long-distance correspondence with each person, sending souvenirs and letters from my home less than a block away.

Edited video of a Focus Group Evaluation held with the participants at the Miller Gallery, March 2012


Collaboration with Dennis-Hippensteel Family, Pittsburgh 2011.

A week-long performance in which I hid inside the home of a family I found on Craigslist.

Over the course of the week, family members started to command the performance.

Full documentation available on Facebook.

TALKPGH is a citywide public art project commissioned by the City of Pittsburgh and directed by Jon Rubin. I was hired to produce this mobile talk show, coordinating 270 interviews with Pittsburgh residents all over the city to take place in a fast paced 20 consecutive-day shoot. The project began with two months of pre-production, during which time my task was to find and schedule three participants who would meet us when the truck came to their neighborhood.

( project website )

The truck traveled to each of Pittsburgh's 90 neighborhoods.

In each location we scheduled 3 interviews with residents from the neighborhood.

The interviews were videotaped against a backdrop of the surrounding environment.

Interviewees were asked to articulate what they like about their neighborhoods and what they wish they could change.

As the producer on-site, my job was to manage all 270 participants, coordinate the locations and oversee the camera crew.

Link is a feature-length narrative documentary that I edited in 2013. This film is part of a longterm collaboration with Agnes Bolt; for more information visit

STRATA is an immersive theater production that I worked on as an Interactive Design Consultant in 2012 in collaboration with Bricolage Production Company, ClearStory Studios, Jeffrey Carpenter, Gab Cody, Tami Dixon, Riley Harmon, Rob Long, Doug McDermott, Andrew J. Paul and Sam Turich.

STRATA is a faux corporate entity and immersive individual theatre experience installed in a repurposed fitness center.

Audience members engage in a series of clandestine interactions in downtown Pittsburgh that lead them to the Gate corporation's "refitnessing" facility.

Inside, each individual undergoes a number of situational "tests" that lead them toward a mystifying new state of consciousness.

American Theater Magazine Feature

City Paper Review

Post-Gazette Article