Screens Series: Nina Sarnelle


“Screens Series: Nina Sarnelle” continues the New Museum’s Screens Series, a platform for the presentation of new video works by emerging contemporary artists.

Cover Image:

Nina Sarnelle, Sound for the Long Hole, 2018 (still). Video, sound, color; 42:19 min. Courtesy the artist.

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Working across performance, music, poetry, and video, Nina Sarnelle (b.1985, Belchertown, MA) hones in on critical issues affecting contemporary society, using humor and foregrounding these issues in scenes of everyday life.

Sarnelle’s video essay Big Opening Event (2019), turns a critical lens toward mass celebratory spectacles and displays of abundance at the completion of commercial development projects in the United States. Drawing a comparison between the balloon releases that take place both during these public celebrations and political rallies, Sarnelle aims to untangle the complex relationship between politics and economic development, and shows us how local economies don’t actually benefit from these unregulated ‘mega companies’ such as Amazon.

Sound for the Long Hole (2018) was created after Sarnelle came to the realization that she has been living next to an oil tower and several very deep drilling holes (one 9,514 feet deep) after looking up her location on the Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources website. The work documents a forty-minute music and video performance that Sarnelle staged outside the perimeter wall concealing the oil rig, camouflaged by topiary trees, and considers another world far below the surface of the earth. The video takes us across her neighbourhood, measuring out the length of one oil well in twine, while mining production data from the site’s many historical owners and remembering a specific 1985 methane gas explosion at the site of a Ross Dress for Less discount store in Los Angeles.

Nike X and my Dead Hand (2018-2019) is a video research project conflating the history of the Nike footwear brand’s sneaker line designed in collaboration with basketball stars and the Nike-X anti-ballistic missile (ABM) defense system designed by the US Army during the Cold War-era. Sarnelle’s project started out with performative installations at Angel’s Gate/Fort MacArthur in San Pedro, Los Angeles, which was once charged with protecting the Los Angeles Defense Area from aerial attacks. Today, a basketball court at this site has become an iconic location for filming movies and music videos. Sarnelle speaks about the long history of black athletic bodies often cast as soldiers and weapons, drawing lines between militarism and athletic star culture. The work attempts to destabilize the ideology of competition fostered by the free market, and examines a shared language of sports, capitalism and war.

“Screens Series: Nina Sarnelle” is curated by Jeanette Bisschops, Curatorial Fellow.

Nina Sarnelle (b. 1985, Belchertown, MA) lives and works in Los Angeles. She is the co-founder of artist collectives Institute for New Feeling and dadpranks. Her work has been shown and screened at Kristianstads Konsthall, Sweden (2020), Black Cube, A Nomadic Art Museum (2019), Gas Gallery, Los Angeles (2018), the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) Cleveland, OH (2017), the Getty Center, Los Angeles (2017), Ballroom Marfa, TX (2016), Whitechapel Gallery, London (2016), the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2016), Istanbul Modern (2016), Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Germany (2016), Museum of Art, Architecture & Technology, Lisbon (2016), and Fundacion PROA, Buenos Aires (2016).

You can find the captioned videos online at

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