Kate O'Donnell





Kate O’Donnell is an Oakland, CA-based interactive audio and social practice artist. Her work explores different means of activating and immersing oneself in a landscape by questioning ways of knowing and activating subtle keys to unlock and influence one’s environment. She is a national award-winning audio storyteller, with work featured in multiple high-profile venues across the country.




Selected works


Noble Trails Collection: the traveling sound museum
with mike rosenthal & chris cerrito burning man, 2018


A Western corral contains wooden barrels with touch-point activated soundscapes from history. Each touch-point contains one element of the soundscape; the soundscape cannot be heard in full unless all four touch-points are activated.

Soundscapes: Norway’s Hidden Arctic Corals, Pliny the Elder vs. Mount Vesuvius, The Inquisition of Seville, The Sean-Nós Traditions of Ireland, The Mysterious Longyou Caves

The traveling sound museum
with mike rosenthal & chris cerrito Burning man, 2016

A cart contains copper jars containing soundscapes from history. Soundscapes are activated by tapping the bottom of the jar and putting it to one’s ear. www.thetravelingsoundmuseum.com

Sounscapes: The Ancient Mayan City of Caracol, The Western Antarctic Ice Sheet, Ethiopia’s Sacred Sof Omar Caves, The Swedish Warship Vasa, The Grand Shrine of Ise Japan


dada danites
with Erin Elliott, 2016

Two books contain scripts for a dadaist rewrite of Joaquin Miller’s play, The Danites in the Sierras. Marked as Player One and Player Two, both books indicate which lines the player with that book should read. As pages are turned in order, some lines are read by the books themselves via sound modules embedded inside the pages.

bay voices

Place-based audio installation in the Exploratorium’s Bay Observatory prompts visitors to engage in observations outside the window as a means of understanding place.



social practice

Selected works


MY new Bloodline
Ongoing social experiment, 2019

I became Baroness of the Principality of Sealand, a 0.004 square kilometer sovereign micro-nation on a platform in the English Channel. In this social experiment, I bring up my new title in as many conversations with strangers as possible, exploring modern notions of privilege and nobility.

interactive zoetrope
kitlab, 2017
private art salon, 2015

A zoetrope serves as a DIY animation station. There are three sets of images animated by the zoetrope. Two are built-in pieces — one of my eyes and one of my mouth. The third are animations drawn by participants and clipped in. This piece has appeared in multiple types of venues, prompting interesting observations on who takes the time to sit and create in what kind of space.

Black rock city, 2015

This piece comprises two sets of hand-printed fabric patches. One set has a small LED light in it, the other has rivets. The LED patches will only light up when touching the rivet patches. This prompts a study on social interaction — who takes which patch, who chooses to get close enough to a stranger to turn their patch on.

social Experiment kits
kitlab, 2017

Visitors are asked if they would like to participate in a scientific experiment, then are asked a series of random, purposeless questions to test “eligibility.” They are then assigned one of three experiments:

• Operation Show Me Your Teeth: Participants are instructed to smile nonstop for 30 minutes, observe the changes in others’ behavior towards them, and report back. Results consistently show friendly behavioral change of those around the participant.

• Operation Color My Mood: Participants are presented with squares of colored felt (white, black, brown, pink, red, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple.) They are instructed to choose the color that best represents their current mood and pin it to their shirt. By the end of the exhibition, most visitors are wearing their felt of choice, prompting interesting interactions between both loved ones and strangers as they empathize or struggle to understand the correlation between others’ chosen color and mood.

• Operation Nancy Reagan: Participants are instructed to ‘just say no’ to one thing that they want to say yes to that day and report back. Results consistently indicate either participants’ frustration or surprising relief.

memories for sale

Eight people of different age and racial demographics were asked to give up an item that was priceless to them. These items were sealed in separate plain, cardboard boxes which were paired with a portrait photograph of the contributor. These paired boxes and photographs were then taken to different public spaces around the Bay Area and hawked as buyable wares under the sign “Memories for Sale.” No price was set for the boxes nor were visitors able to look inside. Instead visitors were asked to pick a box based on the portrait photographs and pay whatever they thought was fair for that person’s “priceless” item.




 Selected lectures at San Francisco’s Odd Salon.





Sometimes I take pictures.


.05 (a)


Portraits, landscape, and more

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

copyright Kate O'Donnell
Memories for Sale portrait series

Memories for Sale portrait series

copyright Kate O'Donnell
copyright Kate O'Donnell
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