Ruth Sergel

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My work creates opportunities for participation and voice. My films were made with communities whose participation as actors and advisors shaped the heart of the work. Although the films are fiction, they were developed through a long workshop process matching technical prowess with community concerns. BELLE was made with a group of 80 -93 year old women. CUSP delved into the critical moment for girls on the edge of womanhood and BRUCE explores our expectations of grace. Made with the generous support of the Jerome Foundation and New York State Council on the Arts, the films have screened at festivals around the world including New Directors/New Films (Museum of Modern Art), Tribeca Film Festival and Clermont-Ferrand. They have been broadcast on PBS and IFC. All of the films were shot in 35mm. In early 2002 I established VOICES OF 9.11 a private video booth that recorded the testimony of over 550 survivors and witnesses in New York, Shanksville, PA, Washington DC and the Pentagon. There were absolutely no restrictions placed on what could or could not be said and participants could speak in whatever language they felt most comfortable. Voices of 9.11 was established at here is new york: a democracy of photographs and exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the New York Historical Society. Some of the testimonies can be viewed at h:ttp:// In 2004 I created CHALK an annual commemoration of the Triangle Factory Fire. Each year on the anniversary of the fire, volunteers fan out across the city to inscribe in chalk the names and ages of the victims in front of their former homes. A flier is left detailing the fires place in the fight for social justice. In anticipation of the 2011 centennial of the fire, I have initiated the Triangle Fire Remembrance Coalition to create opportunities for collaboration between the diverse groups impacted by the fire. As my work has matured, I began to question the role of audience participation. If we create works intended to move people then why is the model that they will sit passively to consume our work? What is possible if the audience is not just emotionally engaged but also physically engaged with the work? Over the past few years I have created a series of 'interactive documentaries' that each depends on a different kind of physical interaction to reveal their stories. By moving different objects, AL allows the audience to interact with homeless painter Al Carlo and to reveal stories of his life. ETHEL is a live documentary performance by 89 year old Ethel Greenbaum a lifelong activist for social justice. TURING MACHINE (in collaboration with Gian Pablo Villamil) used the guise of re-purposed typewriter to depict the life of the father of modern computing, Alan Turing. ALCHEMY OF LIGHT is the culmination of these experiments in a live performance that melds 19th century illusionism with current interactive technologies. Despite the technological upheaval of the last years, we humans remain poignantly the same — seeking voice, touch, solace. With ALCHEMY OF LIGHT I am uniting my past experience in film, interactive documentary and community projects to create a model for the kinds of audience engaged works I hope to continue creating. ALCHEMY OF LIGHT is being created through an artist residency at the Digital Performance Institute and in collaboration with dramaturge Peter von Salis as artists in residence at the HERE Arts Center. ALCHEMY OF LIGHT was presented as a work-in-progress at Culturemart (2009) and the Prelude Festival (2008). Currently I am a resident researcher and adjunct faculty at ITP/NYU (Interactive Telecommunications Program) and an aritist-in-residence at the HERE Art Center and the Digital Performance Institute. For more on my work please visit: