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Inspired by rebels, visionary pedagogues and magicians, Ruth Sergel creates bold and compassionate works that bridge art and technology, memory and wonder to incite social transformation.

Ruth is the creator of Chalk and Voices of 9.11 and the founder of the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition. Her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, Boston Museum of Fine Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, National Museum of Women in the Arts, New-York Historical Society, Gray Art Gallery, Anthology Film Archives and 3LD Art + Technology Center. International exhibition includes Clermont-Ferrand (France), Shift Festival (Basel) and Théâtre de la Ville (Paris) as well as broadcast on the Independent Film Channel (IFC) and PBS. Immerwährende Verwandlung, an interactive cabinet of wonders, commissioned and on permanent display at Universität Hamburg, and solo exhibition, Tikkun Olam, at Kunstverein Grafschaft Bentheim. 

Her projects have garnered support from the Jerome Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts, Experimental Television Center, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the 21st Century ILGWU Heritage Fund. Ruth was the Resident Researcher in Video at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) where she received her masters degree and a fellow in Public Humanities at Brown University. Additional residencies include Yaddo, Squeaky Wheel, CESTA (Czech Republic), Digital Performance Institute, and Here Arts Center. Her work has been widely covered in the press including the New York Times, NPR, and CNN.

In 2011, Ruth was honored to be included in the Community Leaders Briefing Series at the Obama White House.

Her first book, See You in the Streets! Art, Action + Remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, won a 2017 American Book Award.

For more on her work please visit:

There are moments in our lives when we are most fully ourselves. It’s an electrifying feeling. Constraints that felt immutable, we step right out of them. Fully present in our bodies, it’s loose and sexy. We can spin on a dime to face any adversity and blaze right through. It is not that we are fearless, it is often terrifying, but the motion that is propelling us forward has so much joy, so much life force, that our demons become tiny in comparison. With crackling energy, we find ourselves whole.

Inspired by rebels, visionary pedagogues and magicians, my work maps how we move from an inner realm of dream, thought or feeling to an exterior world of public action. Tracing the path from vulnerability, when we find ourselves internally vibrating but unable to speak or act in the moment, to physical participation, where we learn to navigate our voice, presence and will into the world. From fiction films created with communities to public interventions, interactive documentaries and performances, I explode out traditional mediums to bridge art and technology, memory and wonder as an incitement to individual and social transformation.

My work is sparked by magicians from an earlier age, with their capacity to harness new technologies to create experiences so emotionally compelling that audiences willingly believed in the (im)possible. Melding illusionism with interactive technologies, my hybrid work unhinges what we thought we knew about how the world functions and in that moment of confusion our expectations become unbound. Interactive art requires the participant to risk. In an immediate and physical manner, the individual has to choose to act. It is the risk we are warned against: transforming our imagination into substantive action in the physical world.

Despite the technological upheaval of recent years, we humans remain poignantly the same; raw, shockingly vulnerable, seeking solace in voice and touch. The private space of our imagination is being colonized. Mass media has morphed into ubiquitous screens with their addiction inducing algorithms. Corporate and government surveillance leave little space to try on outrageous other selves and conceive worlds not limited by their structures. Art can blitz the screens into stardust. Fueled by the roaring engine of emancipation we breach a wild and incandescent joy as our dreamlife is confirmed; each of us shapes the world.

:: Books
Remembering Women’s Activism, Sharon Crozier–De Rosa + Vera Mackie (Routledge, 2018) p. 70–71
Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas, Rebecca Solnit + Joshua Jelly-Schapiro (University of California Press, 2016) p. 88
The Poetry of Everyday Life: Storytelling and the Art of Awareness, Steve Zeitlin (Cornell University Press, 2016)
Mamaleh Knows Best: What Jewish Mothers Do to Raise Successful, Creative, Empathetic Independent Children, Marjorie Ingall (Harmony, 2016) p. 210-212.
Mapping the Soul of the City, Katharine Harmon (Princeton Architectural Press, 2016) p. 134-135.
The Great Lawrence Textile Strike of 1912, Editors Robert Forrant + Jurg Siegenthaler (Routledge, 2014)
Fire and Blood so Cheap: The Triangle Fire and its Legacy, Al Marrin (Knopf Books for Young Reader, 2011) p. 145 – 146
The New York City Triangle Factory Fire, Leigh Benin, Rob Linné, Adrienne Sosin, and Joel Sosinsky with Workers United (ILGWU) and HBO Documentary Films (Arcadia Publishing, 2011)
A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster, Rebecca Solnit (Penguin Books, 2010)
Terror Dream, Susan Faludi (Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2008) p. 287 – 289

:: Articles
Washington Post
At last, the 146 ghosts of the Triangle Fire are being immortalized David von Drehle, 9 October 2023
AJS Perspectives Justice Issue Doug Rosenberg Fall 2022
Lilith Beyond the Triangle Shirtwaist Memorial Eleanor J. Bader, 19 August 2022
CNN The Worst Fires in NYC History Have Something in Common:Immigrant Victims Ray Sanchez, 16 Jan 2022
NBC News 20 Years Later, 9/11 Witnesses Still Feel the Pain 7 September 2021
San Diego Union–Tribune Escondido Airline Pilot Steps Back 20 Years in MSNBC Documentary ‘Memory Box: Echoes of 9/11 8 September 2021
Hindustan Times Toronto Fest: Documentary Tells Stories of 9/11 Survivors, Victims’Families 11 September 2021
Hollywood News ‘Memory Box: Echoes of 9/11’ Review, Paul Heath, 11 September 2021
MSNBC Rachel Maddow Show, 7 September 2021
AIPT News ‘Memory Box: Echoes of 9/11’ Review: Looking Back & Moving Forward, Nathaniel Muir, 11 Sept 2021
First Showing Emotional ‘Memory Box: Echoes of 9/11’ Documentary, Zofia Wijaskzka, 12 September 2021
Morning Joe/MSNBC In ‘Memory Box,’ Individuals Tell Their Stories of 9/11 Then and Now, 8 September 2021
Hamburger Abendblatt Universität bekommt Museum zur eigenen Geschichte, Insa Gall, 24 September 2019
Italian American Review Review: See You in the Streets, Kenneth E. Foote, Volume 8, Issue 1, Winter 2018
Reviews in History Review: See You in the Streets, Dr. Chloe Ward, 3 August 2017
Tagesspiegel “#Instalove” am English Theatre, Patrick Wildermann, 11 July 2017
The Public Historian Review: See You in the Streets, Jennifer Koslow, Vol. 39, No. 2, May 2017
Jewish Currents Commemorating the Fire, Esther Cohen 16 March 2017
The Forward The Art World Responds To Trump’s Inauguration With A Call For StrikesJake Romm, 9 Jan 2017
The New Yorker City of Women, Rebecca Solnit, 11 October 2016
CBS Evening News On this Day: 146 Killed in Triangle Factory Fire 25 March 2016
WBAI Beyond the Pale, Lizzy Ratner + Jesse Meyerson, 24 March 2013
New York Times In Tragedy: A Mission to Remember, Steven Greenhouse, 19 March 2011
NY Daily News Artist captures 500 9/11 memories in archive of filmed testimonies, Barry Paddock, 9 Sept 2011
Fishko Files/WNYC See for Yourself, Sara Fishko, 9 September 2011
Huffington Post Who Should Tell the Story of 9/11?, Kate Kelly, 8 September 2011
New York Times Triangle Fire: In Memoriam, Steven Greenhouse, Steven Greenhouse, 25 March 2011
CNN Ruth Sergel: Remembering the Triangle Factory Fire on it’s 100th Anniversary Jay Kernis, 25 March 2011
NPR A Somber Centennial for the Triangle Factory Fire, Jon Kalish, 24 March 2011
WNYC Remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire 100 Years Later, Caroline Cooper, 21 March 2011
Huffington Post The Triangle Factory Fire Centennial and Why it Matters Today, Kate Kelly, 8 March 2011
Voice of America 100th Anniversary Recalls Horror of New York Triangle Fire, Adam Phillips, 24 March 2011
Alef; The NEXT Conversation The Poetry of a Chalk Memorial, Rachel Cahn, 30 March 2011
The Villager Thousands will Mark Triangle Factory Fire 100th Anniversary, Albert Amateau, 17 March 2011
New York Times Remembering the Triangle Fire, 100 Years Later, Joseph Berger, 14 March 2011
The Forward Paying Tribute to the Fire’s Pained Legacy, Lillian Swanson, 23 February 2011
New York Times Choosing Not to Forget What is Painful to Recall, Clyde Haberman, 25 March 2010
Daily News Workers Who Died in Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Honored, Barry Paddock, 26 March 2011
The Forward Triangle Shirtwaist Fire: An Indelible Memory, Etched in Chalk, Josh Nathan-Kazis, 24 March 2010
New York Times Remembering Lower Manhattan’s Day of Horror:Without Pomp or Circumstance, Edward Rothstein, 11 Sept 2007
The Forward Remembering the Triangle Fire, Marjorie Ingall, 20 April 2007
New York Times Memorials in Chalk, Michael Molyneux, 3 April 2005
WomenArts Its Time to be Fierce Dreamers, Sarah Browning, Feb. 2005
New York Times
Belle: Breakthrough Roles, 8 of Them, 25 April 2004
Film Threat Girls on Film, MaryAnn Johanson, 19 July 2004
Washington Post Mourning, Still a Work in Progress, Michael O’Sullivan, 13 September 2002
Brooklyn Rail Cusp, Deborah Evrett, 4 March 2002
The Chicago Reader Women in the Director’s Chair International Film, Jennifer Vanasco,, 16 March 2001
New York Times Young Men Journeying Into Wilds of Manhood, Lawrence van Gelder, 8 April 2000
IndieWire Long Form Shorts Come of Age, Andrea Meyer, 28 March 2000
Village Voice Devil Inside, Jessica Winter,17 October 2000

:: Podcasts
Belt Magazine Fire! An American Burning: Remember the Triangle, Ryan Schnurr, 10 November 2023


Photo of Ruth Sergel

The language of the camera
is the language of our dreams
– James Baldwin

Ruth’s CV + her portfolio

Hometown gal makes good – read about Ruth in the New York Times.


photo credit ©Manfred Reiff