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Tikkun Olam

Tikkun Olam

Interactive Installation (2020 – 2021)

Solo exhibition at Kunstverein Grafschaft Bentheim 8 November 2020 – 28 February 2021 curated by Muriel Meyer. Tikkun Olam translates roughly as to heal the world. A Jewish philosophical concept, in recent years it has been revived as a call to stand for social, economic and racial justice.

Through animation, photographs and found objects, Tikkun Olam is a walking cinema of the experience of moving to Germany as a Jewish person, the rise of Trump and facing uncomfortable questions about Israel/Palestine.

The red lace pattern is taken from my grandmother’s tablecloth.


What I found at the flea market | Was ich am Flohmarkt gefunden habe


I went to Volkshochschule to learn German

In one class there was a young man from Gaza. Of course, in my family, we had never spoken about Israel or Palestine. He was studying public health. His thesis was on services for children with cerebral palsy in Gaza. We had an immediate bond. That’s one of the things about disability – it can cut across traditional lines of nationality, race, class and religion. His niece has cerebral palsy. My sister also has cerebral palsy.

I want to show you the first film I ever made, with Bruce Jackson. He also has cerebral palsy.

Meine bosnischen Freunde brachten mich zu Stätten der umstrittenen Erinnerung

My Bosnian friends took me to sites of contested memory.


Sometimes it isn’t right to take a photograph.

Please take a breath,
In + out
Feet slightly apart. Find your center
Another breath and if you are willing
Let your eyes close and listen.
I have a story I want to tell you

One summer day in 2015 my phone exploded
They are here!

Old people, babies, all out in the hot sun. My apartment is a 5 minute walk from the government building where the refugees go to register.
I buy fruit, bubbles and colored markers for the children. My neighbors and I become a great river, pouring out of the buildings. Through the streets we flow into the government courtyard. It is already filled with people sitting on the rough ground. I’m nervous and give away everything I have too quickly.
There is a small building where suplies are being gathered and organized. We carry the boxes of food outside – would you like an orange? Some bread? Water? In my memory it is quiet. Everyone is very focused. How bad does it have to be that one would leave their homeland?

A man in the courtyard begins to sing

No one tells us what to do. We know what to do.
We keep our head down and do the work. We will re-make the world as it could be. At least for today, we have found a way to do our part.

You can open your eyes now.
Thank you for listening.


7 Verbotende Wörter | 7 Forbidden Words

Sieben Worte, die das Gesundheitsministerium nach Meinung der Trump-Administration nicht verwenden soll.
Seven words the Trump administration doesn’t want the CDC to use

  • 1863 scarred back of Gordon who escaped slavery.
  • 1890 Massacre at Wounded Knee.
  • 1968 My Lai massacre, Vietnam.
  • 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act
  • 1921 Blair Mountain. Striking miners bombed from planes.
  • 1954 US supported coup against democratically elected president of Guatemala leads to widespread massacres.
  • 1942-6 Japanese internment camps
  • 1916 Lynching of Jesse Washington. Postcard quote: This is the barbeque we had last night.
  • 2009 abortion protestor at clinic of Dr. George Tiller who was shot, fire bombed + ultimately murdered.
  • 1980 Man w an Uzi kills 2 men + injures many others shouting I'll kill them all - the gays - they ruin everything.
  • 1914 Ludlow Massacre. State national guard + company goons attack tent village of striking miners. Among many others, 11 children asphyxiated + burned to death
  • September 11, 1973 CIA supported coup of democratically elected President Allende of Chile.
  • "More African American adults are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850" Michelle Alexander (read The New Jim Crow)
  • 2003 Smiling American faces at Abu Ghraib
  • 1938 Father Coughlin, with up to 30 million weekly listeners: When we get through with the Jews in America, they will think the treatment they received in Germany was nothing.
  • 1932-72 Tuskegee syphilis experiment on African American men + their families.
  • 1993 Jerry Falwell says: AIDS is the wrath of a just God against homosexuals.
  • 2014 Young man kills 6 and says: My war on women...I am the true victim in all this.
  • 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire takes the lives of 146 young garment workers, most of them immigrant women and girls. Owner says: I had a right to protect my property.
  • Roy Cohn. Prodigious use of red + lavender scare tactics. Known for his role in Rosenberg trial, working w McCarthy + representing Trump. Disbarred.
  • 1955 Emmett Till, 14 years old. One of his murderers: I just decided it was time a few people got put on notice. As long as I live and can do anything about it, niggers are gonna stay in their place.
  • 1891 largest mass lynching in US history. 11 Italian men in New Orleans. Call to violence states:...the descendants of bandits and assassins...are to us a pest without mitigation.
  • 1988 Couple shot 8 times while camping. Shooter claimed he was outraged by seeing them have sex when he followed + spied on them. Rebecca Wight perished.
  • 1957 Little Rock, National Guard block African American students from integrating high school
  • 1830 Andrew Jackson signs the Indian Removal Act: What good man would prefer a country covered with forests and ranged by a few thousand savages to our extensive republic...
  • 1956-? What do Viola Liuzzo, Charlie Chaplin + Martin Luther King jr. have in common?? COINTELPRO !!
  • 1991 Footprints on the locked door where workers tried to escape the Hamlet chicken processing plant fire. 25 perished.
  • 1995 Timothy McVeigh kills 168 people by blowing up a federal building w a daycare center in Oklahoma City. He says: I strongly believe in a god given right to self defense.
  • 1860 Pemberton Mill collapse + fire kills 145 due to shoddy building materials and over crowded heavy equipment.
  • 2016 Khalid Jabara murdered after calling 911 twice that day about neighbor who was out on bail for having run over Jabara's mother. Murderer says: Fuck you Arabs... I want to kill you all
  • 1963 Four little girls killed by a bomb set off at their church by the KKK
  • 1969 visionary Black Panther Fred Hampton assassinated by Chicago police
  • 2014 Eric Garner says:I can't breathe 11 times before he is killed by the NYPD. Who is in jail? The guy who filmed the violence.
  • 1939 MS St Louis set sail from Germany with 908 Jewish refugees. Turned away from Cuba, US and Canada most were returned to Europe + perished
  • 1970 just 11 days after Kent State, police fire on protesting Jackson State students killing two
  • 1855 Protestant nativist Know Nothing (American) Party members riot against Irish + German immigrants on election day. 22 killed
  • 1917 1300 striking mine workers + supporters kidnapped + deported in Brisbee, AZ
  • 1954 Yes there was an Operation Wetback. Papers? No papers? Didn't matter. 1.5 million deported to Mexico.
  • Terrorism. 3 women murdered every day by a current or former male partner in the US. Photo by Donna Ferrato
  • 1919 Elaine Massacre one of the deadliest racial conflicts in US history.
  • 1968 Nixon + Kissinger sabotage Paris peace talks to win the election. Thousands die as a result.
  • Legal forced sterilization as recently as 2010 of people deemed undesirable because of mental or physical disability, poverty or race.
  • 1972 Buffalo Creek disaster 132,000,000 gallons of mining waste water floods, killing 125 + displacing over 4000.
  • 1968-2011 ~1.4 million people killed by guns in the US. Rebecca Solnit based on the work of TM Luhrmann: ...when schizophrenics hear voices in India, they're more likely to be told to clean the house, while Americans are more likely to be told to become violent. Culture.
  • 1950 - ? What do Paul Robeson, Daniel Ellsberg + Chelsea Manning all have in common? The McCarran Act of course!
  • 1926 KKK march on Washington. At its peak the Ku Klux Klan had over 4 million members
  • 2015 Dylann Roof murders 9 people in a Charleston Church and claims: we have no skinheads no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.
  • 1965 Selma. Beaten to unconsciousness for marching for the right to vote. Thank you John Lewis. Thank you Amelia Bonyon Robinson
  • 2002 “Please don't. I have a family” last words of 17 year old Gwen Araujo. At trial the defense claim gay/trans panic on behalf of her murderers.
  • 2010 Prior to the ACA (Obamacare), the US had the most expensive, least effective medical care of Western industrialized nations with an estimated 45,000 people dying each year from lack of healthcare. Medical bills are the leading cause of personal bankruptcy.
  • 1945 US drops atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing between 129,000 and 206,000 people.
  • 2017 the black hole of neediness becomes president.



In the summer of 2014 Israel was bombing Gaza + I worried about my VHS friend + his family. I made a naive attempt. I organized a brunch for my friend from Gaza and I also invited my Bosnian friends.

Eat! Eat! I was circling the table serving too much food, desperate to make it better for him. We gesture and smile through a Skype with his family.
– We are all together
– We heart your son
Complete hysteria, rarely letting our friend from Gaza even speak. Throughout the meal the Bosnian man, wounded in Sarajevo, remained quiet, apart. Finally, he looked my VHS friend in the eye and said

You’ve lost your country.
I lost my country too.
But we’re here and we’re going to be OK.

Nobody said anything more for a very long time.
Now I will show you what I made after


Pandemic Postcards

Vielleicht habe auch ich mein Land verloren

Perhaps I have lost my country too

Tikkun Olam

When my grandmother was in her 90s we took her to the Holocaust museum in Washington DC. She sat huddled and silent in a wheelchair. We were pushing her through a hall marked with the names of Jewish communities that no longer exist.
Suddenly her arm shot out.
There! She called out pointing to the name of a small village. That is where we come from!

Kalvarija, Lithuania

After living in Germany for most of a decade, I’ve learned that I have to be rigorous about remaining in the present when I consider the past. I’ve learned that cruelty or even genocide is easier than I thought. All it takes is an information bubble and someone designated as an other. People fall for it with breath taking speed and do unimaginably horrible things. I’ve learned that I have to practice if I want to be brave.

Tikkun Olam, our opportunity to heal the world during our short time here.

Thank you for being here.​


Immerwährende Verwandlung

lmmerwährende Verwandlung (Perpetual Metamorphosis)

Interactive Installation (2019)

An interactive cabinet of wonders created from the collections of the University of Hamburg.

See…Panofsky’s Mirror
A portrait of the renowned art historian, forced to leave
the university in 1933, shares his views on art and time

Touch… Objects of Knowledge
Wax, fur, newspaper, amber. Touch each object to trigger a story from the university’s past

Listen… Lunascope
Peering through the Lunascope one can view the history of women at the university.

Move… You Are Everything You Need
Standing before a projection, the viewer’s physical
movement triggers animated scenes and embodies objects from the university’s collections.


Commissioned and on permanent exhibition at the University of Hamburg.

Please also see Alice in Berlin, Magic Box

Alles. Jedes Bild, jede Stimme und jede Musik von der Universität Hamburg.
Kuratorinnen Antonia Humm, Kirsten Weining
Universität: Antje Zare

Vielen Dank:
Jennifer Ahrens
Robi Banerjee
Daniel Bein
Dörte Bischof
Johanna Blautzik
Andreas Boether
Sarah Casura
Thure Dalsgaard
Henrik Eßler
Frank Fox
Wiebke Främcke
Jörg Hammel
Dieter Haneit
Lara Hemken
Katharina Jessen
Ulrich Kotthoff
Sigrid Körner
Gabriele Kranz
Eckart Krause
Sebastian Lindhorst
Andreas Löhrer
Anke Napp
Antje Newig
Ranier Nicolaysen
Fanny Opdenhoff
Phillip Osten
Angelika Paschke-Kratzin
Thomas Posth
René Rackow
Stefan Rust
Marko Saggau
Carsten Schirarend
Jochen Schlüter
Matthias Schultz
Fabian Schwarz
Klaus von Schwartzenberg
Anke Vollersen
Jan Wollenberg
Leon Ziemer

Praktikantinnen Maxime von Camier, Louisa Jahn, Nina Zare

I met so many people at Uni Hamburg – if your name should be on this list – let me know!

Panofskys Spiegel Stimme
Ranier Nicolaysen

Luna Stimme
Lara Hemken
Antonia Humm
Katharina Jessen
Antje Newig
Angelika Paschke-Kratzin
Kerstin Weining

Du Bist Alles Was Du Brauchst Stimme
Eckart Krause

Orchester der Universität Hamburg
unter der Leitung von Thomas Posth
Winterkonzertes vom Februar 2019
Gustav Mahler 2. Sinfonie

Chor der Universität Hamburg
unter der Leitung von Thomas Posth
“Sphären” vom Sommer 2018 in der Kirche St. Johannis Harvestehude

Skyliner Big Band
Unter der Leitung von Andreas Böther
One O’Clock Jump

Frank Fox (Mikrobiologie)
Karin Plessing + Reinhard Scheiblich (Moulagen, Medizinhistorisches Museum Hamburg)

Assistenten der Künstlerin
Bronwyn Donohue
Olga Ortiz

Jonas Maria Droste

Besonderen Dank an
Kuratorinnen Antonia Humm, Kirsten Weining
Universität Hamburg Antje Zare, Lara Hemken, René Rackow
Die guten Leute von Gewerk
Benutzertester Aglaia Koslowski, Michael Keuntje, Martina Mogl, Birte Stoltenberg, Helmut Tausendteufel
Jude Calder, Nathan Farb, Pamela Griffiths + the Sitting Room Drawers
Vielen Dank für die Inspiration Ranier Nicolaysen + Eckart Krause



All the pieces in Immerwährende Verwandlung were built with Isadora and Arduino.

You can download the code here.



Alice in Berlin

Alice in Berlin

Interactive Installation (2012)
It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards – Lewis Carroll

Alice in Berlin slyly evokes our fantasy of childhood innocence to lead the audience on a hallucinatory trip into today’s global chaos. Each scene of the interactive installation builds on the audiences physical participation to question our place in history and individual accountability.

Initially the audience is passive for a short animation as Alice leaps off the page. Alice lures us into a topsy-turvy world where 19th century images collide with iconic moments of the 20th century. In front of the looking glass, fantasy and reality merge as Alice fluidly mirrors the viewer’s every move. A surreal landscape leads to a contemporary world of global change. Alice disappears and we land firmly back in contemporary Berlin

Please also see Al, Turing Machine, Ethel.

Program/animation by Ruth Sergel.

White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane on Surrealistic Pillow.

Thanks to Peter von Salis, Kay Kastner + Multimedier Schlachthof, Mark Coniglio, Antonia Humm, Victoria Rothe and Helmut Tausentaufeld.

Exhibition: Arcilesi Homberg Fine Art (NYC), Out of Line Gallery (Chicago), Multimedier Schlachthof/ 48 Stunden Neukölln (Berlin).



Interactive Documentary (2012)   Commissioned by theater director Bulat Atabayev of Kazakhstan, Zhanaozen was created for the one year anniversary of the massacre of striking miners. The interactive documentary reacts to the viewers’ physical movement to upend state media, revealing evidence of the slaughter and the protests that followed. The exhibition at Faltin-Villa (Berlin) included the paintings of Raushan Tolganbayeva   Learn more at: Campaign Kazakhstan. Special thanks to Friederike Felbeck

Magic Box

Magic Box

Interactive Installation (2009)

Magic Box melds 19th century illusionism with current technologies in the guise of a pre-cinema device. The box hangs from the ceiling with brass viewing tubes on either end. Peering inside the device, each participant can see through to the other’s eyes, while watching a film that is completely invisible to the other viewer. Levers on the side of the box allow the participants to select which of four films they will view. If both move to the end position, their hands will touch.

Each film inside Magic Box depicts a different aspect of 19th century hope and confusion that emerging technologies might at last allow us to breach the life-death divide. For the participant,

Magic Box creates an intimate interaction with a stranger to probe the dissonance between real and virtual human connection.

Please also see Alchemy of Light, Alice in Berlin.

Magic Box has exhibited at the at the Shift Festival (Basel), 3LD Art & Technology Center, ITP Spring Gallery and the Hudson Guild Gallery (NYC).

Created (program/camera/edit) by Ruth Sergel

Performers: Luigi Coppola, Johanna Levy, Clara Palavesin
Music: Erik Friedlander, Michael Montes
Carpentry: Paul DiPietro

Magic Box is supported by a grant from the Experimental Television Center’s Finishing Funds program which is supported by the Electronic Media and Film Program at the New York State Council on the Arts. Thank you to ITP and 3LD Art & Technology Center 

Arduino code
Isadora patch

Logo for New York State Council for the Arts



Interactive Documentary | Performance (2007)

Created with Ethel Greenbaum, 89 years old.

Viewers enter a room where Ethel sits quietly at a dining table. Raising her hand, the table becomes a projection surface. Ethel moves her hand to trigger short video clips about her life. She then invites the audience to use their hands to reveal more of her story.

The memorabilia of Ethel’s life fades away. Ethel stands & for the first time directly addresses the audience:

We’re all human beings. We’re all one. You have to keep your spirits up. Without love a person cannot live. Its just beautiful to be here and see this crowd of people. Young ones and an old one like me and a middle-aged one and a baby that is the most precious thing of all. I see every color here, every nationality here, and that’s what this world needs. Love in many many ways. You can love a husband. Partners can love each other. You can love an animal but the basic thing of a life is to love and be loved by a human being and to love them in return

Ethel thanks the audience for attending and passes out chocolates and copies of a love letter she wrote to her late husband.

Please also see Belle, Al, Turing Machine

Created (program/camera/edit) by Ruth Sergel Performer Ethel Greenbaum Thank you Fay Greenbaum & Luke DuBois.
ITP Spring Show 2007

Turing Machine

Turing Machine

Interactive Documentary (2007) Created in collaboration with Gian Pablo Villamil. Turing Machine utilizes a re-purposed typewriter as a model Turing Machine to depict the life of Alan Turing, the father of modern computing. Reknowned for his role in breaking the infamous Enigma code during World War II, Turing was later persecuted for his homosexuality. For more information on Alan Turing please visit the Alan Turing Scrapbook and the Turing Archive for the History of Computing.  

Please also see Ethel, Al

Created by Ruth Sergel + Gian Pablo Villamil Exhibition ITP Spring Show (2007)



Interactive Documentary (2005) A portrait of homeless artist Alfred Carlo based on his stories and paintings. The audience moves physical objects which reveal and manipulate documentary video of Al’s multifaceted life as painter, vet, raconteur and man of the street.

Please also see Ethel, Turing Machine

Al was presented as a work-in-progress at the Troika Ranch Live-I Workshop at 3-Legged Dog in New York.

Techinical diagram of installation

Schematic by Peilin Kuo.