Image Gallery
Image Gallery

Contemporary Jewish Museum

Cine-Seder Plate: The Six Questions

Project for:
Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco

The Dorothy Saxe Invitational,
New Works/Old Story: 80 Artists at the Passover Table
February 27, 2009 - June 2, 2009

The film reel with its six circular openings directly references the six holders for symbolic foods that are found on the traditional Seder plate. Turned on its side, the film reel is placed on a horizontal plane thereby miming the look and the position of the Seder plate when placed on a table.

Cine-Seder Plate utilizes video projection. A video projector is placed beneath the film reel and the projection passes through the middle of the reel with its six smaller cut outs in order to be screened on the ceiling above. This effect creates a filmic Seder plate above the viewing audience. The visitors to this enclosed space are offered pillows to recline upon and to contemplate the play of images above them.  In this way, the audience is able to assume the correct Passover posture.

The film reel is inset upon a small low table that will be approximately 15” above the ground. The table serves a dual purpose of being both a functional table on which an actual Seder could be held at some future time as well as providing the necessary housing for the projector and DVD player. The film reel moves with a small motor and turns slowly thereby miming a real film reel. 

The composition of the Cine-Seder Plate video superimposes a number of layers and one of them foregrounds the cinematic reproduction of the Passover story. The video pays homage to Cecil B. DeMille’s original Ten Commandments as part of the mis-en scene. For example, in the charoset segment one sees the Jewish slaves building the Egyptian pyramids. The video projection is a motion graphics animation of the traditional six symbolic foods found on the Seder plate. Each food is accompanied by a question that makes a link between these symbols and issues of our time. In the case of the Charoset the question is: “Who pays for slave labor?. In the case of the Karpas (green vegetable) it is paired with this question: “How are we to maintain our fields of green?” Therefore, this cine-seder plate is not only reinvented via a contemporary form; it is also made to address contemporary environmental, social and political issues of universal import. Literally and metaphorically, the Cine-Seder Plate puts the Passover themes of oppression and liberation right on the table.


Artist: Melissa Shiff
Builder : Bruce Lynn