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Cine-Seder Plate

Cine-Seder Plate is a video sculpture created for The Dorothy Saxe Invitational exhibition at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco. Eighty artists were invited to reinvent the seder plate, which is the ritual object found on the Passover table. Shiff noticed that when the film reel was placed on a horizonal plane it mimed the seder plate with its six openings to hold the symbolic foods of Passover.

     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 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 of reclining.

     The film reel is inset upon a small low table that is approximately 15” above the ground. The table serves a dual purpose of being both a functional table on which an actual Seder can be held 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.


New Works/Old Story: 80 Artists at the Passover Table 

Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, CA

February 27, 2009 - June 2, 2009

Project for the Dorothy Saxe Invitational 2009

Awarded Honorable Mention for The Dorothy Saxe Award for Creativity in Contemporary Arts


Artist: Melissa Shiff

Builder: Bruce Lynn

CIne Seder Roundtable

A multi-media Passover Happening with artist Melissa Shiff and Professors Doris Bergen, Ritu Birla, Harriet Friedmann & Michelle Murphy

Alumni Hall, Victoria College, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON

March 23, 2011​

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