Living in the Tempest
An experimental intermedia performance inspired by Shakespeare’s mystical masterwork
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic
One of his most frequently produced plays, William Shakespeare’s mystical masterwork The Tempest has spawned numerous adaptations and derivative works, including operas, films, novels and visual art.
Living in the Tempest is the culminating event in Vortex, a 2016–2018 series of performance projects in California and Italy, developed in collaboration with a transdisciplinary international group of artists, scholars and students. We use fragments from The Tempest, along with other sources, as inspiration to reflect on relationships between humans and oceans. Situating ourselves on Shakespeare’s mysterious island, we respond to contrasts and complexities of the coastal interface through interactive digital media linked with music, dance and theatre.
We present Prospero as a wizard of contemporary technology, using hisher skills to create advanced technical systems (these are portrayed as “magic” in Shakespeare’s text) which are intended to improve the natural environment in various ways. While hisher intentions might be good, these “improvements” inevitably bring with them some unexpected and unwelcome outcomes. Note the gender neutral pronoun “hisher” (pronounced hish-er). This is to reinforce our interpretation of Prospero (and Ariel, Caliban, et al) as entities for whom gender is not a defining characteristic.
Our concept takes notice of the developing planetary crisis driven by the rapidly evolving human capacity to alter ocean systems. We rely upon The Tempest as a framework to help us consider how a lack of attention to crucial values combined with unquestioning acceptance of accepted forms of rational thought can create an unhealthy dependence on ill-considered technological “solutions.” In this context, we want to use aspects of the human-ocean relationship to demonstrate and illuminate ways in which the human desire to transform our environment is unleashing destructive forces that endanger the world and everything in it, including ourselves.
Director & Media Designer
Composer & Violinist
Julia Lupton, Colby Gordon
Lisa Naugle, Tong Wang
With Support From
Image credit: Tim Marshall