Short excerpts from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, plus one from Leonardo’s Notebooks, used in Vortex Series projects as a starting point for development of concepts and performance material.

Performative Objects

Developed in a collaboration between RISD and UCI, the Performative Objects are artworks and devices that are unpredictable, inhabitable and performable.



The philosopher Martin Heidegger and the scholar Jonathan Bate provide important (if unfortunately gender-specific) rationales for Vortex Series projects.

In The Song of the Earth, his influential book tracing linkages between ecology and literature, Jonathan Bate describes a “sense in which The Tempest is a prologue to the whole thrust of technological modernity.” He sees Prospero as “the prototype of Enlightenment Man” and points out that Prospero’s magic can be read as “a form of technology, used to harness the powers of nature, which are dramatized in the figures of Ariel and fellow-spirits. Prospero’s explicit programme is enlightened and humanistic: he wishes to free his antagonists into self-knowledge. But his method is the exploitation of the work of others, Ariel and Caliban.” Although the “Enlightenment’s instrumentalization of nature frees mankind from the tyranny of nature (disease, famine),” an excessive reliance on rationality and knowledge-as-power has the tendency to legitimize such exploitation and “licenses the destruction of nature and hence of mankind.”

Bate draws our attention to Martin Heidegger’s prescient mid-20th-century formulations in The Question Concerning Technology, where Heidegger discusses interrelationships between humanity and technology. “Meanwhile, man, precisely as the one so threatened, exalts himself and postures as lord of the earth. In this way the illusion comes to prevail that everything man encounters exists only so far as it is his construct. This illusion gives rise in turn to one final delusion: it seems as though man everywhere and always encounters only himself.”


Bate, Jonathan, The Song of the Earth. Harvard University Press, 2002.

Brayton, Dan, Shakespeare’s Ocean: An Ecocritical Exploration (Under the Sign of Nature). University of Virginia Press, 2012.

Heidegger, Martin, The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays. Translated by William Lovitt. Harper & Row, 1977.

Lupton, Julia Reinhard. Creature Caliban. Shakespeare Quarterly 51, no. 1 (Spring 2000): 1-23.

Richter, Irma, Leonardo da Vinci: Notebooks. Oxford University Press. 2008.