Find other projects
This project was successfully funded on June 4, 2016

Outside the Vortex

by Donna Sternberg, Meredith Tromble, Dawn Sumner


Outside the Vortex uses "mixed reality" – dance, interactive 3-D projection, new media visual art and sound -- to convey the dynamic forces of difference in creative discovery. Based on true stories from researchers who challenge scientific "norms" in some way (age, background, gender, or ethnicity), iconic moments from their stories will inform both the choreography and the setting, an interactive vortex of images projected in 3-D with a composed soundscape. 

Outside the Vortex has evolved over time to its present iteration. It began in 2011 when visual artist Meredith Tromble was invited by the University of California, Davis to explore the potential use of the keck-CAVES 3-D imaging facility for art. She proposed an interactive vortex of hand-drawn images that appear in 3-D space before the viewer.  With her primary collaborator, keckCAVES co-founder and geobiologist Dawn Sumner, they created Dream Vortex, an interactive experience where the viewer can "touch," move, and compose images, much like picking up physical objects and moving them around.  Choreographer Donna Sternberg met both Tromble and Sumner when the three were in residence at the first art/science session at the Djerassi Resident Artist Program in July 2014.   Sternberg was struck with the movement potential and opportunity to interact with the 3-D technology.   Subsequent conversations between the three resulted in this project, using the methodology of Dream Vortex to focus on a different sort of “dream”, the aspirations of researchers who don’t fit typical scientific “norms”.  The timing seemed particularly right to spotlight individuals who experienced difficulties because of their sex, ethnicity and/or age.

The vivid quality of the emotionally charged stories will be translated into movement and visuals full of compressed meanings. As the audience enters the performance space, they will see colorful drawn fragments of the researcher's stories swirling in a vortex, and hear murmuring sounds, from which a telling sentence will occasionally crescendo. Rising through the center of the vortex is a slowly-moving column of digital emblems associated with the story drawings; when a dancer chooses one, the vortex recedes and the full drawing appears along with the spoken story that emerges from the soundscape. The projected image, a physicalized memory, becomes a shifting, interactive environment and partner to the dancer. Their interaction is imaginative rather than illustrative, with pure movement and strong gesture conveying the emotional nuance.  As the passage concludes, the associated scenario fades out and the vortex arises again, giving another choice to the performers. 

Your tax deductible donation will pay for:

$10,000          Artist fees for dancers and composers

  $6,200         Production costs

  $1,500         Travel expenses

     $300         Perk development

We are grateful for the support we have received from the following:

Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs - $5,000

Complexity Sciences Center (

Keck Center for Active Visualization in Earth Science (

Additional funding to KeckCAVES for software development, not specifically for this project but essential to it, has been provided by the W.M. Keck Foundation and the National Science Foundation Cyberinfrastructure-TEAM.

We still need your help to make this project a reality. Be a part of this innovative new work marrying art, science and technology. Please support Outside the Vortex by making a tax-deductible contribution to our Hatchfund campaign.