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ICAT Playdate: Drones in the Cube- Daedalus Dreams

Ended Oct 21, 2022
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Full course description

Term: Fall 2022

Date: October 21st, 2022

Time: 8:30am - 9:30am

Location: Community Assembly in the Creativity + Innovation District Living-Learning Community

Instructor: Phyllis Newbill

Presented By: Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT)



 Daedalus Dreams is a performance for a solo movement artist and two drones (unmanned aerial vehicles), with stereo audio.  The piece will premiere in October 2022 at Virginia Tech's The Cube, and marks the creative collaboration between visual artist Zach Duer, dance artist Scotty Hardwig, and choreographer Eric Handman. In this postdigital pas-de-trois, the dance of human and drone asks questions that are both contemporary and mythical in the unfolding queerness of body and machine.

Drones are a technology loaded with cultural implications and readings. They are small, mobile, modern machines of surveillance in an age where human behaviors have become a commodity to be measured and sold. They are the bi-product of a techno-capitalist society that demands constant innovation. In this performance, we’ve treated them as aesthetic, performative, sensuous, and queer material objects. The physical materiality of the drone itself is a dramatic presence on the stage that produces apprehension and demands attention. The propellers that allow it to fly and float effortlessly in the air, create a roar of sound and a wash of wind. The lights carried aboard the machine illuminate the space and the performer. The software and hardware mechanics of the navigation system allow it to either be piloted remotely, or to be pushed and pulled by the performer. 

The drones’ physicality has the potential to make marks in space. And the choreographic structure arises out of the changes the drone effects on the space and the performer. The wind of the drone displaces a mound of feathers covering the performer. It creates turbulence in the performer’s clothing. The sound clearly marks both the drone’s position, as well as its movement, changing pitch and timbre as it changes directions. An affixed light creates a spotlight around which the performer dodges and counters the drone.

During times of crisis like pandemics or economic downturns, the proscenium theater as the prime performance location is thrown into deep question. The drone contributes an essential aspect to this lightweight, modular, mobile theatrical system. The traditional technical elements, which are fixed and highly specialized within the proscenium context, are reframed and integrated with the drone and the performer, creating new and agile possibilities for mobile performance that do not require the technology and apparatus of a modern proscenium theater.


Speakers: Zach Duer, Eric Handman (University of Utah), Scotty Hardwig, Phyllis Newbill