The human body serves as a vessel for time itself in a world that often changes unpredictably, says Scotty Hardwig.

The assistant professor of movement, performance, and integrated media in the School of Performing Arts turned that idea into a stunning performance project called Body, Full of Time. “The piece — a duet between technology and me — examines the relationship between physical and digital versions of self,” says Hardwig. “It pushes the boundaries of embodiment and physical performance in digital space.”

In Body, Full of Time, Hardwig dances on stage while an avatar projected on a large screen behind him mimics and exaggerates his movements. The piece is intended to symbolize the human body fragmented in the cyber age, serving as an active sensor and a passive recipient to technological currents.

Using a motion-capture digital system, Hardwig collaborated with other faculty members and graduate students to create the avatar based on his own choreography. The team used projected animations and spatial audio to accompany a live performance. Zach Duer, an assistant professor in the School of Visual Arts, developed a novel technique for distorting real-time animated characters.

“There’s a space between visual abstraction and character animation that is rich for experimentation,” says Duer. “How we choose to portray ourselves and our bodies in the digital age is a constantly shifting landscape, and I’m interested in finding techniques that push the virtual body beyond its physical limitations while still allowing us to empathize with the human form.”

The performance debuted in the Cube at Virginia Tech in 2019, and Hardwig and Duer are now collaborating on a dance created and experienced entirely in virtual reality.

“Many people don’t think about technology when they think about dance,” says Hardwig. “I’m interested in the intersection between the two, and how to innovate in a performance realm to create work that audiences have never seen before.”

Written by Andrew Adkins