FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Victoria Bradford Styrbicki
Media Contact, A HOUSE UNBUILT
New Interactive Website Tells In-depth Stories of the Mississippi River
Artist weaves research-based fieldwork into compelling narratives
STILLWATER – October 17, 2022 – Relay of Voices (relayofvoices.com), an interactive storytelling website capturing voices of the Mississippi River from the Headwaters to the Gulf, launches November 1, 2022. The first of nine chapters will be released that day and explained in detail at a Zoom Launch Event at 6pm, including guest host Michael Anderson, Outreach and Engagement Manager with the Mississippi River Network, and a Q&A with author Victoria Bradford Styrbicki. Subsequent chapters will be released monthly through July of 2023.
Spearheaded by Victoria Bradford Styrbicki with interactive development by Studio Meta, an award-winning digital agency out of Paris, France and editorial support from Natalie Warren, author of Hudson Bay Bound, Relay of Voices embarks on a mission to share and connect individual stories from across the Mississippi River region. Relay of Voices is grounded in an impassioned journey taken by Victoria and her husband Tom in 2019, traversing the entire length of the River at the pedestrian scale, listening deeply with no agenda, seeking to understand why people make a home in this region of the country so often prey to declining populations, poverty, environmental concerns, and natural disasters. How has the story of the watershed of the Mississippi River connected and shaped these communities for centuries into the present?
Relay of Voices captures stories from 104 communities, 20 – 40 miles apart, through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana, finishing at the Mouth of the River at the Gulf of Mexico. While each community was identified and vetted into an organized route to provide accurate representation of both the River and diversity of the communities surrounding, it is the individual voices that truly shape the narrative and build connections across geographic boundaries. These individuals come from the dichotomy of rural and urban communities found along the River, with many of them still making a living off the water and land. The River is home to a collection of small towns ranging between 200 and 60,000 in population anchored by 7 cities with populations over 100,000, serving as beacons of culture and urbanity along the waterway.
“We want to support a culture of listening around the communities of the Mississippi River. As we build a physical vocabulary drawn from these lives that are shaped around a volatile natural resource as well as a reliance on community relationships, a story that resonates beyond the River and connects all Americans has emerged. Just being present in people’s lives was the first step, and now their stories can be a catalyst for all the voices of the River while also providing insights for education, policy, and science.”— Victoria Bradford Styrbicki, Executive and Artistic Director
Relay of Voices partnered with the Water Institute of the Gulf to gather interview and geographic data from fieldwork which reveals the overwhelming need to understand how the “One River” affects the outcomes at its terminal. The Water Institute of the Gulf’s Senior Research Scientist and Social Geographer, Scott Hemmerling, helped to shape the questions the Styrbicki’s asked in interviews with local residents along the original journey as well as provide GPS body cameras for the researchers to geolocate the information they gathered. This data was then shared with the Institute for their use and processed by Styrbicki to create the narratives, footage, and performances found on Relay of Voices (relayofvoices.com).
Relay of Voices (relayofvoices.com) can be viewed on all types of media—computer, tablet, or smartphone, and has been designed as an immersive experience taking the viewer along the path of the Mississippi River to the exact locations where the stories were gathered. Various data points are revealed at each location and once clicked through, the stories are revealed moment by moment through the narrative voice of Victoria Bradford Styrbicki along with a surplus of direct quotes from the “voices,” such as Ojibwe leader Sally Fineday telling the story of finding her history:
“I think that for most of my adult life I’ve been studying my history because I didn’t get it in high school. Nobody tells you about anything, so I’ve been educating myself about, ‘Who am I?’ ‘Where did I come from?’ “Why am I here?’”— Sally Fineday, Day 4: One Who Crosses Over
The stories also contain original audio and video footage from the field, photographs, and “Niimikaage”—movement-based retellings of feature stories. These “Niimikaage” include a collage of original footage, staged retelling, and generative movement and are meant to address loss and creation of meaning in storytelling. By using movement to emphasize and expand the story like music in a film, Styrbicki is extracting a deeper story than is available on the surface, tapping into the movement vocabulary as well as the spoken vocabulary of the subject. Each piece is entitled “Niimikaage” after the Ojibwe word meaning “she dances for people/for a purpose” out of reverence for the tribal lands traversed while gathering these stories and to emphasize that there is a creative power in putting someone else’s story into another body.
Relay of Voices partnered with 29 Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVBs),19 Chambers of Commerce, 30 arts, culture and educational organizations, 45 city and county governments, as well as hundreds of individual volunteers local to each community to solidify programming and to assist with accommodation, transportation, event space and nourishment to support the original journey as it traveled south. Many of these partners have continued to assist Styrbicki through the post-journey creative process.
Relay of Voices (relayofvoices.com) is written and created by Victoria Bradford Styrbicki, developed by Studio Meta, and edited by Natalie Warren. Relay of Voices is a project of A House Unbuilt, a 501c3 nonprofit corporation based in Lake Charles, LA and Stillwater, MN.
About Relay of Voices
Relay of Voices (relayofvoices.com) is an interactive storytelling website encompassing the length of the Mississippi River with the goal of sharing and connecting “voices” from the landscape and individual residents of the River region. The effort is shaped by a theory of “movement research” which uses the body as the empathetic center for listening and understanding, and it seeks to communicate about how people live with water and the natural resources that surround it. The work is spearheaded by artist and athlete Victoria Bradford Styrbicki in partnership with research institute the Water Institute of the Gulf, the Great River Road, the Mississippi River Network, and the Louisiana Seafood Promotions & Marketing Board. For more information, visit https://relayofvoices.com/.
About A House Unbuilt
A House Unbuilt (AHU), a 501c3 nonprofit corporation, is based in Lake Charles, LA and Stillwater, MN. AHU uses movement and the body to engage and investigate the social fabric of rooted communities. Drawing on vocabulary from dance, sport, and everyday life, A House Unbuilt seeks to un-build the learned architecture of the body to reveal the insights and knowledge housed only there. For more information visit https://ahouseunbuilt.com.
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