Relay of Voices
Relay of Voices is a research expedition traveling down the Mississippi River Trail July 9-November 5, 2019, with the goal of gathering “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 learn about how people live with water and the natural resources that surround it. Cultural data and geographic narratives will be gathered for future use by scientists, artists and policy makers.
Relay is spearheaded by artist, athlete, and Louisiana native, Victoria Bradford Styrbicki, who is working to connect the voices of river communities by traveling the 2,400 miles of the river at a pedestrian scale with the assistance of a “relay team” made up of support staff and regional volunteers. The work is created in collaboration 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. Through partnerships with organizations like The Mississippi River Parkway Commission (MRPC), the Mississippi River Network (MRN), and The Water Institute of the Gulf, A House Unbuilt is connecting with each of 104 communities in a distinct way.
Follow our progress at: relayofvoices.com
Preparations for Relay of Voices
In November 2018, Victoria returned home to Louisiana to share the story of Relay of Voices. Introductions were given by Paul Guillory, a Louisiana rice farmer, and Scott Hemmerling, Director of Human Dimensions at the Water Institute of the Gulf.
“Declivity” is the first movement of Relay of Voices: The Great River Run In “Declivity”, the team is listening to the labor of the river, the might of its crosscurrents, and the story of labor told by the water, the land, and the people who work it and live with it. Performed as a 180 minute relay cycle beginning on the back lawn, going around the building, and using the front steps, they walk the bottom of the river, run upstream, get caught in the current, meander, wait, maneuver, levee, breech, and remind us of their paths as they go.
When Fear Hits the Body
A House Unbuilt presented a culminating performance from stories and questions raised on a recent outreach trip to Clarksdale, MS—some say the birthplace of Chicago. Working to build relationships in this and other communities in the Delta, the company has discovered that these connections are the foundation of a specific tie with the city of Chicago and the deep-rooted dynamics of race that persist in both regions, north and south. In the Elevate performance, AHU used the body to dig deeper into the themes that were shared and discovered while in Clarksdale. They then invited the audience to think and move through their own fears and impossibilities felt in the body, as they built relationships through sharing.
In April and May of 2018, Victoria and her mother Dinah made a 30-day drive down the Mississippi River to lay the foundation for the project in the 104 communities along the route. Taking on a schedule of up to 6 meetings a day along with running portions of the Great River Road, the Bradfords were able to successfully build relationships and get a sense of the large task ahead.