If you like art, you should check out Veronica Simmonds. She’s spending all her time chatting with artists and making radio stories about them. (Jealous yet?) To top it off, she found this guy who’s so obsessed with shortwave radio he designed an immersive art piece around it. She produced the story, and we workshopped it together in this month’s Second Ear.
Veronica’s taking over the rest of this post to tell us about it:
There is a big difference between a topic and a story. Big difference…but one that I’m always struggling to understand.
I’ve been producing a podcast for Visual Arts News for over a year now. It’s a great gig: I get to interview all the rad artists working in Atlantic Canada. I interview them about the cool ideas behind their projects, then weave those together with music and ambient sounds, and the result is usually an interesting audio journey. But are these stories? Not really.
I reached out to the Second Ear program because there was one piece I produced for Visual Arts News that I thought had legs. It was about an artist named Michael McCormack who makes work about shortwave radio. As a radio nerd this was enough to get me interested. But, what was really curious was how Michael connected to his grandfather. As he talked about the different elements of his work, they all somehow linked back to his grandfather’s experience as a ham radio operator.
When I first produced the piece, I focused on the topic of shortwave radio: what it is, why it’s important for people, and what Michael is doing with it. Talking to Erika and Genevieve from PRX was totally invaluable because they challenged me to focus instead on the relationship between Michael and his grandfather. They encouraged me to see the art and even Michael’s identity as an artist as secondary to that relationship. As simple as that may seem it was actually a total revelation for me. I usually start these podcasts by naming the artist and saying what their working on, but this new approach was totally freeing and I think led to a way more compelling listen. People first! Projects second!
All this to say, I still don’t know exactly what a story is, but I’m a little closer. From now on, I’m going to start my pieces with people, not their projects. Stories happen with people: what are their intentions, why do they do what they do, what’s changing for them. Cool art projects come from people, but the people should come first. Power to the people! (and their stories!) —Veronica