Teres Hallman, the curious machine
You, me, she, he, they… we are all born as little curiosity machines. We see things, smell things, hear things, touch things, taste things, and we think, “hmmm I wonder why.” And in the wondering and questioning that follows, we learn, we grow, and we develop. All too often, though, we develop so much that we begin to “know everything.” We simply cannot be curious anymore. But at that point, do we really “know everything,” or have we just forgotten to feed our little curiosity machines?
All too often, and especially outside of the arts education bubble, we lose our innate curiosity to make sense of the world with time. Society demands we outgrow our curious phase and become adults who “have it all figured out.” The little curiosity machines who become scientists, well, because they think science, they cannot think art and thus “know everything” they ever possibly can about that picture on the wall. In the same way, those who become artists, well, because they think art, they cannot think science and thus “know everything” they ever possibly can about the chemical reaction going on before their eyes. Luckily, there are individuals, or superstars, like Teres Hallman, who challenge that art-science dichotomy everyday more and who offer inspiration to keep all of our little curiosity machines going.
I first encountered Teres years ago through her podcast, The Archives Podcast, when I was scavenging to feed my own curious soul. Her podcast tells interesting stories of museums, archives, and the professionals working in them. Every episode is exciting; in a way, when I listen to her conversations with the “explorers” of each episode, as she calls them, I feel like I am drawing something in my mind but without a pencil. Rather, her words become my ink. Though podcasts offer an easy, digestible way to consume media and multi-task along the way, Teres’ immersive podcast keeps me engaged, and each time I listen, I feel just a bit more curious as I return to my daily routine.
Teres, who identifies herself as a Swedish freelance journalist, who also happens to run The Archives Podcast, refuses to let society dictate when, where, or how she will outgrow her own curiosity phase. Though she boasts a robust background in computer engineering and journalism, Teres is most proud of her ability to ask silly, sometimes “stupid,” questions to better understand the creative world around her. She has traveled all across Europe with this yearning to learn, and through The Archives Podcast she has altruistically sought to reinvigorate the innate curiosity of those who take the initiative to listen. Her podcast, which originated as a way of exploring questions about the infrastructure of knowledge that archives are, has evolved, too, to follow storylines and ideas that those she interviews suggest. In this way, she strengthens the collective cycle of curiosity between herself, her interviewees, and her listeners. Her story and podcast are sure testaments to the power at the intersection of the arts, culture, and education.
This March, Teres has generously agreed to share a bit about her superstar self and story. Here is some of what she has to say:
You assume many important roles from journalist to podcast producer. How do these interrelate and how have they impacted your perception and vision of the creative world?
I don’t have a background in the arts and culture sector, which might be a bit strange considering the topics of my podcast. I have a Master of Science degree in computer engineering and worked for almost 15 years in the telecom and transportation industries. I think my engineering background has formed my way of thinking in the sense that I always try to understand how things are connected and work together. That very much shapes the questions I ask and the dots that I connect and therefore what I choose to feature in my podcast. I really want to understand how things work and the logic behind phenomena in art and culture, and since I lack education in those fields, I allow myself to ask sometimes ‘stupid questions.
What has been your favorite part about hosting The Archives Podcast?
What I love about hosting The Archives Podcast is that it gives me an alibi to contact interesting people, whip out a microphone and ask them everything I’m curious about. To me the interviewing part is always the most fun thing. Editing and creating the episodes is coupled much more with anxiety and procrastination. But eventually it always comes together fine and it feels like such an achievement every time I press publish on a new episode. Hearing from listeners is great of course, too. It’s amazing to think that someone I don’t know is listening to what I do. Having a podcast gives you a platform to connect with others and that is truly amazing.
When you reflect on the fact that you have inspired countless individuals through your work as a podcast host, mentor, and journalist, what inspired you to embark on the journey that brought you each to this point?
A number of years before I became a journalist I discovered podcasts and as someone who has always loved radio this to me was just fantastic. Now I could listen to productions from all over the world and I knew almost immediately that I wanted to do one myself. I realized I needed a topic that was big enough to generate many episodes over time. Also I didn’t want a topic in which I was the so-called expert myself. I have no interest in painting myself as an expert. I want to explore new ideas and knowledge and use the journalistic tools to do it. It took several years until one day I was struck with this concept of archives and under-stood it as an umbrella under which I could squeeze in a broad range of issues. From there I began.
What are your dream goals for your work and for yourself as a spokesperson for the future of the arts/culture/education?
At least here in Sweden there is often a divide between science and technology on one side and arts and culture on the other. Often people tend to stay in their own sphere be-cause they feel they don’t know enough or they don’t think they have credibility in the other sphere. But both sides very much deal with the same problems and have their own solutions to them without realizing it. Much more creativity, and fun, would be unleashed if there were more cross-over between the fields. My hope is to be some sort of bridge between these worlds and have more people see that the other side is not scary or strange but a place to draw inspiration from.
Superstar snapshot: Teres Hallman
Superstar strength: being able to balance the three C’s – curiosity, creativity, and courageousness
Superstar secret talent: being superbly resilient
Superstar noteworthy quote: “there are no rules”
(photo credit: Anna Carin Isaksson)