The Manifesta of Robin Pacific!
People photographed in a place that they love, and then that place photographed without them in it.
Eighty people videotaped talking about loss in their lives.
A shamanic cloak made out of the dyed red book pages of Marx and Engels.
Women garment workers in Bangladesh.
Security guards at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Women singing all night in a bookstore, their ages ascending as the night wears on.
People returning rocks to Nottawasaga Bay, engraved with the dates they were found.
Cement troughs filled with water.
The grief of young people affected by gun violence.
Male ex-offenders who’ve served time for doing violent crimes.
There’s an old saying: if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. I like to say, if wishes were horses, art would have changed the world by now. When I was young, lit on fire by the words of the two Karls (Marx and Jung) I believed we could build the new Jerusalem, a free, equal, democratic and just Canada. When all my marching and picketing just seemed to make me angrier and more unhappy, I turned to art. Making art with other people, I believed, was the real path to social change. We would change our consciousness, be transformed from passive consumers of culture to active creators of it.
Did we ride those horses? Perhaps into the dusk of my youthful dreams. But there was something in the rich soil of social justice, spirituality and creativity that has never let me go. A three way marriage that only artmaking could bring into being. Where do ideas come from? They do not come from the sky, Mao said, they come from social practice. But my ideas come from some mysterious ether, they come unbidden while I’m sweeping the floor, delivered whole to my psychic doorstep. Hello, they say, may we please come in? Learning to listen to them, and then figuring out how to make them into material realities, has been the practice of art for me. The journey to art has been and continues to be the journey to my own soul.
So many trees have been sacrificed to critics and theorists and artists themselves, speculating on how and why art affects us. It remains a meaning-generating mystery. I subscribe to the wholly unfashionable view that I want art to make me feel, and I want my art to make others feel—wistful, sad, outraged, compassionate. Rare bonus if it makes you laugh. At 74, life is still a beautiful but tragic affair for me. I believe I am on another horse now, a horse that I will ride into the sunrise of divine comedy. When I am truly old, I want to make beautiful art that fills people with playfulness, with laughter, and with delight. It just depends, of course, on what new ideas come walking up the sidewalk, peeking through the windows, asking to be let in.
Robin Pacific‘s work has spanned thirty years and a wide variety of media. In addition to writing personal and critical essays, she has produced artworks in a variety of media encompassing painting, drawing, video, installation, performance, and numerous community based collaborations.
In 2012 Robin completed a Diploma in Spiritual Direction at Regis College in the Toronto School of Theology, and now practices Spiritual Direction one day a week.
She holds a PhD in English Literature from York University and a Masters in Theological Studies from Regis College. She is currently enrolled in the University of Kings College MFA in Creative Nonfiction.