Robin Lambert and "What I know for sure"

Robin Lambert is an instructor in Visual Art and the Curator for the Permanent Art Collection at RDC. He has b been an instructor for 6 years and the Curator for 4 years. 


Robin Lambert - RDC Scholarly Activity


What’s the name of the project or work that you were recognized for, and can you describe the work in a few paragraphs?


In 2009 I was awarded an Alberta Creative Development Initiative for my project The only thing I know for sure is while I am looking for you, you are looking for me. This project was completed in two stages, first in Vancouver in 2010 and then in Montreal in 2011 before being exhibited in the Dunlop Gallery in Regina in April 2012.


For each stage of the project two different sets of participants and I moved to Vancouver and then Montreal to live for 28 days. The two participants did not know each other before the project began nor were they familiar with this city. Once there, I set up each participant in a different housing situation, a rented room, separate from and unknown to the other. After the participants arrived, each person spent the next 28 days looking for the other knowing only that there is another person also looking for him or her in the city. I did not give them any clues about each other’s appearance or lifestyle and I did not put any restrictions on how they could look for each other. Over the 28 days, the participants were instructed to document their search, keeping photo documentation and material souvenirs of where they searched, how they searched and what tools they used to look for a person they knew nothing about. At the end of 28 days (or when they found each other), I met with each participant and documented their living spaces through digital photography and gathered their documentation, ephemera, and detritus related to their search for cataloguing and exhibition.


At first blush, this project might appear to be two people walking aimlessly through the city streets asking everyone they encounter “are you looking for me?” But there is more to the project than simply two people wandering around. At the heart of The only thing is a metaphor of how we attempt to deal with the human desire to connect and build relationships. The cities, large cosmopolitan, multicultural cities full of tourists and residents from all over the world, acts as a small-scale stand-in for the world at large. These two strangers, perhaps feeling alone and displaced, are guided only by hope as they search for one another in an unfamiliar place without any clues.


What triggered your work on this project?


I was in San Francisco for the first time, walking around the city with a friend and we had a conversation about how enjoyable it was to get lost in a new city and just enjoy the looking. From there we started to talk about how enjoyable or scary it might be if we were alone rather than walking around together and the idea occurred to me of two people searching for each other in a city they didn’t know. At the time I was also staying at a residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts and when I returned there this idea of wandering and searching and getting lost kept reoccurring to me. And while I was at the Banff Centre working on several social practice projects, this project slowly came to be while I worked and daydreamed of wandering the world in search of someone/thing.


What surprised or challenged you through the scholarly activity?


That the project actually went from ideal conversation to active project. And not once but twice.


What impact will this scholarly work have on students, our College and/or the community?


With this project I am able to share with the students, and the community, a different format of contemporary art, one that is not specifically taught in many schools but one that can definitely be one achieved from where we begin with our students. I have also presented this project as part of a TEDx talk in 2011 and was able to share how this sort of Social Practice artwork comes to be and how it exists in the world and the art world.


How does the scholarly activity you do outside the classroom affect your work in the classroom?


By maintaining an active contemporary art practice I am able to share my experiences with the students in a way that they can directly connect with what they are learning in the classroom studio with what is happening in contemporary art right now. It is important to teach and learn the basics of art and to see the trappings of art history but I think it is equally important to share with the student’s current thinking and challenges. The best way I can do this is to be engaged with current thinking and challenges. 



Each year the Scholarly Activity Committee highlights the significant scholarly undertakings by faculty members at RDC for academic work and research including the scholarship of discovery, integration, application and teaching.