Clarke Mackey is a media maker, writer, teacher and cultural activist living in Kingston, Ontario. He has worked as a director, cinematographer, editor, producer or writer on over 50 film, television and new media projects. Many have won awards and critical acclaim. Mackey’s first feature film, The Only Thing You Know (1971), won two Canadian Film Awards (now called Genies) including the Best Actress award. This film is considered by many critics to be an important film in the early development of independent cinema in this country. His documentary A Right to Live (1977) is called “one of the key moments in the history of committed documentary in Canada” by Peter Steven in his book Brink of Reality: New Canadian Documentary Film and Video (1993). In the 1980s, Mackey directed several episodes of the Emmy Award-winning TV series Degrassi Junior High. In the 1990s Mackey began experimenting with interactive, computer-based video. His Memory Palace website (1997) made innovative use of media streaming long before Youtube. In recent years Mackey has been producing micro-budget documentaries about community activism in Eastern Ontario. Til The Cows Come Home (2014) has been screened widely and received positive critical response. Mackey’s most recent work is a feature archival documentary called Revolution Begins at Home.
In addition to his media work, Clarke Mackey has been pushing at the boundaries between art producers and consumers for over four decades. Starting in the early 1970s when he received several “Artist in the Schools” grants from Ontario Arts Council to work with aboriginal children and prison inmates, Mackey has been researching and practicing what he calls “vernacular culture”: unofficial practices that fall outside of the conventional definitions for fine art and popular culture. In 2010 he compiled his research and experiences in a book called Random Acts of Culture: Reclaiming Art and Community in the 21st Century. The book makes links between very old forms of culture — before the industrial-commercial era — and recent experiments in relational and site-specific work. This research is ongoing.
Mackey is an Emeritus Professor in the Department of Film and Media at Queen’s University where he taught for 30 years. Before that he was faculty member at York University and Sheridan College of Art and Design.