Jesse Colin Jackson, still from Mackenzie Place Time-Lapse #5 (September 1, 2017—October 2, 2018), 2023, digital video, 13 min 14 sec
Jesse Colin Jackson
March 23—June 3, 2023, Extended through July 22, 2023
Opening Reception Thursday, March 23, 6—8 PM
Under Pressure Book Launch Saturday, May 13, 2—4 PM
Pari Nadimi Gallery (PNG) is pleased to present Mackenzie Place, a solo exhibition by Jesse Colin Jackson.
Mackenzie Place concludes a trilogy of PNG exhibitions by Jackson focused on the consequences of the architectures we construct. Each exhibition presents a variation of the internationally ubiquitous concrete tower apartment building, inviting us to consider the evolving significance of these buildings. Radiant City (2014) examines tower apartment neighbourhoods across Toronto, while Skip Stop (2019) focuses on the rise and fall of this building type in Toronto’s Regent Park. Mackenzie Place presents a unique tower apartment, located far from its usual urban context, making it a symbol of both the reach and the edge of global capital and settler colonization. The tower’s singular presence also provides a unique opportunity for generating creative representation of its surroundings.
Mackenzie Place is an immersive installation depicting the near-arctic town of Hay River (Xátł’odehchee) and the K’atl’odeeche First Nation in Canada’s Northwest Territories. The primary element is a series of multi-channel time-lapse films shot from the roof of the seventeen-story tower that presides over the center of the town. Derived from nearly one million still images, the films bring to life a panorama of environments and activities across four seasons. To the north, we see institutional infrastructure such as schools. To the west, we see industrial areas, with the Great Slave Lake (Tucho) visible on the horizon beyond Canada’s northernmost train line. To the south, commercial and residential fabric are visible, and to the east, the namesake river and the boreal forest beyond.
Officially named “Mackenzie Place” but informally known as “the High Rise,” the tower was completed in 1975 to house workers for the controversial (and ultimately cancelled) Mackenzie Valley Pipeline. Never filled to capacity, and empty since a major fire in 2019, this relic of colonial resource extraction was home to newcomers to Hay River for nearly fifty years, whether Indigenous (Dene, Inuvialuit, Cree, Métis), settler, or immigrant. Since the fire, new owners from “down south” have promised renovations, citing urgent and growing housing needs, but as of March 2023, no work has begun. Locals are quick to try to divert attention from the building, stating that the tower is not characteristic of Hay River. Yet the tower is omnipresent, both visually and in the narratives of residents and visitors alike; it is the hub of “the Hub of the North.”
The installation aggregates the carousel of space and time that the building—and its diverse inhabitants—bear witness to, year after year. As befits its conflicted position in the local imaginary, the building is seemingly erased from the town in the films, remaining present only as a shadow on the projection screens. Because Hay River is just below the Arctic Circle, the sundial silhouette of the tower evolves from a single moment of visibility on the winter solstice to a full rotation across all four screens on the summer solstice.
Mackenzie Place is also a meditation on creative monomania. The original goal—to capture one image per minute per direction for 365 continuous days—proved elusive, despite five years of trying. Freed from this obsession, the films instead register the peculiarities of technology, timing, and teamwork present at a given moment in the project’s trajectory. The final films capture the creative method with more authenticity than a film derived from a complete set of images ever could have. Collectively, they present a richer dialogue between process and product.
Finally, Mackenzie Place links the careers of the artist and his collaborators, who return to Hay River again and again even as their jobs have taken them further away. The voiceover in the films is excerpted from anthropologist Lindsay Bell’s book Under Pressure: Diamond Mining and Everyday Life in Northern Canada (University of Toronto Press, 2023), which launches at PNG during the exhibition’s run. Through a focus on everyday life in Hay River, including lives lived in the tower, Bell’s ethnography illustrates the ways northerners navigate the opportunities and obstacles created by large-scale resource development. Jackson and Bell’s research and creation intersect around the quotidian nature of the High Rise structure—both inside and out.
The creative and ethnographic products that accompany the films serve to further reinforce the tower’s outsized influence, both in Hay River and in Jackson and Bell’s work. Two large prints reveal the tower as it inhabits the mind’s eye: like the sun, a visually dominant gravitational anchor that we avoid gazing at directly. The accompanying artist’s portfolio, a prototype of a future monograph, consists exclusively of images taken either of—or from—the tower. A selection of Bell’s raw field notes is arranged alongside, suggestive of the parallel universe of anthropological inquiry that exists alongside this visual investigation. Jackson and Bell’s collaborative activities aim to “picture the north” as heterogenous and variable rather than reproducing further cliched images of the arctic as a place of either extreme fragility or boundless opportunity.
Mackenzie Place explores the legacies of colonialism through an unlikely lens, by holding the viewer’s attention on the structures of development and how people live within them.
Jesse Colin Jackson is a Canadian artist based in Southern California. He explores the architectures we construct—from buildings to landscapes to virtual worlds—through objects and images made with digital visualization and fabrication technologies. His interactive Marching Cubes performances and installations (2016—present) have been featured in New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Mexico City, Stockholm, and Tehran. Other exhibitions include Suburban Ecologies (Great Park Gallery, 2020), Skip Stop (PNG, 2019), Radiant City (PNG, 2014), Automatic/Revisited (Latitude 44, 2013), and West Lodge (Convenience, 2009). Jackson has held fellowships with the Newkirk Center for Science & Society (2022-23), Beall Applied Innovation (2020-22), and the Hellman Foundation (2014-15). At the University of California, Irvine, Jackson is an Associate Professor of Electronic Art & Design in the Department of Art, the Associate Dean, Research and Innovation for the Claire Trevor School of the Arts, and the Executive Director of the Beall Center for Art + Technology. He taught previously at OCAD University and the University of Toronto.
For press and other inquiries, please contact Pari Nadimi Gallery at (416) 591-6464 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org