18 October 2018 7pm
Drawing on research linked to his current exhibition at Mercer Union, theorist and artist Evan Calder Williams moves across technological, political and artistic histories to sketch a theory of subsumption. As a philosophical category, subsumption suggests the gathering of particulars under the sign of a universal, while in Marxist theory, it became a crucial concept to describe how distinct processes are both incorporated and violently transformed – most famously in the factory – to accord with an abstraction nowhere visible in the processes themselves. This talk builds towards a different model of subsumption, one that is attuned to a “theory from below” grounded in how individuals themselves intimately process, and revolt against, enormous historical shifts within which they are caught. In this case, we will focus especially on the unspoken visual conventions that recur throughout nineteenth-century attempts to “objectively” document both industrial work and incarceration. Williams argues that in the profound gap between these and the ways that those employed and jailed in such spaces gave image to them, we can begin to detect the vital importance of a proximate knowledge and chaotic resistance too often deemed inadequately critical, neutral or political.
Evan Calder Williams is a professor at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. He has a forthcoming solo exhibition with 13BC at NYU’s 80WSE (2019). Recent solo and collaborative films, performance, and audio works have been presented at La Biennale de Montréal (2016);Serpentine Gallery, London (2016); Artists Space, New York (2016); Swiss Institute, New York (2016); the Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts (2015); and Images Festival, Toronto (2014). He is the author of two forthcoming books, Manual Override: A Theory of Sabotage (2019) and Prowling Forms (2018). His previously authored books include Shard Cinema (2017); Combined and Uneven Apocalypse (2011); and Roman Letters (2011). He is the translator, with David Fernbach, of a new edition of Mario Mieli’s Towards a Gay Communism (2018). His writing has appeared in publications including Film Quarterly, Frieze, WdW Review, The Italianist, La Furia Umana, World Picture, Cultural Politics, The Journal of American Studies, Mute, Estetica, and The New Inquiry. He is an editor of Viewpoint Magazine and a founding member of the film and research collective 13BC. He received a PhD in Literature from the University of California Santa Cruz (2013) and was a Fulbright Fellow in Italy (2012-11).
fORUM is an ongoing series of talks, lectures, interviews, screenings and performances at Mercer Union. Free as always. Please check the Mercer Union website for details about our upcoming fORUM events.
This lecture is presented in partnership with the MVS ProSeminar at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture Landscape and Design at the University of Toronto.