This seminar traces a history of how we live through and against subsumption, that process where particular activities and forms of life are absorbed into and transformed by an abstraction, category, or material system that dwarfs them. Most famously, the idea of subsumption was used to understand how modes of work and daily life, from farming to family structures, were not only incorporated into the emerging markets of capitalism but were also remade through this incorporation. They became inseparable from forms of value that demand and profit from their mutations – and which seek to naturalize and excuse these shifts through recourse to claims about race, gender, free will, and human nature.
One can’t speak of subsumption neutrally or at a single moment. It always opens to a tangled history, a transition with no clear end in sight. In this way, to ask about subsumption now isn’t a question of academic curiosity. It’s a way of grappling with many of the most obscure yet forceful processes at work on and through us today, from financial to meteorological turbulence, from automation to debt. This workshop begins with these contemporary tendencies and ranges back through film, software, literature, technology, theory, architecture, and art of the last three centuries to ask a different question about subsumption: how is it experienced? What might it to do to our understanding of contemporary society to start not from a fantasy of clear distance or rational overview but from the necessarily fractured and partial viewpoint of those caught in these tides of transformation? To examine this means leaving behind the more stable terrain of philosophy or political history to move instead amongst a scattered array of the often anonymous, unauthored, and copied that, for our workshop, will include poems, video games, paintings, highways, and offices, as well as sabotage, strikes, and insurrections, all those attempts that matter precisely for how they take on and seek to amplify the contradictions of the systems that enclose them.
Mon, Oct 3, 20166:30 pm to 8:30 pm
Tue, Oct 4, 20166:30 pm to 8:30 pm
Wed, Oct 5, 20166:30 pm to 8:30 pm
Evan Calder Williams is a writer, theorist, and artist. He received a PhD in Literature from the University of California Santa Cruz and was a Fulbright Fellow in Italy for his research on cinema, industry, and revolt. He is the author of Combined and Uneven Apocalypse and Roman Letters. His writing has appeared in Film Quarterly, Mute, The Journal of American Studies, Radical Philosophy, Historical Materialism, Third Rail, and The New Inquiry. He has presented films, performance, and audio works at the Serpentine Gallery, the Whitney Museum, Tramway, Artists Space, Images Festival, ISSUE Project Room, the Ljubjana Biennial of Graphic Arts, and the Montreal International Festival du Nouveau Cinéma. He is part of the editorial collective of Viewpoint Magazine and works, with Lucy Raven and Victoria Brooks, as Thirteen Black Cats, a research and production collective for moving images. He was a 2015 artist-in-residence at ISSUE Project Room, and is currently a faculty member at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College.