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Socialism and/or Barbarism
By Evan Calder Williams
Notes on a once & future nightmare. S a/o B 2008-2011
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Sabotage Talk #3: Space, or, Birds too stuffed with Polynices’ corpse to augur worth a damn

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Response

 The “controlled in situ burn,” Gulf of Mexico, 2010


This coming Monday, 4/28, at 6:30, will be the third talk in my series on sabotage and capital at the Center for Transformative Media at The New School. This one is, in a few ways, the first time in a long while that I’m coming back to some of my earlier thinking about apocalypse (as something that is not an event to come but a present and ongoing geographical distribution of hell). I’m happy to be joined this time by my friend Sabu Kohso, a theorist and translator who has been doing remarkable work on the aftermath of Fukushima. After my talk, he’ll respond, and then we’ll have an open chat about pollution, cities, and, as we started digging into last time, the pesky category of life. As always, free and open to public. (To avoid difficulty in breaching New School’s security measures/getting into the building, put your name here.)

The Sabotage of Space

April 28th, 7 - 10 PM, E206 Glass corner conf. room at 25 East 13th street, 2nd floor

The qualities that made sabotage one of the twentieth century’s bad words – its cunning, conspiracy with complex apparatuses, invisibility, and “time-release” effect – are not qualities it invented. Rather, they are found in the basic coordinates of that century’s spatial system. If, as the previous talk explored, the history of sabotage is one of drift and diffusion, moving from a specific practice in wage-centered struggles through legal and military codification to a general concept of subterfuge and hostility, it is so only as an index of real changes happening to and through the material networks of capital. This talk considers those networks and changes through the lens of sabotage, focusing in particular on two histories: the Metropolis, both as the large city and as the process of expansion that dissolves the coherence of the city/country divide, and pollution, as an idea giving the West nightmares for a good two millennia and now showing itself inseparable from daily life.

Topics include: Kiev’s ice barricades; Doreen Massey’s feminist geography; miasma, blocked signals, and the birds of Antigone; recent digital animation; Deepwater Horizon and the burning ocean; floods of work and water; Piranesi’s serpents; Günther Anders and Massimo Cacciari; the earth’s crust.

Violent X


Violent X Poster Lo Res 2

AKA, One Cop Will Risk Everything to Make Sure There’s Only One of Him

 I’m excited to say that next weekend, I will be premiering my new film, Violent X, as a live performance at Images Festival in Toronto (4/18) and ISSUE Project Room in New York City (4/19) with my collaborator Taku Unami, who’s coming from Tokyo for the occasion. The work joins, often quite literally, a number of the currents that have carried my thinking, writing, and watching along in past years. It’s an anti-cop cop film, a film of historical inquiry, a pulp film of popping wheelies on dirt bikes and crawling under lasers, a film of landscape but not nature, a film of conspiracy and architecture, a film of blur and overlay, a film about minor details, glitches, damage, senseless repetition, disaster, and, above all, the war over time. I’ve been away from public writing for a spell – working towards this is why. I hope you’ll be able to join me.

Press description, performance info, and images below

(My particular thanks to Images Festival for the backing without which this film and especially these live performances would not have been possible.)

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Violent X

Written, directed, and narrated by Evan Calder Williams

Music by Taku Unami

In the midst of the street fighting and social collapse of Italy’s 1970s, a talented and ruthless police inspector in Rome is fighting his own war on crime when he stumbles onto a disturbing fact: someone is impersonating him, identical down to the mustache and fingerprints. In fact, there may be not just one but an innumerable horde of these bad copies scattered across the country. And to make matters worse, all seem to be taking the law into their own hands, inexplicably multiplying his one-man campaign for vengeance into a veritable killing spree. And so, while trying to ward off what may be the ghost of long-dead revolutionary Carlo Pisacane, the inspector sets out to put an end to not only his glitchy and murderous imitations but also the arcane source from which they sprung…

The first part of a planned trilogy, Violent X is an experimental cop horror film constructed from the materials of a dense cycle of low-budget Italian action movies made between 1973 and 1978. For this project, Williams assembled five thousand digital stills  from these films into an animated, overlaid, and narrated document that draws out the small gestures and social world glimpsed in the background of every shootout. It is joined by a new musical score, composed and performed by Tokyo-based musician Taku Unami for the film, that mines the history of soundtracks, such as those of John Carpenter and Franco Micalizzi, and incorporates sonic elements from the same cycle of films. In both sound and image, Violent X is at once a history of circulation, tracking such films through the working class theaters of Italy into contemporary torrents and bad transfers, and a new speculative tale, one of violent cops and copying, haunted hippodromes and riots, and a conspiracy that refuses to quit.

The Canadian and US Premieres of Violent X feature a live voice and synth improvisation by Unami and Williams. This performance joins its work of pulp and radical history to early instances of cinema narration and accompaniment and conjures in sound, words, and halting frames the high-speed chases and low-grade rip-offs that marked an era’s subterranean thought.


Images Festival (Toronto)

Friday April 18th,  9:30 PM

[The film/performance will be proceeded by a screening of Deborah Stratman's excellent Hacked Circuit]


ISSUE Project Room (Brooklyn)

Saturday April 19th at 8 PM

[Followed by a second set where Unami collaborates with philosopher Eugene Thacker and scientist Jarrod Fowler in a musical and non-musical improvisation]

Video of sabotage talk n. 2 (booby traps, leaked prison plans, and cunning beasts)

Screen Shot 2014-03-07 at 5.21.08 PM

For those interested who couldn’t make it, here is the video of my talk (starting at 8’40″) on Monday on time and sabotage. As often the case, this is not the reading of a written essay but a more open-ended talk based off a set of notes. (A written version of these thoughts will be coming out as a short book this summer and will become a larger project after that.) The video includes the excellent questions posed to me after and the more ranging discussion we all had.

[Note: The film clip I show, from Buster Keaton's Our Hospitality, can be found here and runs to the point that the donkey trots away]


The Sabotage of Time


For those in NYC, I’ll be giving the next talk in my series on sabotage at  this coming Monday, March 10th. (For those not, it’ll be available on video after the fact.)

March 10, 7 PM – 9 PM

E206 Glass corner conf. room  25 East 13th street, 2nd floor
One of sabotage’s central qualities, and a primary cause of its frequent demonization throughout the last century, is its peculiar timescale. This is a mode of time fundamentally opposed to the identity of subject and act that underpins any representational politics, be it voting or street protests. In place of that, sabotage suggests making use of the very paths and delays of circulation. By the time the damage is discovered, no one source can be found, because the commodity, technique, or idea has already routed through the world in the name of capitalizing on uneven zones of wealth and resource. It is a failure without an author. Running counter to the very idea that one should stand up and be counted, sabotage hijacks the time of circulation and arms it against itself.

Some topics include: friction, feedback, and hoards; Doreen Massey’s geography; book 2 of Capital; Castoriadis, Simondon, and Stiegler on technical time; factory architecture; steamship ruins in the Bermejo River; Chaplin vs. Keaton; supply chains; Ballard; cunning and speed.

Relevant links are here (reserve a free ticket at the first one if you’re coming):