Session 1 : Safety. Counter-security by Evan Calder Williams

Film programme and talk

The language of security has long carried a broad range of echoes and implications that move between finance, the built world, military affairs, surveillance, and a toxic stew of affects and anxiety. Yet in the past two decades, the now-omnipresent term gained even greater reach, especially connected with the declaration of the endless ‘war on terror’. In the formation of the United States Department of Homeland Security, for instance, governmental concerns as diverse as immigration control and enforcement, disaster prep, nuclear detection, and cyber warfare were joined into a single organization (and amorphous collection of often racialized
fears) that targets anything deemed a threat to ongoing order. On the ground of a longer historical trajectory, this talk considers what the rise of security has meant for the spaces in which we dwell and argues that it needs to be understood as only the most visible form of an ongoing element of global capital: both the construction and destruction of working-class zones of life as a form of disciplinary violence, control, accumulation, and shaming. Drawing on the films screened earlier, the recent lethal Grenfell Tower fire, histories of medicine and urban planning, and a range of attempts to contravene both the discourse and mechanisms of security, the talk sketches an outline of what might be called counter-security, a stateless network of care, research, and refusal that works to defend the grounds of a life worth living.


Evan Calder Williams (US, °1982) is the author of Combined and Uneven Apocalypse; Roman Letters; Shard Cinema; and, forthcoming in 2018, The Grid
Aflame. He is the translator, with David Fernbach, of Mario Mieli’s Towards a Gay Communism, forthcoming this fall. His writing has appeared in Film
Quarterly, Mute, WdW Review, The New Inquiry, La Furia Umana, World Picture, and The Journal of American Studies, amongst other publications. He is part of the editorial collective of Viewpoint Magazine and is a founding member of the film and research collective Thirteen Black Cats. His solo and collaborative films, performance, and audio works have been presented La Biennale de Montreal, the Serpentine Gallery, mumok, Portikus, the Whitney Museum, Tramway, Swiss Institute, Artists Space, Images Festival, the Ljubjana Biennial of Graphic Arts, and the Montreal International Festival du Nouveau Cinéma. He received a PhD in Literature from the University of California Santa Cruz, and he teaches theory at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College and film production at Cooper Union.