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Christopher Williams in Conversation

Christopher Williams speaks to Mark Godfrey about Dix-Huit Leçons Sur La Société Industrielle, the Cold War and Jacques Tati. Mark Godfrey: Where does the title of your series For Example: Dix-Huit Leçons Sur La Société Industrielle (2002-ongoing) come from, and why did you choose it? Christopher Williams: Dix-huit leçons sur la société industrielle is a book by Raymond Aron published in 1963. It is a classic of sociology and economics about the Cold War period. It concerns Soviet Russia, the United States and China to some degree, and its about oil and potatoes and corn. Its a very basic description of the economic structure of the Cold War. I picked up the book because I saw the cover represented in Jean-Luc Godard’s Two or Three Things I Know about Her (1966). Id been told the film was somewhat based on the book, so I went out and bought it and decided that Id use it as a starting place for my new project. The word leçons (lectures) was attractive to me because Ive heard people call my work didactic and I wanted to tackle that criticism head-on. By placing it in my title I raise the question: What lesson am I putting forward? What have I taught you? What am I being didactic about? Of course there is no lesson in any conventional sense. At one point I was thinking about calling the work Industrial Poems after Marcel Broodthaers’s work of the same name, which would have been more in keeping with the way that I think about the work, but I thought Dix-Huit Leçons… would raise more questions about my intentions. Aron’s title also included the reference to industrial society, which fit within the Cold War programme that I wanted to explore.