"To endure five twelve-hour days of a Jack Smith conference is to realize that Smith isn't exactly the kind of figure you organize a conference for," writes David Velasco, reporting on LIVE FILM! JACK SMITH! Five Flaming Days in a Rented World!, an event that took place in October in Berlin. "Or rather it is to understand that to subject an artist like Smith (is there another artist like Smith?) to the institutional colloquy of scholars, artists, and peers is to risk seeking a canonical recuperation that inverts the analysand's own tropisms.... Thankfully, the conference... was less hagiography and more 'freaky pedagogy,' to use Amy Sillman's term."
Also in the new issue of Artforum: "The seemingly endless minutes spent in thrall to one of [Bruce] McClure's performances become both profoundly materialist and transportively idealist," writes Ed Halter: "the former because the auditor-spectator cannot but be deeply mindful of the physical fact of the machines themselves as they relentlessly produce their affective oscillations, the latter because such an experience elicits trancelike states of time dilation and near-hallucinogenic euphoria.... McClure avoids terming himself an artist ('a word I tend to shy away from, as much as I can, out of some sort of infantile paralysis,' he demurs), preferring instead to be called a performer. Though he has done events in galleries and museums, he operates more in the context of experimental film and, recently, avant-garde music."
Akram Zaatari's 11-minute video Nature Morte "was conceived for the Centre Pompidou's 2008 exhibition Les Inquiets (The Anxious), which examined representations of war through the work of five contemporary artists on both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict," writes Kaelen Wilson-Goldie. "It marked a pivotal moment in Zaatari's oeuvre, which comprises videos, photographs, multimedia installations, authored and coedited publications, an ambitious urban intervention in the Lebanese port city of Saida (where the artist was born), and two carefully curated film programs. Over the past decade, Zaatari has established himself in Beirut as one of the most respected artists of Lebanon's so-called postwar generation. Like other members of that generation, he employs documentary practices while subverting them to expose the fallibility of both history and memory.
Plus, Amy Taubin on Corneliu Porumboiu's Police, Adjective, "a film about language, particularly how the contradictory usages of certain words are dead giveaways for the state of a society." See, too, December 23's entry.
Not too many films are daring to go up against Avatar and this batch by opening in theaters this week and most of those that have opened on Wednesday. Still:
"The Irish narrative tradition of the bleakly hilarious - the plays of Samuel Beckett and Martin McDonagh, Neil Jordan's brilliant screen adaptation of Patrick McCabe's Butcher Boy - is honored with gusto in Ian FitzGibbon's A Film With Me in It, a slender, supple comedy graced with appealing performers and laced with agreeable poison." Andy Webster in the New York Times. More from Joseph Jon Lanthier (Slant), Nick Pinkerton (Voice) and James van Maanen.
And opening in the UK is Gerardo Naranjo's I'm Gonna Explode, an "eruption of teen angst and hormones" that "pills off the diary pages of its young heroes and on to the streets and rooftops of the Mexican city of Guanajuato," writes Ryan Gilbey in the New Statesman. A bit more from Peter Bradshaw (Guardian), Dave Calhoun (Time Out London), Kevin Maher (Times) and Sukhdev Sandhu (Telegraph).
For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow @theauteursdaily (RSS). The current year-end and decade-end tracker is still going strong; see, too, our own second annual writers poll, "Fantasy Double Features of 2009," parts 1, 2 and 3.