View of “Jill Johnston: The Disintegration of a Critic,” 2019.

View of “Jill Johnston: The Disintegration of a Critic,” 2019.

“Jill Johnston: The Disintegration of a Critic”

Bergen Kunsthall

The word metamorphosis usually conjures the image of a caterpillar in its cocoon, converting itself into a moth or a butterfly. But a different image came to me when I visited this exhibition on the writer Jill Johnston’s transfiguration from an analytic dance critic into a radical, lyrical, mostly autobiographical essayist covering the avant-garde performance scene of the 1960s and ’70s, with a focus on lesbian separatism and its role in women’s liberation. Strange as it may seem, I pictured a childhood science experiment in which I immersed an egg in vinegar, which melted its shell, leaving a bouncy golden orb. This feeling of watching something, or someone, dissolve might be due to the show’s title, “Jill Johnston: The Disintegration of a Critic,” a line borrowed from a 1969 panel organized by Johnston to announce her break from traditional criticism. For that event, she invited the

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