In this essay, Jennifer Krasinski will offer both a critical and journalistic dispatch from the archives of cultural critic Jill Johnston, focusing on correspondence and ephemera related to the writing of her two essays “The Grandest Tiger” and “The Unhappy Spectator” (both 1968). From 1959 until the late 1970s, Jill Johnston (1929–2010) was a critic for the Village Voice, covering dance, painting, sculpture, Happenings, and all the other forms that managed to land somewhere in between. This essay will aim first to provide a rigorous and thoughtful history of the author and her two aforementioned texts, and will also evolve into a conversation with Johnston across time on the functions of writing, the limits of language, the fates of feminism, and the potential for art criticism to be a radical and independent art form.
Jennifer Krasinski began her career as a performer in New York City’s downtown experimental theater community, working with such directors as Richard Foreman and Richard Maxwell. She has written on the subjects of performance, film, and video for publications including Art in America, Bidoun, frieze, Modern Painters, Spike Art Quarterly, East of Borneo, and n+1 Film Review. Her experimental fiction and essays have appeared in Punk Planet, Joyland, Mythym, Pazmaker, and Frozen Tears. A chapbook of her short stories, Prop Tragedies, was published by Wrath of Dynasty in 2010, and she is currently at work on a book-length fiction titled Autopsy-Turvy. She is an adjunct faculty member in both the fine art and media design graduate programs at Art Center College of Design. She has also taught at New York University, the University of Southern California, and the San Francisco Art Institute.