From the exhibition Judson Dance Theater: The Work Is Never Done, running at the Museum of Modern Art through February 3: Andy Warhol, “Jill and Freddy Dancing,” 1963. 16mm film (black and white, silent), 4 minutes. Original film elements preserved by the Museum of Modern Art Collections of the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Contribution the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.
by Jill Johnston
Copyright 2005 Jill Johnston
(If journalism is the first draft of history, Jill Johnston, writing initially in the pages of the Village Voice, was the first historian of the Judson Dance Theater — whose legacy the Museum of Modern Art is celebrating through February 3 — with columns which also served as the first draft of Jill, Johnston being one of the founders of a personal style of reporting which became known as the New Journalism. In conjunction with the MoMA exhibition, the DI/AV is resurrecting the Jill Johnston Letter, first exclusively syndicated on the DI from 2005 until Johnston’s death in 2010. The essay below was originally commissioned by Sally Banes for her book “Reinventing Dance in the 1960s,” published by the University of Wisconsin Press in 1999. This version was revised and edited by the author. Special thanks to Ingrid Nyeobe.)
I’m studying a list of performances I did during the 1960s, looking for a common thread, or at least some sweeping reason for having done them. There were 13 performances altogether, although two had only one audience member. That was Andy Warhol, who was shooting them as home movies. One took place the day of JFK’s funeral in November 1963 at Billy Kluver’s house in New Jersey. I doubt that it was premeditated, and I have no memory of what we were both doing there. But while the funeral was in progress on TV in the living room, Andy was shooting me in Billy’s muddy backyard running around in circles with a rifle slung over my shoulder, wearing a beret, a red jacket, cut-offs, and tall black boots. Afterwards, we drove into the city to a party where Larry Rivers, taken by my outfit, asked me to pose for him at his Chelsea Hotel studio for a painting as a Moon Woman. When he was finished I appeared life-size in one panel of a diptych; the other panel would be occupied by a painting of an astronaut in full gear. Was posing for Larry also a performance? I suppose so, by the lights of the sixties. But my list includes only dance-like or dance-contextualized activities. Or things that were Happenings, the form that a number of “dance” performances assumed then. Dance quote unquote was a leading conundrum of the day. If it was done at the Judson Church by the Judson Dance Theater, no matter what it was, it was called dance…..
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