The Last Performance

lastperformanceThe Last Performance by Judd Morrissey is a collaborative literary project which uses several thousand source texts to construct a visual, animated piece. It is a strange piece to navigate, to say the least, combining aspects of hypertext poetry, the style of Sea and Spar Between and a constantly shifting “dance” of a submitted lexia. In a sense, it seems to be much more anchored in the aesthetic of performance art than the more mechanical or hypertextual side, leaving a very wide door open for interpretation.

The most interesting quality of this piece that I found was that, in a way, it’s a culmination of most of the genres of elit that we’ve studied this semester (games excluded.) It seems highly reliant upon the precedent set and the paths tread by earlier works, expanding upon them and integrating them into a new product. In a way, it’s a work that’s almost entirely contingent upon its many paratexts–ranging from the submitted texts which comprise its multitude of shapes to the texts from which it draws its mechanics. While I can’t speak much on its meaning, I can argue with great certainty that The Last Performance is a sort of evolutionary step of the medium, consuming the ideas of its predecessors and reconstructing them.

This quality raises a few questions about the nature of appropriation in electronic literature. Obviously, the perception of appropriation varies between media, but elit seems to be the most colloquially “open” medium in the sense that it’s entirely permissive of taking, re-working, and continually building upon prior foundations rather than trying to maintain the appearance of “starting from scratch” with every new text. We saw this in the beginning of the course with the likes of Taroko Gorge and Takei, George, as well as further reconstructions and emulations of prior works. The likes of those works, as well as The Last Performance, raises the question on what kind of dynamic appropriation brings to electronic literature as a medium.


  4 comments for “The Last Performance

  1. asanixay
    April 21, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    It’s really hard to say what the point is for The Last Performance. But maybe trying to interpret it is the goal of Judd Morrissey. What I can try to attempt to figure out is looking at the words that are laid out on the screen and try to put them in a passage. From the way you are describing The Last Performance, it sounds like a work of art. If one were to go to any art gallery, they could spend hours looking at an art piece and try to interpret the meaning of it. The interpretation of the artist may or may not be seen through the eyes of their artwork’s observers. The Last Performance may as well be Judd Morrissey’s perception of a certain topic.

  2. scolliga
    April 21, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    I agree that this definitely seems more like an art piece than a regular “text,” as its visual component is its most important one. However, it is certainly calling to attention the importance of words, phrases and the malleability of language and meaning. I’m convinced that there’s a definite reason this is title “The LAST Performance.” What I got from this was that this is perhaps meant to emulate all well-known phrases and combinations of words in English that have been used (which is an obscenely large amount, of course), and simply re-purpose them. This is basically a Ginsberg-like idea of finding the art of the seemingly banal text that surrounds us, and a reminder that being original with language is an increasingly rare thing.

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