The 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.