After 20 years, the Chicago-based performance group Goat Island is close to finding its ending. The last two years of this process have witnessed a slow-motion culminating burst into multiple media. In October 2007 the group began performances of The Lastmaker, its ninth and final work, and The Last Performance [dot org] is writer, digital artist, and Goat Island associate member Judd Morrissey's two-year effort in pursuit of "lastness" via what Morrissey describes as a "constraint-based collaborative writing, archiving and text-visualization project" (Morrissey n.d.). The website that archives The Last Performance [dot org] announces itself as a collaboration between Morrissey, Goat Island, and 158 individuals who have contributed texts to the project. (Goat Island's quest for the last will also find fruition in a film project with the working title Curtain Call.)
The Last Performance [dot org] has been instantiated as an online project, a performance, and an installation. The online version appears to be the heart of the work and is the incarnation most distinct from Goat Island's The Lastmaker. The Last Performance [dot org] as a whole is far from being merely an archive relating to Goat Island's final performance work. Instead, The Last Performance [dot org] functions as an architecture-inspired repository of fragmentary subsequent writings.
In The Lastmaker, architecture looms small. Istanbul's Hagia Sophia serves as a spur to the piece. The performance is organized into three sections that obliquely reference the building's successive identities as church, mosque, and museum. Near the end of The Lastmaker, a small wooden model of the Hagia Sophia—a beautiful piece of folk art by company member and carpenter-by-trade Bryan Saner—is assembled onstage. The decision to represent the Hagia Sophia in miniature downplays the potential of experiencing the building as architecture. [End Page 172] Instead, we encounter the muted glory of an object—albeit an object of veneration. The wooden model of the Hagia Sophia is dwarfed in scale by, for example, the length of the dance sequence that makes up much of the first third of The Lastmaker. Anticipated scale relations are inverted: an austere dance expands, an architectural marvel shrinks. The Hagia Sophia may have provided an impetus for Goat Island, but in no way does it circumscribe the performance.
The Last Performance [dot org], by contrast, is above all architectural. Upon entering the website, the participant encounters an illegibly dense swirl of words in white text on a black background. Lengthy stretches of silence are irregularly punctuated by brief sound samples. One of these is the whinnying of a horse—which may come from Robert Bresson's Lancelot du Lac (1974), given the use of that film's score in The Lastmaker—suggesting that horse, not human, is the last creature standing. The swirl of words suddenly scatters; the white lettering on a black background organizes into a circular pattern with an empty black center that creates a solar eclipse rendered in concrete poetry. Morrissey's blueprint describes the project's organization as a series of "lenses"; he based the site's "Dome" section on the spatial arrangement of 39 circles of increasing size, which result in a total of 4680 windows or lenses like those in the cupola of Zagreb's Džamija. Like the Hagia Sophia, the Dažmija has served multiple functions—from museum to mosque, and then back to museum. In terms of encountering the website, if this sounds disorienting, well, it kind of is. The tenor of one's first encounter with The Last Performance [dot org] is likely to be that of mapping and trying to make sense of the virtual space of the site.
The experience of virtual space in The Last Performance [dot org]—expansive, disorienting, blacker than the night sky—provides a satisfying contrast with the spectator's instantaneous, eagle-eye understanding of The Lastmaker's stage space. During the live performance, space becomes a sort of riff on free verse, the white tape on the floor creating a tennis court...