Greg Ulmer's "The Object of Post Criticism"

It is here important to refer to Greg Ulmer's essay, "The Object of Post Criticism" in The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture. In this essay Ulmer sussinctly describes a set of potentials related to new forms of critical writing. Ulmer presents the following concept:

I will argue, following White's lead, that 'post-criticism'( -modernist, -structuralist) is constituted precisely by the application of the devices of modernist art to critical representations; furthermore, that the principal device taken over by the critics and theorists is the compositional pair collage/montage. (Ulmer, 1983, p. 83)

Recombinant Poetics seeks to build on this concept of the incorporation of collage/montage, through the technological construction of an enabling electronic mechanism, capable of making collage/montage operations which are not fixed, but are, mobile, fleeting, and continuously operational. Unlike the collage/montage environment that Ulmer suggests, A Recombinant Poetic environment enables the vuser to explore a set of modular elements within a continuously active, non-fixed, relativistic environment. An environment that exhibits the qualities of non-closure. Ulmer continues:

The interest of collage as a device for criticism resides partly in the objectiveist impulse of cubism (as opposed to the non-objective movements wich it inspired). The cubist collage, by incorporating directly into the work an actual fragment of the referent (open form), remains "representational" while breaking completely with the trompe l'oeil illusionism of traditional realism. (Ulmer, 1983, p. 84)

Recombinant Poetic works potentially explore every different kind of "illusionistic" digital image, ranging from rendered 3D objects to digital photo stills, to time-based digital video. In virtual worlds the map is potentially coextensive with the territory. Obviously this is no longer just a collaged/montaged textual environment, but now incorporates the differing "languages" of music, digital video, virtual space, spatial text, and spoken voice. Ulmer goes on to say:

The operation which may be recognized as a kind of "bricolage" (Lêvi Strauss), includes four characteristics- dêcoupage (or severing); performed or extant messages or materials; assemblage (montage); discontinuity or heterogeneity. "Collage" is a transfer of materials from one context to another, and "montage" is the "dissemination" of these borrowings through the new settings (Ulmer, 1983, p. 84).

The paradigm of Recombinant Poetics incorporates each of the above strategies, but it does so within an operative, interactive environment enabling on-going change and non-fixity. We could call a Recombinant Poetic device, an operational "post-criticism" discourse mechanism.

Later Ulmer talks about Barthes relation to the question of post-criticism:

Barthes explained that modernist poets, beginning at least with Mallarmê, had demonstrated already the unification of poetry and criticism - that literature was itself a critique of language, and that criticism had no "meta"-language capable of describing or accounting for literature. Barthes concluded that the categories of literature and criticism could no longer be kept apart, that now there were only writers. The relation of the critical text to its object of study was to be conceived in terms of no longer subject-object but of subject-predicate (authors and critics both facing the same material-language), with critical "meaning" being a "simulacrum" of the literary text, a new "flowering" of the rhetoric of literature."(Ulmer, 1983, p. 86)

This notion of "critical meaning" being a "simulacrum of the literary text," is expanded within the project of Recombinant Poetics to include all digital media as potentially explored within a cyber-polysemic media space; entered via an interface conjoining physical space with virtual space and negotiated through a physical interface, whose physical motion or vuser driven behaviour, is mapped onto the virtual world in a palpable manner, enabling functionality within that world; navigation and poetic construction.

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