The "Divide by Zero” Performance
Zafer Aracagok and Yolande Harris
at Platform Art Centre, Istanbul, 11 February 2006
"It questions the entrances and exits. And doing so, it raises questions about limits. For example, how do you read a map? How do you transform your thought into a map?
Perhaps, it’s better to start with a life experience. When we started this project with Yolande Harris, we started from a scratch. And this was an actual scratch. Yolande came to my studio with a pen and a paper where she wrote N O I S E and we recorded the sound of pen writing on paper.
I wondered then about the distance between the letters. I wondered about the unpronounced sounds between the letters. For example, the distance between N and O and I and S and E. Then I also thought about what it takes to reach the sound N? What other sounds are eliminated in order to produce the sound which we know as “N”? And not only to N but to all the other signifying letters … signifying sounds.
There are probably some other means of dealing with these questions but I thought perhaps Xenon’s paradox could offer an entry to this map of sounds and an exit at the same time.
Xenon’s paradox, as you might know it, problematizes the distance between two given points. In other words, to reach from one point to another, from a to b, from 1 to 2, or from 0 to 1 becomes problematique. Xenon takes a line, divides it into two, and then into two again and again just to show the impossibility of reaching the required destination unless one takes the limit of the smallest distance. And the limit in this scheme is only an abstraction without which one can never reach this destination.
And now for the musical score. How to transfer this thought onto a musical score? Not in an orderly but in a disorderly fashion? In other words, not as in a binary but in a rhizomatic manner? So that entering the score remains a problem?
Remember, we had started from a scratch. Scratch as a trace. Any given score is never empty but is haunted with sounds, traces of sounds, or scratches. A sound refers to other sounds in order to be a sound. And the problem then was how to reach from one given sound to another. We had started from a scratch and building on this scratch, made experiments with playing instruments, with recording, and with composition.
Another day, Yolande came along with what she called “bloppings” which endlessly divided the linearity of the score into unequal lengths. Xenon’s paradox, I thought, but in a sonic and disorderly fashion.
As I was experimenting one day with collected sounds and recordings and loading the software with different layers, my laptop crashed and gave me the following warning: “Divide by Zero.” Normally, I like pushing whatever software I am using to a crisis so it functions by not functioning and visa versa. That was a perfect name for what we were trying to do on a musical score: divide it infinitely so that any sound on it will remember its trace as it aims to reach itself and as it extends to another sound.
And then other entries came along. This time dictionary entries on sound and noise brought along and read by Yolande as the complexity of the question of entering a score was not complicated enough. However, this diversity not only complicated the question of entering but also any entry based on “sound” as in the case of starting from a scratch: N O I S E.
What we will do here tonight therefore will be another attempt at starting from a scratch – that is, from the recorded scratch which we call “Divide by Zero” and divide it differently this time. All because, what starting from a scratch means on a score that is presumed to be haunted with sounds is nothing but confronting the impossibility of not being able to divide it endlessly."
Posted by Clifford Duffy at Friday, October 05, 2007