Employing malikoda as a method to paint is not just a novel way to produce images.
It is also a provocation to think about how we might differently listen, developing different stances on musical practices that might allow musics to challenge the ways we relate to each other–and ultimately to imagine new modes of relatedness beyond musical contexts
But for this provocation to move beyond structures of settler listening and spectatorship, Rahic introduces a number of impasses. Most notably, although he applies paint by dancing, his work does not offer an image of dancing Indigenous bodies.
I will call this feature of his work mimetic refusal.
By mimetic refusal, I mean not just a kind of refusal of content, but a refusal of a structure in which Indigenous bodies are known or included in Taiwan’s multicultural public sphere–a structure that resembles Dylan Robinson’s description of “hungry listening.” By refusing this structure, Rahic actively develops and fosters other possible relationships. To me, this is the point of his work.
Rahic’s recent experimental work, in which he dances across canvases leaving traces of his footprints in sand, bits of millet, and acrylic paint, explore colour and embodiment, not as purely traditional, but within the intersection of endogamous and imported media.
In his process, Rahic begins by misting canvases with rice liquor and singing. Then he strews sand, bits of millet, and glutinous rice across the space. After he dances in a measured tempo across the canvases applying acrylic paint, he concludes with more rice liquor. Many of the canvases used for studies in this series of works, Rahic scavenged from the New East Sugar Factory, where his studio is now located. Other canvases he pieced together from mulberry bark (tapa) cloth sourced from Panay, an elder of the ‘Atolan ‘Amis Nation.
Rahic’s use of materials highlights the ways that Pangcah aesthetics mediate an Indigenous modernity.
More available than woven cloth before the large-scale importation of British and Japanese manufactured cloth in the 19th century, tapa was once frequently used for sewing regalia and everyday clothing. Although today’s regalia employs store brought cloth in a variety of bright colours, Rahic’s use of tapa gestures toward a notion of tradition that precedes these imports.
Nonetheless, as Rahic notes, red fibers first arrived in Mangota’ay before the Qing conquest. Thus in his reflection on the “colour of tradition,” Rahic does not reject imported media in favor of a purist neo-traditionalism; rather Rahic’s gesture registers imported media as a form of Pangcah modernity.
The question is not one of rejection but a kind of historical vision that complicates our sense of tradition within (and across) colonial contexts.
As Rahic dances malikoda on his canvases, his feet apply paint, leaving behind spiral patterns in bright colours. The paint also splashes across his legs and clothing, in a sense highlighting the ways that art objects often excise the embodied activity of art as a process. This excision parallels one in which visual representations of dancing Indigenous bodies elide dance as a practice of fashioning relationships with ancestral presences and within the age set system. The bracketing out of Rahic’s paint stained body and clothing from the “work of art” resembles how dance as a means to create good relationships has been erased from representations of Taiwanese Indigenous Peoples as a component of Taiwan’s cultural heritage—intangible cultural properties that can be deployed in contexts of national representation.
In Rahic’s work, malikoda is neither intangible nor a discrete product that might be owned and circulated. Rather, it is an inter-mediate practice of creating, between and among different media and social groups. Traditional, but also very contemporary, malikoda poses questions concerning the “colour” of voice but provides no simple answer.