Pound it

Pound it! (2022) is a performance by Kexin Hao, Rachwill Breidel and Tingyi Jiang.

Sticky rice cakes, known as mochi in Japan, nian gao in China, and chapssal-tteok in Korea, are an East Asian treat traditionally consumed at the Lunar New Year. Glutinous rice is processed into a sticky paste and then molded into shapes, folded around fillings or cooked again with other ingredients.

Though there are numerous varieties, its traditional preparation always involves pounding. Cooked glutinous rice is placed in a knee-high mortar and ground, pounded and kneaded, all by hand. A modern household appliance provides a high-speed, automated solution for making sticky rice cakes. But in the old days, there was no substitute for a laborious cooperative manual pounding session. As it undergoes hit after hit, the rice gradually becomes grainless, transforming into a solid, cohesive, viscous entity. The chewiness and clinginess makes for a mouthful of luxury to be enjoyed only once a year.

In the work Pound It! we not only want to revive the tradition of sticky rice pounding but also to transcend this activity with a hybrid performance and multisensory experience involving music, choreography, rituals, clubbing and catering. The rice-pounding utensils are self-made and have been adapted into motion-sensitive percussion instruments. By beating the mallet and dropping the pestle in designed rhythmic patterns, we produce alternating bass beats in time with electronic Caribbean music composed live on site. As the viscosity and elasticity of the rice increases, the pounding movement develops along with and shapes the choreography on stage. In the end, we serve the sticky rice cakes to the crowd, and we eat together.

With this work we challenge the conventions of electronic music by bringing organic and manual elements into a live composition. The rice is the central force that influences all the other elements – the movement, the rhythms, the music, the crowd. Everything is about cooperating, conversing and synchronizing. We also want to introduce a new way of clubbing by reducing the need for the binary setup of a DJ booth in front of a dance floor. Clubbing can grow out of an activity, a type of labor, a food preparation process, a catering service.

A spoonful of unusual intimacy will be experienced within the mouth and within the crowd – but before it’s served, we pound it!

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