Naomi Rincón Gallardo’s The Formaldehyde Trip transforms recent history into mythic journey. This live cinema concert imagines the Oaxaca-based, Mixtec activist Alberta “Bety” Cariño — who was killed in a paramilitary ambush in April 2010 — in her passage through the underworld. Planted rather than buried, the traveling Cariño encounters warriors, witches, and the Mesoamerican god/goddess of death as she becomes the seed for a new feminist life. The Formaldehyde Trip also unfolds as the dream of an axolotl, a salamander-like native to Mexico City that, in its home environment, resists metamorphosis and does not grow from an aquatic to a land-dweller. Filmed in the canals of Xochimilco (Mexico City), Oaxaca, Berlin, Vienna, and at Galería de la Raza (San Francisco), the axolotl, like Cariño herself, eludes Western classifications as it calls to indigenous knowledge, possibilities, and locales. The road to Utopia winds through revolt.
— Frank Smigiel, associate curator, performance and film
Naomi Rincón Gallardo’s The Formaldehyde Trip was commissioned by SFMOMA as a part of Performance in Progress, and was co-curated by SFMOMA and Galería de la Raza.