Program — The Formaldehyde Trip

Thursday and Friday, March 16–17, 2017
8 p.m.
Phyllis Wattis Theater

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.

A close up portrait of Naomi Rincon Gallardo

Naomi Rincón Gallardo


With an interest in radical histories and speculative fictions, Mexico City-based artist Naomi Rincón Gallardo works across performance and video to investigate utopian possibilities and belief. Her often music-based narratives draw on counter-cultural forms like punk, DIY aesthetics, and queer identities to reframe touchstones in Mexican and Mesoamerican politics. As both an artist and an educator, she foregrounds research tools from feminist theory and radical theater to imagine new types of social engagement, encounter, and play. In 2016, SFMOMA commissioned Rincón Gallardo to create a new work titled The Formaldehyde Trip, which weaves together Mesoamerican cosmologies, feminist activism and theory, and indigenous women’s struggles for their territories.