Naomi Rincón Gallarado: The Formaldehyde Trip

Thursday, Apr 2 – 4, 2020

220 E. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents Naomi Rincón Gallardo's The Formaldehyde Trip, a cycle of psychedelic songs and videos that imagines martyred Mixtec activist Alberta "Bety" Cariño on a journey through the underworld where she encounters women warriors, witches, widows, the dual-gendered goddess of death, and animals that are all preparing her rebirth party. The music is performed live with ornate props and costumes that echo Mexican B-side sci-fi films of the 1960s and 70s, addressing indigenous women's struggles and dispossession of their bodies, cultures, and territories. An axolotl, or Mexican salamander, preserved in formaldehyde is the storyteller, with sounds and voices from the past meandering throughout the songs. The Formaldehyde Trip takes place in the Edlis Neeson Theater at the MCA from Thursday, April 2, to Saturday, April 4, at 8 pm.

The Formaldehyde Trip is comprised of a screening with its music performed live on stage by the artists in the film. The story of Bety Cariño's life is delivered through lyrics written by Gallardo that are performed in different styles, ranging from opera to pop to punk rock. The lyrics interweave anecdotes from the life of Bety Cariño, who was assassinated in 2010 for her activism regarding women's, indigenous, and queer rights, with questions about identity politics and the distribution of privilege in Latin American communities. Cariño's utopian vision and radical beliefs are explored through DIY costume, psychedelic scenery, musical theater, and movement.

The songs are performed in a series of scenes that take place in various Latin American landscapes and settings. In one vignette, performers in animal masks sing and 'mosh' to metal music inside of a cave made with DIY materials. In another, they present a pop ballad about queer experience on an illuminated rainbow dance floor and wear costumes featuring fake breasts and genitalia. The film culminates in Cariño's rebirth party, which features a pyrotechnics show exalting a larger-than-life salamander sculpture with psychedelic lighting and effects. With references to Latin American traditions and indigenous rituals throughout, the performance has scenes in both Spanish (with subtitles) and English.

Naomi Rincón Gallardo is a transdisciplinary artist, teacher, and researcher who is known for her music-based narratives that draw on countercultural forms like punk, DIY aesthetics, and queer identities to reframe touchstones in Mexican and Mesoamerican politics. She is a 2019-2022 Beneficiary of the National System of Art Creators, a program of the National Fund for Culture and Art in Mexico. Her work has been shown in venues around the world including the Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art in Texas and Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City. Born in North Carolina and based in Mexico City, Rincón Gallardo earned her MFA from Goldsmiths, University of London, and is currently a PhD candidate at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.