The Formaldehyde Trip at The Broad
Naomi Rincón Gallardo's Sci-Fi Performance
Traversing pre-history, Mesoamerican cosmology, and sexually free interplanetary-futurism, The Formaldehyde Trip, a live performance with video and songs, creates alternate realms for the overlooked casualties of colonialism. Dedicated to the memory of Bety Cariño, it not only envisions a realm in which Cariño is reborn, but foresees a radically feminist world, where according to the lyrics “you can succeed with or without men.”
A pastiche of references, images, time periods, and cultures populate the video; there are light-up nipples, pyrotechnics, a Victorian era European dandy performing a dissection, a 1980s-styled video game, a river boat adorned with an axolotl, a dance sequence parodying the Swan Lake pas de quatre with dancers linking hand-to-dildo instead of hand-to-hand, and a party with orgiastic communal kneading of wet clay. Live performers play drums and sing lyrics as the video runs in the background; the layered experience mimics the collaged editing and visuals, perceptively transcending genres.
The story is narrated by a strategically mysterious creature preserved in formaldehyde and not developed past childhood, just like the axolotl that never metamorphoses into an adult body. Resistance to adulthood and to being fully knowable exemplifies a state of radical potential. In this state, the hyper-color mash-up of Mesoamerican rituals, David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, and punk laissez faire forms a paranormal alien/digenous collective that creates a supernatural, liberating utopia.
Experimental, nuanced, and like nothing that is currently out there, Naomi Rincón Gallardo’s The Formaldehyde Trip tackles relevant issues about the impacts of capitalism on third world countries and colonial fascination with the other. Approaching these sobering topics through an entertaining and wildly fun performance, one is optimistically thrust into a state of open-ended possibilities. A final song asks, “Como le haces?” or, “How do you cope?” closing the work with a question about self-healing and effective resistance to living within known systems of cruelty, control, and containment.
The Formaldehyde Trip, Written and Directed by Naomi Rincón Gallardo, January 20, 2018, The Broad Museum, 221 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012. www.thebroad.org