Aye caramba! Superworm tacos with a spritz of lime juice.
Phillip Ross imagines a world where people munch on tacos
stuffed with superworms and mini operas accompany live organ dissections
projected on overhead screens for gallery-perusing patrons. And as with any
good artist, his imaginings have a way of becoming reality.
The mini operatics, as Ross – a University of San Francisco
assistant professor of Art + Architecture – calls them, will be held in San
Francisco’s Southern Exposure gallery later this year. The tacoed worms, three
varieties? Well, that happened in San Francisco’s Mission District at the Urban
Project’s community space in October.
It’s not your everyday world, admittedly. But then, that’s
“We want to invite our audience to explore the world of
physical anatomy, and to re-imagine the relationship between music, the body,
and art,” said Ross, of the event combining short opera performances with
scientific organ dissections. “We will be getting metaphorical with this one,
and venturing into the vaunted Bay Area tradition of putting on a weird
He calls his work “edutainment.” But, the roots of Ross’
enthusiasm for meshing science and art could hardly be more serious. Caring for
friends and colleagues suffering from HIV/AIDS in the late ’80s and early ’90s,
he remembers feeling bewildered by the science. “I had to learn a lot about
chemistry, biology, and anatomy just to be able to talk to doctors,” Ross said.
It was out of that brow-furrowing circumstance that Ross’
initiative, Critter Salon, first blossomed. Critter is Ross’ ongoing endeavor to
bring the public in contact with biology and ecology in social event settings.
Supported, in part, by a research grant from USF to develop
and promote public education strategies, Ross’ mission is to find opportunities
to teach laypeople about biology and ecology. He has found that one popular way
of doing that is to involve some sort of food and music.
“Many people have an interest in or opening to biology or
ecology in their daily lives, for example in gardening or brewing beer,” Ross
said. “I create a social space to go more in-depth and engage with some of
these topics that once you’re out of school you don’t necessarily get the
opportunity to explore.”