Interested in the science of disco? Planning your next luxury trip to the moon? Since 2011, the team of scientists, designers and storytellers at Guerilla Science have been creating interactive installations and events in London and New York to engage the public in topics that would make any STEAM advocate tingle with joy.
Whether it’s a Mutant Circus celebrating the virtues of the humble fruit fly or a Brain Banquet serving up a five course meal accompanied by talks from psychologists, neuroscientists and medical historians, the organization partners with festivals, organizations and museums to bring science to the people. Founded by Jen Wong, Head of Programming at the Science Gallery London, and Mark Rosin, Assistant Professor at Pratt Institute, Guerilla Science wants to revolutionize how audiences experience science through three guiding principles:
We spark curiosity
We defy convention
We inspire wonder
This weekend, Guerilla Science is presenting its first immersive dining experience in the United States along the theme of Decadent Decay. Exploring how decay plays a role in fermenting foods, guests will enjoy a five-course meal, live music and talks about the science of decay. In anticipation of this weekend’s deliciously decadent event, MOLD spoke to Sarah Barker, lead designer, creator and producer of Decadent Decay about democratic science, radioactive decay and why everyone should stay till dessert.
MOLD: Guerilla Science has been engaging with the public for years around science through immersive installations and events. What is the design ethos behind the organization and why is it important to engage the public around science in this way?
Sarah Barker: Our design ethos is driven by the idea that science is a part of all our lives, whatever your interests or background. One of our biggest societal challenges in the 21st Century is ensuring that people are sufficiently educated and engaged with science to sustain our democratic institutions. In the past few months we’ve seen how vast swathes of the electorate feel disenfranchised. Maybe they also feel like the benefits science provides don’t belong to them. Our mission is to show that science is a tool for empowerment that belongs to everyone. We strive to connect science to wider trends in culture. So we go to arts festivals, create immersive dining events and musical performances. We bring science out of the lab and into the realm of playful celebration in a way that speaks to peoples’ every day experience.
This is Guerilla Science’s first immersive dining experience in the US. Why choose the subject of decay?
We wanted a theme for our first US dining experience that would be a rich source of inspiration for both the cuisine, and the scientist and artist collaborators. We felt that decay was perfectly appropriate. Although the theme might immediately trigger thoughts of rotting or moldy food, there are many forms of deliberate decay in food from pickling and preserving, to cheese-making. Decay is such an expansive theme that it provides a rich playground to artists and also features in an array of scientific topics—from the smallest (radioactive decay and bacterial decay) to the largest (entropy and the large-scale decay of the universe).
What are some of the installations and experiences you’re most excited about?
I’m excited about the event as a whole. I’m looking forward to seeing all these elements come together in an immersive setting that has been intricately designed. We are truly transforming the space, and I can’t wait to see how people react to what we have planned. Some of the specific experiences I’m excited about are the world premiere of a new piece specifically written for the event by violinist and composer Jeffrey Young and an interactive art piece called the Dreaming Specter by new media artist Udit Mahajan. Our partner and food designer for the event—Tessa Liebman, head chef of Methods and Madness, has some incredible dishes in store, and I’m particularly excited for the dessert…