Following hot on the heels of the on-demand release of I Am (Not) A Monster and on the eve of the opening of ‘The Work of Time’, an exhibition at Z33, on the 21st of May, Nelly Ben Hayoun has been interviewed by Rekto Verso!

In the interview Nelly talks about the movie, University of the Underground and the nature of monstrosity. Check out an excerpt from the interview below and read the rest of the interview here!

You can watch I Am (Not) A Monster on demand on Vimeo here, and you can find out more about Z33’s exhibition here.


How does German philosopher and political thinker Hannah Arendt guide you in your quest? She seems to be your partner the route in your philosophical road trip. You even crawl into her skin, as a performance.
Ben Hayoun: ‘The process of the film depicts Arendt’s thinking (in whose political theory plurality and ideology criticism play an important role, particularly in her book The Origin of Totalitarianism(1955), ed.). I take her work as a starting point for my research and try to develop a method based on her thoughts. Actually I am talking to her work, a conversation that is inevitably asymmetrical because she cannot answer me. This is contrary to dialogue as the basic form of philosophy, a form of discussion with someone to develop truly critical thinking. That is why I also talk to her former students, thinkers such as Arjun Appadurai and Leon Botstein. ‘

Have you played with the idea of ​​unraveling the monstrous powers in our society?
Ben Hayoun: ‘It is related to the foundation of The University of the Underground in 2017, when we received fierce criticism based on an irrational fear. We were accused of receiving gifts and assumed that organizations like ours would end public education. Although we have a powerful network, we only study 15 students per year. It was a shock to be confronted with this criticism, although I can understand that people are shocked by the changes we propose. “

Hannah Arendt did not believe that education should be a government issue.
Ben Hayoun: ‘Indeed, and I follow her. Of course, there must be education and support from the government in the service of the republic or democracy, but the problem is that you cannot currently believe that a government is completely democratic or completely a republic. This means that you must be able to offer alternative forms of education that determine their own policy.

In our case, that is a transnational idea: to cross or redefine boundaries. And that in several areas, including the cultural aspect. The fears and criticisms we received with the University of the Underground and the fact that I was portrayed as an outcast were intense. ”