“SHINY GOLD” is Nelly Ben Hayoun’s solo show at Gaité Lyrique- an immersive experience designed to inspire curiosity through non-linear learning. This experience connects visitors with sources of energy in the world- from the stomach processing food to power humans, to mushrooms growing from decay, bacteria eating sea-life, to vibrations and earthquakes, to Marie Curie’s discovery of radium, magnetic forces and the sun being at the end or the start of it all. In this GOLD experience, playful sculptures showcase the interdependence of energies and give a glimpse of the fragile balance of our ecosystems while meeting some important characters along the way (like a big anglerfish, an inflatable golden intestine or some popping mushrooms ….).

This vibrant installation draws from scientific references to interweave non-linear narratives that expand the horizons of our knowledge and reimagine our techno-ecological environments. Science has not been given its just due by our media-driven societies, which worship the present and real-time information, but features prominently in Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stépanian’s work. Her rococo realm Shiny Gold pairs spectacular aesthetics with a narrative informed by scientific knowledge, to recount the symbiosis of energy and lifeforms while using distortions in scale to underline our microscopic place in the universe in relation to the sun, and our obsolescent existence.

Natural history: from the solar system to the Internet

Because everything we see is a solar composition, the Shiny Gold installation-experience homes in on the unparalleled power of the star — sun-sensation, sun-sovereign, the sun as an extraterrestrial agent essential to life — and on how are ideas are formed, interconnecting all forms of energy. Monumental and fragile, the installation reminds us that before we covered our entire planet in the Internet’s electronic skin, an energy system — formed millions of years ago and governed by its distance from the sun, affected by both environmental characteristics and sudden ecosystem shifts — already rooted and connected us to plants, rocks and animals in one single space, in one single life. A life that has now reached a turning point, leaving us faced with an inescapable challenge.

A rebus of sorts

Welcomed by the glowing, wide open hands of Marie Curie, a scientific figure of modernity, we take our first shoeless steps onto an enchanted island radiating with solar light on a floor laminated with fluorescent stones. Amidst the playful mishmash of nano and macro scales, sonic vibrations and inflatable sculptures, we find giant mushrooms with properties invisible to the naked eye, a fantastical, tentacular squid, XXL organs with golden brown glints, an electric fish and a miniature ocean that form a dizzying jumble, a rebus unified and magnified by a golden hue symbolizing the awakening of the conscience and sun-soaked bliss.

An experience of belonging

As we circulate from one entity to another, from the sun to rare earths, from water to air, from intestinal microbiota to natural radioactivity, from mycelium to marine bacteria, we feel an astonishing experience of belonging to the giant body of Shiny Gold, which is vegetal, mineral and animal, moving and powerful but also precarious.

Curated by Jos Auzende
Production : La Gaîté Lyrique, 2022