Interview- March 2010


For Nelly Ben Hayon, the creator of a science come art installation 'Super K Sonic Boooum' at Manchester Science Festival, design is crucial part of storytelling and for her, that engaging narrative extends to explaining complex scientific processes. Her portfolio includes a scheme for generating dark matter in your sink; explorations of brain plasticity in snails, and an installation to recreate the experience of the first ten minutes of a space rocket lift-off sequence. 'Super K Sonic Boooum 2 Gold' is an installation mimicking the experience of a sonic boom at Japan’s Super-Kamiokande Neutrino Observatory. Dazed speaks to Hayon about her latest installation and the surprising similarities between a designer’s and a physicist’s working practices.

Dazed Digital: Why is it important to narrate science with design?
Nelly Ben Hayon: Often, science seems to be reserved for scientists - expert practitioners who alone have the privilege of experiencing the fringes of human knowledge and the extremes of nature. My work aims to combat this real or perceived aspect of science, by enlisting willing scientists in experiences that mix the creativity with technology, science with fiction, factual with artistic, amateur with expert.

I think that design must be engaging and therefore I am particularly interested in questioning that set up. I build installations to facilitate and encourage surreal interactions. I often perform in them in a way that allows me to have direct feedback and improve the experience for next time. I consider all the work I am doing as a massive pile of experiments. Every installation and project I am doing involves risks. I never know if I will achieve what I’m aiming for or if I’ll be able to give a valuable experience to the public until the day they are all there and we switch on the light.

DD: How will The SUPER K SONIC BOOOUM 2 GOLD recreate the experience of a sonic boom at Japan’s Super-Kamiokande Neutrino Observatory?
Nelly Ben Hayon: You need to look at it as a play, an act. When you sit down in a play you usually don’t think about how many times the actors have rehearsed their 100 pages text to make it, that’s the same for us. If the experience is a success then you will leave the Super K Sonic Boooum installation feeling dizzy and not quite sure about what happens there, you will feel on the top of 50 000 tonnes of super pure water, you will feel in danger, you will feel scared and sweaty. If the experience is a failure, you will see everything- the organization the background, the balloons, the fake swimming pool.