Disaster Playground at the V&A

V&A, London Design Week, september 2014

Disaster Playground will be presented at the V&A (Victoria and Albert) Museum in September 2014 (Saturday 20 & Sunday 21 September.), Digital Week End for the London Design Week.


 Disaster Playground is a creative platform investigating the design of emergency procedures in the space programme, with world renowned space experts at NASA, the SETI Institute and an all star team of composers, writers and international collaborators.

Disaster Playground is about the scientists planning the monitoring and deflection of hazardous Near Earth Objects_NEO (asteroids).  It attempt to address the complex decision-making involved in developing a coordinated international response to the challenge of protecting the Earth from NEO impacts. The thrust of the film follows a real-life procedure in place in the event of an asteroid collision with the earth. It depicts the chain of command necessary where only a few experts exist who understand the technology. Hollywood relied on Bruce Willis and a big drill to save the world in Armageddon, but how real is that and what needs to be done to save our civilization from the next major asteroid impact? The film explores aspects of planetary defense, such as Asteroid Deflection and Asteroid Capture, and showcases the work of the scientists’ pioneering missions to interact with asteroids and to accelerate efforts to detect, track, characterize, and mitigate the threat of potentially hazardous asteroids.

This is most urgent”- Hans-Ulrich Obrist to Nelly Ben Hayoun
(Serpentine Gallery, London, July 2013)

Disaster Playground investigates future outer space catastrophes and the design of procedures to manage them and assess the risks. With a cutting edge approach and through re-enactment of off-nominal situations by teams of space experts, designer of experiences at the SETI Institute Ben Hayoun is now working on a new challenge. Known as ‘The Willy Wonka of design and science”, she will question what the space programme could be if members of the public were to share its human condition – the dilemmas faced by scientists over discovery and decision-making under pressure. From meteor showers to extraterrestrial signals, from frogs escaping experiments on board of the ISS and worms surviving the Challenger explosion to a volcanic eruption on Jupiter’s satellite, Disaster Playground documents the edge of space fiction. Working with experts in Near Earth Objects (NEO), Disaster and Rescue Assistance (DART), the SETI Institute and with a all star team of composers and writers, Ben Hayoun is archiving disaster mitigation responses, unexpected failure systems and adversity in the space programme based on interviews, reflexions and re-enactments by a team of casted space experts: Deputy Director of Lunar Science Institute Greg Schmidt, Specialist of meteors showers Dr Peter Jenniskens, Specialist of Extraterrestrial Intelligence Dr. Jill Tarter and Dr. Seth Shostak, astronomer and planetary scientist Dr. Franck Marchis, Dr. David Morrison, Director of the Carl Sagan Center for Study of Life in the Universe at the SETI Institute and more.

Disaster Playground is a ‘theatre of cruelty’ as defined by Antonin Artaud, a platform where scientific catastrophe and/or surprise can be more acclaimed than success. This cross and pluri-cultural project will go beyond American and European frontiers and will question the notion of disasters, widely represented in the literature of J.G Ballard and will investigate rescue reactions across culture.

Disaster Playground follows the successful International Space Orchestra, which is a ground-breaking collaborative project that Ben Hayoun is currently directing at NASA Ames Research Center and the SETI Institute in California. It is an experiential and hybrid research laboratory, where space scientists have been invited to implement, deconstruct, perform, sing, mix, modify, and design musical acts in various scientific setup. It is a provocation to action: a call to imagine and disrupt future human relations to science;to adapt science to our creative needs. It involves leading space scientists – including the Deputy Director of NASA Ames and astronaut Yvonne Cagle, and composers such as Bobby Womack, Penguin Café and Beck have already collaborated on the project. In January 2013, the International Space Orchestra feature film had its world premiere at the Rotterdam International Film Festival where it was acclaimed by the critic as a “masterpiece” (Independent Cinema Office, ICO), a “real achievement” (DOMUS),”as thrilling as watching a rocket launch” and “Spine Tingling” (The Guardian).