The 'Free Radical' Nelly Ben Hayoun in A/D/O Journal

July, 2017 New York, USA

Nelly Ben Hayoun talked at the A/D/O Design Academy, “Common Sense" in May, earlier this year , now you can read about her talk in the article by A/D/O Journal. The piece focuses on the highlights form Nelly's presentation and her practice as a campaign of social action which supports social dreaming.

You can read the whole article here Words by A/D/O Journal

As the founding director of the University of the Underground, Ben Hayoun's extreme approach to fieldwork took her from the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone to the Large Hadron Collider, 300 feet underground. It is not an exaggeration to say her practice has encompassed the earth: as the director of the International Space Orchestra, she has launched recordings into orbit and assembled a team of NASA scientists who have filmed a series of performances that blur the distinction between experiential design and science.

In her presentation, Ben Hayoun described how theatrical modes of presentation can reframe social problems through critical discourse, linking rigorous systems thinking to Antonin Artaud's theory of the Theater of Cruelty. In a conversation with A/D/O she further defined the relationship she sought through the senses–not a direct, physiological or biological connection, but one mediated by perception into a larger framework: "I don't think of the work that I do in terms of biology, but more in terms of mechanics within the context of a narrative. Critical design is about problem-finding. In my case, with the Design of Experiences, it is about critical design using theatrical practices in the performance of politics."


This blend of technology, performance, and social engagement emerged from a background in textile design filtered through the Royal College of Art's influential Design Interactions program — and culminated in her comprehensive approach to media: “from immersive theater to public institutions and politics to education. It goes beyond 'experience design,” she said.

“‘Experience design’ used to be about interface – into a computer, say. We are now talking about how that's only one element of this whole experiential practice. I like to think of it in terms of developing new culture, or a new counter-culture.”

In her lecture Ben Hayoun explored how “multidisciplinary conflicts” can shape the social fabric and remap its human geographies. Delivered in her style of (as she calls it) “hammering and total bombardment,” she tacked between her diverse and large-scale projects — from the Disaster Playground to the University of the Underground—while finding time to touch on the anatomy of dramaturgy presented by Aristotle, and Baudrillard's “hyperreality,” which has begun to seep into all discourse. As Ben Hayoun said:

“There is the fictive fabric and there is the real fabric. The public oscillates between the two. And that in-between has always been interesting to me: when you don't know what's real and what is fake: they interpenetrate.”

Enacting concrete change in this fluid environment is tricky. Ben Hayoun stressed the importance of balance: “Design is a reiterative process. Through this process you find what the parameters should be. You need to have a framework in which things can evolve. It needs to be strong enough and abstract enough, but also defined enough — that's the balance you, as a designer, have to achieve. I now think of everything we [designers] do, our whole practice, as a political campaign. A campaign of social action which supports social dreaming.”

You can read the whole article here Words by A/D/O Journal

A/D/O is a creative space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn dedicated to exploring new boundaries in design. At its heart is the Design Academy, which offers a range of programming to professional designers, intended to provoke and invigorate their creative practice.