Behind the Scenes of the Doppelgänger project with Nelly Ben Hayoun
Words Vilma Paasivaara
Portraits Jan Zappner
Experience designer Nelly Ben Hayoun is so busy that it often seems she is in more than one place at the same time: with her new project, she can be…
Dr Nelly Ben Hayoun is a force of nature. Her tireless pursuit of the truth have led her to the depths of the earth and the far reaches of space – and such are the demands on her time that she has come up with an ingineous solution.
Last week she brought her newest hyperreal experience, the Doppelgänger Project, to London at an interactive open evening produced in collaboration with Hackney Arts. The third in a series of events, first launched in May at re:publica Berlin – saw visitors able to participate in the training of a doppelgänger (the latest is named Nelly Ben Hayoun 4.0).
Set at the NBH studio in the Village Underground, the event gave audiences a unique opportunity to tour the space, see how the project has developed and understand their methodology – which they describe as ‘manufacturing the impossible’.
Nelly Ben Hayoun has received various awards for her ‘Willy Wonka’ experiential practices, which she builds with her interdisciplinary team in London. Some of her previously launched projects include the University of the Underground, a tuition-free postgraduate university based in the underground of the urban spaces under London and Amsterdam ; and the International Space Orchestra, for which she partnered with NASA and the International Space University to form the world’s first orchestra of space scientists (incorporating the ocassional interloper, including Damon Albarn and Sigur Ros).
As part of the new project, Ben Hayoun and her doppelgängers will be appearing at multiple events and locations, challenging the notions of space and time. The project also seeks to question the politics and economics of public performance – as well as investigating creative geographies, contemporary mythologies and the politics of experiential practices. At its launch, two doppelgängers (named Aglaé Zebrowski and Anaïs Zebrowski) were introduced – and now a third has joined the NBH team in London.
At the laucnh, Ben Hayoun that, ‘By working with my doppelgängers, I decide to experiment with language – but also theatrical and geographical practices. As a designer, I have decided to experiment and duplicate in the context of public speaking; at first – to shape and develop a new form of languages and meanings using experiential practices, mythologies and… doppelgängers’.
Which is all well and good – but at Hole & Corner we ’re thinking the Doppelgänger Project could have a few more practical applications – such as pulling a sickie or attending the more dreary events in the design calendar in our place… watch this space.