Experience designer Nelly Ben Hayoun on the chaos and disorder of her ‘Willy Wonka’ studio
Read more about Nelly in Issue 08
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A ‘hole-and-corner’ is an old English term meaning a secret place: somewhere you go to escape the world, to be inspired and to contemplate and create. Where is your ‘hole-and-corner’? Can you explain why it is so special to you?
The NBH Studio, without a doubt. A place likened to Willy Wonka’s factory - with its mission to bring chaos and disorder through subversive events and experiences – may not exactly sound like the best ‘hole-and-corner’. But it is precisely through this topsy-turviness and disorder that we really prosper and flourish – after all, “you must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.” (Nietzsche).
Is it important to you to have somewhere to escape from the hustle and bustle of life?
Certainly – but it’s not really an escape. It’s more going out of the frying pan of the craziness and non-stop velocity of London and into the fire – NBH Studio, a space even more concentrated in its wildness. My practice dictates a hustle and bustle – it’s what keeps me motivated professionally, personally and academically. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What do you like to listen to when you’re working (and why)?
I have been very fortunate to spearhead projects that directly interact and generate music within my practice. For example, I have previously collaborated with Beck, Damon Albarn, Ed Banger Records and The Prodigy to compose some music for The International Space Orchestra, the world's first orchestra composed of Space Scientists from NASA Ames Research Center and the SETI Institute. So listening to these artists could perhaps be considered ‘work away from work’, but in all honesty, they provide a spine-tingling memory of what we achieved together.
What elements do you think make a perfect ‘hole-and-corner’?A space that allows us to reach the infinite. As mentioned, our work demands the chaotic and the art of disorder – so my ‘hole-and-corner’ definitely has to reflect this. We are constantly challenging the notion of limitation, both on Earth and beyond. I mean this literally with some of our projects of course. But I also mean this conceptually and metaphorically – we need a space that allows us no limitations in the scope and scale of what we want to achieve. Thankfully, NBH Studios is this space – a sanctuary that permits the extreme.
Is it private to you or do you let other people visit?
Chaos, disorder and what truly makes us tick cannot be achieved without strength in numbers. Our ethos is in a collaborative, multilayered, extreme and intense approach which ultimately has to be accessible to the wider public. This cannot be achieved in the singular. With my rich and diverse team of project managers, advisors, producers, editors and many more, we have a bold, cooperative approach that requires interaction when we can.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
I was lucky enough to have incredible tutors and mentors while studying at the Royal College of Art and when developing my practice, a selection of their advice could be:
- Creativity is a muscle, work hard to keep it going
- Learn from and respect your peers
- Trust in your instinct
- Edit, edit, edit
- Never get satisfied
- Don’t stop
And one of them that is more a personal mantra: Fight! Again and again and again and never ever give up. Failure is always part of the process. I fail a lot, and I mainly look for it, the more I fail, the more I learn. ‘If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same’ (from Kipling's If)... this articulates my approach to work, as whether you succeed or fail, you take what you can and you move on to the next project. Continuously look to the new challenges, to the future, without dwelling on what happened.