I (Am) Not A Monster: Nelly Ben Hayoun makes a documentary that tells designers they have to challenge power

We like the designers’ take on the world at A/UK - always trying to engineer emotions/beauty, and practical application, together. Design has tried to step up to its leading role a few times in recent years. We remember Bruce Mau’s Massive Change network. The community around John Thackera’s work pursues sustainable design relentlessly.

And of course, The Alternative UK itself owes its existence to Uffe Elbæk, founder of Denmark’s Alternativet but also of Kaos Pilots, which takes design to be central to its training of world-changing social enterpreneurs.

The closest we’ve seen in Europe to the design approach that might match a future of climate catastrophe, and technological displacement, is Nelly Ben Hayoun and her University of the Underground - profiled here in A/UK  a few years ago.

Now Ben Hayoun is about to launch her new documentary, I (Am) Not A Monster (trailer above). The blurb below:

Hayoun interviews a number of subversive figures from all across the cultural gamut, ranging from theorist Noam Chomsky to Pussy Riot's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and cyborg Neil Harbisson.

Throughout the documentary, the London-based designer impersonates the 20th-century philosopher Hannah Arendt as she interrogates subjects on what it is that makes a monster in present-day society.

"The film is advocating a reclamation of ownership of politics from the perspective of citizens and doing this through the vehicle of looking at education in this time in history where we can tend to forget how important it is to develop a critical form of thinking," she told Dezeen. 

"What is the monster at this point in time?" she asked. "For Arendt, the monster was someone who was not thinking and what makes people monsters. In the thinking of Arendt, it is actually institutions and bureaucracy that will turn you into monsters because you won't be allowed or be provided with platforms for critical thinking in these institutions."

At A/UK, we are due a sustained engagement with Hannah Arendt (only lightly so far). We devoured the recent graphic novel biography of her life, The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt, and we were struck by how deeply she looked into the question of how we exercise power, what politics means between people in a society.

Nelly Ben Hayoun’s take above looks fun and quirky (and certainly sounds punky). We’re looking forward to it!