Dr. Nelly Ben Hayoun goes by many titles; explorer/ boxer/ director and filmmaker/ designer of experiences/ space and rocket mission designer/ alternative educator / free university founder/ researcher/ inspirational speaker/ activist. For a decade she has been directing, leading and sustaining large projects, working and managing complex productions (often described as impossible productions), designing and programming experiences.
Since 2012, Dr. Ben Hayoun has run an orchestra made of NASA Scientists from their base at the NASA Ames Research Center Park and the SETI Institute, re-enacting the dramas of mission controls and has in the time since collaborated with some of the world’s best musicians. She has a lot on her plate, among other things she looks for forms of life to send into outer space from a viking ship, while erupting volcanoes in people's living room, colliding atoms in bathrooms and generating dark energy in kitchen sinks. She has spent a fair amount of time in radioactive places like Chernobyl, stuck in rocket capsules in Kazakhstan and deep down at minus 2km underground in platinum mines to hunt for the Worms of Hell. She is even immortalised in plastic (as a Mattel Barbie and a Lego).
In 2017 she founded the University of the Underground, a university based in the basement of a nightclub with board members and activists like Noam Chomsky and Nadya Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot. This subversive tuition-free educative and cultural program is supporting plurality of thinking, free and transnational teaching and unconventional practices.
Her latest feature documentary Disaster Playground is on Netflix and was nominated for a SXSW Vision Award and she released a new feature film on the origins of knowledge in 2019, titled I am (not) a monster, it was nominated for the Best International Documentary award, Grierson Award at the London Film Festival.