The colourful electric Porsche Taycan art car inspired by gaming and virtual worlds
A visionary electric Porsche project that connects the real and virtual worlds
Woman in lamé suit with electric Porsche Taycan art car
A designer of extreme experiences, Dr Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stépanian has not only created a spectacular electric Porsche art car but worked with 3D software experts on designing an alternative universe in which to drive it
Exploring the space between the real and virtual worlds, Dr Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stépanian is a multi-disciplinary award-winning director, filmmaker and academic. She applies her decade-long experiences working in the space industry to radically rethink a pluralistic universe. These experiences include directing expeditions and programmes such as the International Space Orchestra on earth and in space and designing large-scale experiences like the UK-wide Tour de Moon festival, sending music to the moon and back. Nelly has also founded free, transnational and pluralistic universities in the basement of nightclubs with the University of the Underground. From conceptualising an alternative world to building it with an industry-leading 3D artist in Unreal Engine, this designer of extreme experiences questions how things are made and how they can be developed in the next 100 years.In conjunction with Porsche and Soho House, Nelly has created a spectacular electric Porsche Taycan art car inspired by gaming and virtual worlds, her studies with Japanese kimono masters and her own family’s history in the textile industry. She then worked with experts in Unreal Engine, a real-time 3D creation software, on a film that fed on Nelly’s radical imagination in order to create an alternative world in which she raced the Taycan art car she designed.Tell us about the unique design of your electric Porsche Taycan art car?“It has always been a dream of mine to consider what ‘perpetual motion’ could be like, feel like or look like. Imagining the non-material textures of something that never slows or tires at the scale of the universe also presents us with our very own vulnerability and pushes us to reflect on our own human doings.“The fluorescent marbling pattern is inspired by my textile training in Japan by the kimono master, and Japan’s Living National Treasure, Takayuki Takahashi and his two brothers. I worked on pattern designs with them for the late Issey Miyake, the world-famous fashion designer.”What kind of things influenced your design of this Taycan art car?“Textiles, patterns, colour palettes have always been a part of my childhood and they are essential to both my development as a creative and an active member of multiple organised communities.
Woman in jump suit with Porsche Taycan art car
Multi-disciplinary artist and academic, Dr Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stépanian, collaborated with Porsche and Soho House to create a colourful and unique Taycan art car
“Indeed, the Armenian side of my family arrived in France as refugees when they were escaping the Armenian genocide in 1915. When they arrived, Armenians got together to start textile industries in the south of France so, when I was born, my grandad and all of my mum’s side of the family was into textile and knitting. Together, they formed and shaped a strong community around the textile industry. It led to my grandad to take a position in politics as adjunct mayor of the small town of Valence. He, together with his fellow workers, worked relentlessly at the textile factory but also in the street through protests and at the parliament to get the Armenian genocide recognised in France – which eventually happened in 2001.“To say the least, I own a lot of textiles, and throughout history you can also see many narratives and forms of resistance being told through patterns, colours and techniques used in textile. Working with my team at Nelly Ben Hayoun Studios, as well as Porsche, Territory and Soho House in order to translate my physical samples taken from marble prints into a wrapped design for this fully electric Taycan was actually a very emotional journey. It was one in which I was able to remember not only my training and my Japanese masters, but also all of my Armenian family.”How did your previous work inspire your creative process with Porsche in this project?“The film we have made is built as a show that never ends, as a part of an imaginary multiverse. It was inspired by the initial training in textile design in Japan working on kimonos and marble patterns, my work in the space industries and other immersive experiences I directed. The result showcases a number of scientific theories (like quantum physics, multiverses, etc), while making use of the latest technology in filmmaking with the Unreal Engine software.
Woman leaning on bumper of electric Porsche Taycan art car
The swirling fluorescent pattern on Nelly’s Porsche Taycan art car was inspired by her time training with kimono masters from Japan
“In the video you can see all of my previous projects translated into Unreal Engine. For example, you see the volcano I did in people’s living rooms, dark energy made with marshmallows, the sonic boom in the Super Kamiokande and other scientific experiments I collaborated with like the Large Hadron Collider. With the latter I tried to bring it back to someone’s home scale so they also can experience some of the mastery of these scientific tools, and what they allow us to uncover – like the first seconds of the Big Bang!”Where do you see the future of artificial intelligence going?“Vast question! Artificial intelligence is something I looked into in my most recent movie, called I am (not) a monster, where I tried to unravel the origins of knowledge and actually ask what is freedom of thinking and how to think in action, while looking at the philosophy of political theorist Hannah Arendt.
Woman leaning against bumper of Porsche Taycan art car
Nelly’s wide-ranging, multi-dimensional projects touch on subjects including film, theatre, science and technology, politics and design
“In the film I am (not) a monster I met with Prof. Hiroshi Ishiguro’s humanoids and I discussed with him his belief that knowledge was invented by artificial intelligence and it is something that has its origins rooted in AI. For him, everything prior to AI is data and not knowledge – which is ultimately a rather disturbing thought. Someone else who also challenged my thinking on AI is cyborg artist Neil Harbisson, who created an antenna that allowed him to have a new sense. He can extend his perception of colours beyond the visual spectrum and can connect to satellites so that he also see colours in space. This allows him to connect with reality on a ‘deeper level’ – a new level in a true ecofeminist manner.“For me, AI is another field of creation, and one that has multiple opportunities. But, just like space and the space industry, the people who currently have a grasp on this technology are too few, there is not enough diversity and plurality of thinking in the field, and this is a major problem. I love that ChatGPT has brought the AI dilemma into the mainstream so that everyone can start to feel engaged with the plausible futures at stake with this technology.“For me, I think the potentials are huge if – and only if – countercultures around the world start to reclaim ownership of this tech and make their own sauce with it. Basically, if AI was to go decentralised and organically makes its way into grassroots, we could clearly start to witness innovation both in thinking and in practice. This is something I am very hopeful for.”What can gaming and virtual worlds tell us about our own lives?“Gaming and virtual worlds allow us to literally teleport ourselves into the otherworldly space. So, for me, this is truly something which can help trigger radical imagination in ways that it can extend our palette as creators.”
Nelly’s wide-ranging, multi-dimensional projects touch on subjects including film, theatre, science and technology, politics and design
Nelly says that combining the gaming and virtual worlds in her Porsche art car project allowed her to show that everything is interconnected and nothing is linear
“For example, in the film we did with Soho House and Porsche we discussed aesthetics at length with Territory (the company who made the world in this film using Unreal Engine). Indeed, I knew from the start that I didn't want aesthetics that would be too recognisable from the space industry. Indeed, all space films have that very white and metallic aesthetic that is absolutely borrowed from Hollywood and US Space Agencies. The result is a very homogenic vision for our future in space – it all looks the same. But I wanted to have something different – something that does say space, but something that is also strange, weird, and actually asks the question ‘What other forms, shapes, textures can we think about?’.“This was a challenge and it’s been really fantastic to work with such a brilliant creative team who straight at the start understood that we all had to check ourselves, reflect on any of our aesthetic choices and why they were there and offer alternatives.“In this context, gaming and virtual worlds allowed me to present something that is essential to my work and my thinking – the fact that everything is interconnected and that nothing is linear. For example, being in the space industry for a while, I have learned to understand that there could be a correlation between the communications used by whales under the sea and the way we should go about tuning our telescopes so as to capture extra-terrestrial signals. Or, that quantum mechanics tells us that a particle can both be alive and dead at the same time (i.e., the Schrödinger’s cat experiment).“You can visually represent these worlds colliding with each other and against each other making use of this technology and hopefully bring all scales together to allow for reflection on our own human vulnerability.”Discover the virtual world of Porsche
Woman leaning on rear bumper of Porsche Taycan art car
Among Nelly’s roles includes being founder of both the International Space Orchestra at NASA and the free, pluralistic and transnational university in the basement of nightclubs, the University of the Underground
Could Unreal Engine change the way we design cars – or even think about them – in the future?“I totally think so, and it’s why we have the duty to make these tools accessible to many more of us. Indeed, we can produce new aesthetics, test new scenarios and even allow for teleportation soon, possibly! Cars and their designs have evolved across the years but we are not yet into the world of perpetual motion that so many historians, physicists and philosophers have been fascinated by. Have a read of an article by Simon Schaffer called The Show That Never Ends: Perpetual Motion in the Early Eighteenth Century.”What is the secret to great design for you?“With electric engineering the new creative potentials are endless – and I am very grateful to my partners in crime at Porsche and Soho House for giving me absolute carte blanche in this process, supporting my vision and bringing such a talented diverse team all together in the process.“For me this is what it comes down to – a great team of supportive peers. On this film we had about 60 individuals with a range of expertise. While we didn’t agree on everything, we have challenged each other so that what we produced at the end was just not within the realm of the expected. The team was composed of women in the majority – non-binary or womxn, youths and nightlife workers who defined themselves with North African, Arab or Latinx heritage, Black African, African Caribbean, South Asian, East Asian and South West Asian heritage, or those artists from communities who have historically been marginalised in the film industry for their race or culture, gender or gender expression, like the deaf or disabled.”Final question – could the future of driving be virtual rather than in the real world?“I don’t think it should be. I do believe that we should consider hybrid format and alien aesthetics in order to push our imaginations even further, for sure. And yet, I also see the meditative value in being mobile through a landscape and watching it unroll via the window. That is something that, to me, still gives me a thrill.”
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