Noam Chomsky and Nadya Tolokonnikova hop on Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stépanian's 'I Am (Not) a Monster,' an album—and documentary—inspired by the teachings of Hannah Arendt.
Revolution on wax? Music and politics have been inextricably linked since long before Trump announced his presidential campaign while descending a gold escalator to Neil Young’s ‘Rockin In The Free World.’ In fact, records have been used to mobilize grassroots social movements since vinyl became the dominant form of music distribution in the 21st century; the freedom fighters of America’s Civil Rights Movement released vinyl pressings of speeches and field recordings, and while The Clash was introducing “Sandinista” to the vocabulary of British teens, Nicaraguan leftists were organizing to the tune of pro-workers’ movement troubadour Carlos Mejía Godoy. Even Bernie Sanders dropped a spoken word album, We Shall Overcome, in 1987; the re-release of which landed him at No. 116 on Billboard’s Top New Artist chart in February 2016.
If you’re not familiar with Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stépanian, Designer of Experiences at University of the Underground and documentary filmmaker, you likely know some of the names on her first official vinyl release. I am (not) a Monster, a collaboration with The Vinyl Factory, includes contributions from legendary linguist Noam Chomsky, Pussy Riot activist Nadya Tolokonnikova, former Lord Mayor of Sheffield Magid Magid, and Osaka-based roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro.
The record accompanies Hayoun-Stépanian’s Grierson Award-nominated documentary, also titled I am (not) a Monster, which premieres at BFI London Film Festival tonight, October 10. The feature-length film is inspired by the revolutionary teachings of philosopher and political theorist Hannah Arendt, best known for popularizing the term “banality of evil,” and who also studied the twisted psychology of the Nazi regime’s prime movers. Dressed as Arendt and armed with puppets, Hayoun-Stépanian explores how today’s right-wing political leaders have captured people’s imaginations by reviving past ideologies.
“Signing, as a filmmaker, a record collaboration with the Vinyl Factory and releasing my movie—which is on the origin of knowledge—on a record means that I can propose a new model of distribution for independent filmmakers,” said Hayoun-Stépanian. “The film introduces some of my core beliefs in thinking through experiences, experimental actions and independent education; namely for me: 1) education should be free and we should make our own economic systems to maintain it; 2) education should exist beyond nation states as a transnational entity—independent from governmental politics; 3) schools have to maintain plurality both in their approach but also in leadership.”
For more background on the radical thinker dubbed “the Willy Wonka of Design” and the master’s program she runs in the basement of an Amsterdam nightclub—the first-ever “free, pluralistic, and transnational” master’s program in Design of Experiences—see Document’s deep-dive on the University of the Underground from our upcoming Fall/Winter 2019 issue.