Imagination is everything to me. It is the common thread which runs throughout my career. Ever since I did postgraduate work on Mary Shelley my work has been dedicated to the power of the imagination and the creativity it fuels to challenge paradigms and create new positive possibilities for our world. It is what spurred me on for example to initiate and create in 2009 Arts at CERN – at the world’s largest particle physics laboratory outside Geneva. By placing artists in the unfamiliar world of particle physics, with its own language, structures and priorities, the imagination of artists is sparked to go beyond the artists’ own experiences to reach new heights.
This love of colliding opposites to become springboards of the imagination is because I wholeheartedly believe in its power to transcend and transform human existence. It’s the ultimate human superpower. Just take Mary Shelley. A 17-year-old girl, who one stormy night at Lake Leman outside Geneva, used her understanding of the science and technology of her day to transform it through her imagination into the story of Frankenstein. This extraordinary tale looked at the societal implications of the creation of artificial life and heralded the birth of science fiction. Mary Shelley’s work – and that of her partner Percey Shelley – was dedicated to imagination’s power as a positive force for understanding the world which they also believed was a force for moral good because it enables us to appreciate, understand and connect with our humanity across divides of time, space, and race.
It is significant that finally science is beginning to openly acknowledge the vital role imagination plays in the formation of new knowledge and discovery, having for years banished it as illogical and alien.
Now in the 21st century, whether we are in the arts, sciences, technology, or ecology, we are more in need of the power of the imagination than ever before, to take us beyond the known and accepted, in order to truly tackle the great challenges humanity needs to face together.
Ariane Koek is a Creative Director and Consultant in Arts Science Technology Ecology, Initiator and Founding Director of Arts at CERN, co-editor and writer of Real Feelings: Emotion and Technology and editor and writer of Entangle: Physics and the Artistic Imagination.