Robert Root-Bernstein

Ariane Koek - The Wonder of Everything

by MTF Labs | MTF Podcast

Ariane Koek is a global leader in Art Science curation. She’s a cultural strategist and consultant who has made a career at the cutting edge of science communication and arts initiatives that explore, explain, critique and contribute to technology and scientific understanding.

Ariane is an author and broadcaster as well as a producer and leadership advisor. She has been the Director of Arts at CERN, the European Nuclear Research institution, and has established exhibitions at Art Galleries and Science Museums around the world.

Ariane Koek
@BeautyQuark on Twitter


Dubber      Hi, I’m Andrew Dubber. I’m Director of MTF Labs, and this is the MTF Podcast. If this is not your first encounter with MTF, then it should come as no surprise to you that the idea of combining art and science is something that’s of particular interest to the MTF community. If this is your first encounter with MTF, then welcome. We’re really glad to have you with us. You join us at a really good moment.

I want to introduce you to Ariane Koek. She’s very much part of the MTF community and has been at the forefront of that intersection of art and science that’s so important to us for quite some time. I first knew her as the director of arts at CERN, the European organisation for nuclear research, home of the Large Hadron Collider and some what you might think of as very science-y research and activities. Ariane created the Arts at CERN initiative, she initiated Collide, a residency for up to three months for artists to work with the researchers at CERN, and a whole host of art commissions and exhibitions that brought painters, dancers, composers, writers, sculptors, video artists, and more to collaborate with particle physicists, nuclear engineers, and computer scientists. Ariane’s a consultant and cultural strategist, producer and curator, science communications specialist, writer, speaker and lecturer, leadership advisor and coach, and a member of advisory boards and policy groups. She’s someone who, to me, always seems filled with both wonder and purpose.

Dubber      Ariane Koek, thank you so much for joining us for the MTF Podcast today. You’re looking well. How’s the pandemic treating you?

Ariane        It’s treating me like everybody else, I think is the answer to that. Everybody else in the sense of emotional swings, not everybody else in the sense of everybody’s got different concerns and different parameters and different social conditions. But I would say, like everybody else, it’s a… No, not like everybody else. But, for me, it’s a seesaw, basically. Sometimes you’re really loving being alone and having the chance to explore and discover and study and read. I’ve been doing so much reading. It’s fantastic. And other moments, you’re like “Where are the humans? Where is the human connection?”. It’s really odd.

It’s very odd to be reduced to the digital and the flat. So being reduced to one dimension on a screen. And for humans to become one dimensional is very odd. So you leave out all the senses except for sight and listening, obviously, so what does that leave us? Who are we without the other senses?

Dubber      Well, it’s interesting that you pose these giant philosophical questions based on the technologising of human life because that is kind of your job. You’re an international strategic consultant, curator, writer, but all at the intersection of science and art. The big question is, how does one become that?

Ariane        Just curiosity. I’ve just got phenomenal curiosity about the world and how it’s shaped and works, and I’m always interested in the latest knowledge, the latest technology, and also the implications, in particular for humanity. What are the implications for humanity? Is it taking us further, or is it a retrograde? And what is our role within new knowledge? Are we the victims, are we the co-partners, or are we the drivers? And if so, what are our drivers? So it’s all those questions, again, which motivate me to be in this area. I just love new knowledge and new things.

Dubber      Do you have to bump up the science credentials with the arts credentials in parallel, or can you focus in one direction and look at the other one across the divide?

Ariane        I’m like you because I come from a broadcast background. So I was a broadcaster. I worked at the BBC. I was a producer for sixteen years. A staff producer. So I was used to effortlessly moving across different ways of knowing and enjoying the different ways of knowing and enjoying the exploration of one day talking to Sarah Blaffer Hrdy about the latest anthropology and the next day talking to Michio Kaku about his latest ideas regarding physics and some of the controversy that raised, to… So I’m used to that. And because I see arts and science and technology as being new forms of knowledge and knowing and it’s driven by ideas which are then implemented, I’m fearless because I love moving across them, and I treat them all equally. So I’m an amateur, really, of everything. I’m definitely an amateur of everything. Physicist… My god. It takes twenty-five years to be a physicist. But it’s the ideas. For me, the ideas are the nexus of what I do.

Dubber      Well, all things nuclear seem to be a theme. You made a radio documentary about Chernobyl, and you worked on nuclear testing in Australia, but you ended up at CERN, which is where I originally know you from. 2013, 2012 - somewhere around there - we first encountered each other, and you were the first arts director at a nuclear research facility. How does that become a thing?

Ariane        Again, it’s because I’m fearless, I think.

Dubber      Was it a job that you applied for, or did you go and say “What you really need is an arts director.”?

Ariane        Well, basically, I won a Clore Fellowship for my work in culture for the work I’d done at the BBC and also for the work I’d done at the Arvon Foundation for creative writing, and as part of the Clore Fellowship, they said “You could go anywhere you like in the world for three months.”. And I got offered wonderful three-month stagiaire posts in the US, in Canada, in the UK, and turned them all down. They were all with arts organisations. And everybody was like “Why have you turned these all down? You’re almost at the end of your fellowship. What are you doing? Why? You’re mad.”, and I thought “Oh my goodness.”.

So I literally took a bike ride. I did a bicycle ride from my home to The British Library and thought “Why have I turned all these amazing places down?”. As I cycled, I did this deep inward look and went “What inspires me?”, and I went “Oh, it’s new knowledge. What makes me weird? I’m really into nuclear history. What haven’t you done? I’ve never gone subatomic. Where in the world is at the cutting edge of all knowledge and technology at the moment?”, and I went “CERN!”. And then I remembered a conversation I had with an amazing artist called Chris Drury who’s a land artist, an ecological artist. And he said he’d gone to CERN on the way back from Antarctica and realised the connection between Antarctica and CERN in a print where he showed the heartbeat of the ice in Antarctica, the frequency, and the frequency of the Large Hadron Collider which is recreating the conditions of nature. And he said “I think something wonderful there could happen.”. And literally, it was an epiphany on a bicycle.

And I jumped off my bicycle, ran two floors up The British Library stairs, looked up CERN to see what they’d done with the arts, and they had done a concert with Philip Glass to mark the first turn on of the Large Hadron Collider. I could see people had gone in and out, but there was no structured programme. And literally, I wrote a ten-page pitch to CERN saying “You’re at this amazing point in your history. You’re just about to switch on the LHC to discover the Higgs boson. Physics, basically, in the 20th century really framed culture in terms of anarchists, in terms of Virginia Woolf, the whole idea of subjectivity being up for question thanks to Heisenberg and Einstein. So you’re at this seminal point again, and to be a real cultural force in society, you need to join up with art. So it’s art plus science plus technology equals culture.”.

I literally wrote that, didn’t know anybody, sent it to the head of press, James Gillies, on the Friday, and then on the Monday I got a phone call saying “Fantastic. When can you start?”. And what I’d proposed to do was do a feasibility study for three months, funded by the UK government because they were the funder of my fellowship, and I was just going to go there. And I just jumped on a plane, and there I was for three months.

And I suppose at the end of the three months, I’d done a really in-depth dive into the people, place, and culture of CERN, so I understood what was feasible and what wasn’t feasible and how the organisation worked and gave them a proposal a week before the second switch on. All the directors were around the table. I’d been told that the LHC director was particularly fierce, and I should be warned about that. Anyway, they all loved it and literally went “We love this. It’s at the right time. It’s wonderful. There are only two catches. One, we won’t fund it - the programme - and number two, we want you to do it.”. And that’s how it began. So I created my own job, basically.

Dubber      But one that they wouldn’t fund. And so how was it supported?

Ariane        Well, the director-general funded my salary. As long as he was director-general, he funded my salary out of what is known as ‘special projects budget’, which all director-generals have as a gift for doing the world’s most impossible job. Basically in charge of 680 institutions around the world, 120 different countries. So to do the most impossible job, that is the carrot. So I was his special project. So I was the first cultural specialist at CERN. The first one to be connected. And so that’s how that happened, and then the rest which happened was me fundraising. So basically, I was fundraising and partnership building very intensely for my first year. 2010 to 2011. So I started in April 2010.

Dubber      So that was the main day job, was “I’ve got this idea for an arts project that could be done at CERN. First, I have to go and finance it somehow.”.

Ariane        Yes. So 2010 to 2011, that’s what I was doing. I was working out the finances, seeing what would land, raising… So in the first year, I got the interest of Ars Electronica Linz to be a co-partner in the Collide programme, which I designed very specifically to meet the needs of artists but also to meet the needs of physicists. And I got the City and Canton of Geneva. They stepped forward to be funders, even though at that stage, my French was appalling. And I was pitching to them, and you could see they were thinking “Oh. Who is this person?”, but I always began with a piece of French saying “I am like a snail in a forest. Please forgive me. My French is so bad.”. And I think because I was so humble but also I was so passionate because I really felt, believed, knew that this programme needed to happen now, at that point in time… It needed to start in 2010.

And to do it, I’d actually turned down a path which was going to be a writer. I was on the verge of getting a book deal. And I remember when I got the phone call from CERN saying “Can you start in April?”, I was thinking “Oh, so I have to choose between being a writer and this project. Which one do I do?”. The book was going to be about nuclear history, based on my experience in Maralinga but in other places around the world. And then I thought “Hmm. These chances to create the thing which you have devised and know can work never happen that often, so take it.”. So that’s what I did.

Dubber      So the big question would be the way in which art and science can work together. Obviously, you have a vision for that, but I imagine most people when they think of art and science, particularly bringing artists to an institution like CERN, would be that the artists could respond to the science in some way, or they could interpret and communicate the science in some way, or they could critique technologies and science. Is there anything beyond that? Is there any way, for instance, in which the art is contributing to the science or those sorts of things? Is there more of a dialogue than “Let’s do some science over here, and then we’ll get artists to respond to that in some way.”?

Ariane        Well, yes. That’s a question which comes up quite a lot. “How much do the artists actually contribute to the science?”. And they do because they give you different ways of looking and ways of looking at what you’re doing. When you’re within a culture - a very fixed culture which is very predetermined, which is going in one direction - if you get outsiders in, they give you different ways of looking at your practice, your work, and also your ways of observing because both physics and art are ways of observing as well as ways of knowing the world, and I think that’s really super important.

All the physicists I ever worked with always said “We know this is having an impact on us. A, it’s making us more human and aware of the outside world, and a bit more humane and thinking a bit more about humanity.”. So that’s fantastic because they’re very cloistered, in a way, because they’re so passionate about what they do. They’re very, very cloistered and fixed, even though they’ve got multiple skills and multiple interests. And they also said… Some scientists like James Wells said to me “I know this is going to impact on my theory later down the line, but I can’t quantify it. I can’t say what it is, but I know it’s impacted and influenced me, and it will express itself in some way.”.

Dubber      So to what extent do the clichés and stereotypes about both artists and scientists hold up in the real world? Are they like you imagine them to be?

Ariane        How do you imagine them to be?

Dubber      Well, you imagine scientists as, like you say, very focussed, very… Completely analytical. Let’s go in that respect. So the scientists are all very analytical, and the artists are all very interpretive and creative and… Is the world divided neatly like that, in your experience?

Ariane        No, the world isn’t neatly divided like that. The artist Ryoji Ikeda, who is the final artist in Collide residence who I worked with - the international one - he’s so analytical. Super analytical as well as poetic. And equally, you can get very poetic and extraordinary physicists, particularly in the theory end because they’re the ones who think beyond the paradigm. And talking to them about other worlds… They will literally say “Yeah, there are other worlds. We can’t disprove it, therefore there can be other worlds.”. So you’re taken into this major philosophical and theoretical world which is really fascinating. So, like everything, it’s much more complicated. Of course, you’ll meet stereotypes, but equally, you will meet the things outside.

Dubber      Sure. So what’s the value in this for an independent observer? If I’m not the scientist and I’m not the artist and I’m coming along and I’m experiencing this as a member of the general public, what do I take away with me from that?

Ariane        So as a member of the general public, it’s all about learning about the world. How are we discovering the world, and who does it, and how do they do it? There was a photograph which was done by Gilles Jobin who did an intervention in the physicists’ library where he turned a somersault in front of a physicist who was studying, and the amazing thing is the physicist never moved. Never looked up. Never saw him, in inverted commas. And, for me, that shows the passion of scientists. And I think that’s also the magic of learning that these scientists are so passionate about discovering the beginning of the universe and the nature of nature which forms us and the particles which form every piece of matter in this world. That for the general public to get in touch with that, rather than for it to be something lofty, remote, abstract, disconnected, humanises it for them and puts them in touch with what science really is. It’s a mode of discovery. A really beautiful mode of discovery.

Dubber      And so, in these days, we hear a lot about science and the search for truth being devalued in our culture as something that is not perhaps as highly revered as it might be, particularly in establishing facts about the world and what we believe about the world, and the idea that facts can be differently held between different groups of people. To what extent does art need to come in and go “No, no. Let me communicate this in a way that everybody will understand.”, or even to be a cheerleader for, in inverted commas, science and truth?

Ariane        That’s an interesting question because artists traditionally question the scientific truth and the notion of truth. So that’s what they do in terms of contemporary artistic approaches. And they often have that role of being the canary in the coal mine who calls things out as well as looking at the implications for humanity. I’ve always argued that, in a way, artists are the great humanitarians because they’re looking at things, okay, from their own particular ego, but they’re looking at the implications in terms of “What are the implications on society, and how can this be?”. So I would turn that around.

In terms of being cheerleaders for the idea of the truth and science, that would be communication. So that’s a communication and illustration job. That is as old as the hills, basically. That is as old as the history of art and science, that art has played that role in the past of illustrating and communicating science and being its handmaiden. But what I do is doing it in a different way. That’s all. There are many different strands. That’s something which I’ve also said. There’s no one way of doing art and science. So, yes, there is a role for artists to communicate science and what it’s doing, and that is important, but that’s a very different one from the one I do.

Dubber      There is a flip side to this impulse as well which I guess you’d characterise as the ‘Black Mirror’ impulse, which is basically “Science scary. Technology bad. Future terrifying.”, and that as the artistic creative media response to all of the developments that are happening at seemingly an increasing rate. Is the critiquing role of art, I guess you would characterise that as, an important aspect of your work as well, to go “No, wait. What does this mean if AI can X, Y, Z?”?

Ariane        Yeah. So there’s different ways of looking at that. So the recent show I co-curated at HeK, the House of Electronic Arts in Basel, very much was looking at the implications of technology from a particular angle. The rise of technology and surveillance culture and what it is potentially going to do. And we did it with the help of twenty artists.

So, for example, the wonderful artist Lucy McRae built this extraordinary - it was a new commission for us - contraption called the ‘Survival Raft’. So it was in the colours of a life-saving raft, and it was a raft you crawled into, and then it inflated and then deflated and hugged you. And the purpose of this piece really is to say “Here we are with technology. We are isolated at this moment.”. She was creating it in her studio in LA during COVID. “What happens if at the end of the day or the end of the universe, the only thing we have left to hug us is technology?”, because the raft, in the end, hugs you. “And how does that feel? And what is it like to be without human touch?”.

So the show, the exhibition, explored many questions, and that’s one of them. And I think that’s one of the roles, as I said, of artists, to raise those questions in people’s mind. To actually start humanising technology and the implications of technology so the public can understand what the implications are. When they go to an art show, they feel it through their senses as well as their intellect, and then they can think about what the implications are.

Dubber      It’s really interesting because the way that you’ve been talking about it sounds like the role of the scientist is to find answers and the role of the artist is to come along and then generate questions from those answers. Is that fair, and is there a cycle to that?

Ariane        I think that’s probably my approach. So, as I said, my approach is that one. Very much so. But there are other art-science approaches where the artists and scientists work together to find solutions for global issues and global problems, and that, again, is a great art-science strand, just as important as the illustration and communication art-science strand. But this is the one I’m particularly interested in. As I said right in the beginning of this interview, I’m so interested in the implications of science and technology and any form of new knowledge, which can come out of the humanities as well, whether it was post-structuralism or whatever. Implications for humanity and what it means for us now and in the future. So I’m ethically driven, I suppose, in my approach to art-science. I’m interested in the impact and the ethics behind things.

Dubber      Well, it’s interesting that you raise that there are different threads of this. You curated the Entangle exhibition at the Bildmuseet here in Umeå, and there was a book that came out with that in which you talk about how science and art are not a coherent, single movement. What are the main threads, do you think? Are they identifiable? There are movements within science or SciArt, as some people call it?

Ariane        Yeah, there are multiple movements. As we’ve just discussed, there’s art as communication and illustration of science, art which is inspired by the science and uses the science as a jumping-off point, artists and scientists working together to solve a common problem. There is science which is used as art by artists. So they create installations based on scientific apparatus. You could go on.

I did a lecture about it at the Exploratorium, which is the museum of art, science, and human perception in San Francisco. It’s the granddaddy of all science museums. And I gave a lecture and said “There are twelve.”, and I listed the twelve, and then people ran up at the end and went “No, no. We’ve got another eight.”. And that makes you realise and know that the art-science field is actually broad. It’s not a coherent movement. It’s got many, many strands. It’s a network. It’s probably like a rhizome. It just spreads and spreads and spreads, and it just depends which branch you stand on.

I’ve stood on multiple branches in my time. So I have stood on the communications and illustration side, but I’ve also stood on the ‘finding a solution to a common problem’ side, as well as the other one which is the ‘science is the jumping-off point of the imagination’ which is probably the one I’m best known for, and that’s certainly what Bildmuseet, the exhibition Entangle, showed. How physics, in particular, has inspired those twenty international artists - but there are many, many more - in their practice, in their approach to their practice, but also in what they do and how they look at the phenomena of the world.

Dubber      Right. Bildmuseet is… Essentially, it’s an art gallery, art museum, and you also work at science museums. Is there a different approach when you go to these spaces, knowing what the context has been, for what is to come? Do you take the science in an art direction or take the art in a science direction? Or is the thing that you do the thing that you do, and you turn up and go “Actually, regardless of that context, this is my thing.”?

Ariane        No, no. Totally adaptive. It’s all about being adaptive in terms of approach. So different contexts have different needs entirely, and that’s the point. That’s literally the point. It’s like Arts at CERN. That had a particular approach because of the organisation. CERN: fundamental research centre. Therefore, what better than having a fundamental research centre for artists as well?

So work at Bildmuseet was fascinating because I wanted to have things which explain some of the physics. So there would have been physicists describing the phenomena in writing on the wall so you could reflect on it. And very much they said, very directly, “No, we don’t want that approach.”, and I thought “Hmm. I can understand that. It’s a contemporary art gallery. It’s white cube.”. Therefore, to honour both and show how things happened, I created an audio diptych where as you walk around, you can hear artists and scientists describing light from their different perspectives.

So you have, for example, Sou Fujimoto, the architect, talking about what space means to him as an architect and talking about how outer space, in particular, is his ultimate terror because there’s no density of air. And then you’ve got the physicist Bilge Demirköz saying space, for her, was always a dream as she was the child on the swing, swinging up to the stars, but then she goes into the physics of space.

And I actually think that made something much more beautiful for the exhibition. It showed, again, what I’m really obsessed with: different ways of looking at things. And from that, you, the public - whether you’re reading it in the book or listening to the audio cloud - can see points of connection and also disconnection. And that’s the importance, really, of arts and science. The disconnects, the connections, the gaps. The spaces in between where you can jump into new territory as well.

Dubber      There were a couple of pieces in that exhibition that really appealed to me, and maybe because there’s a joke in them as well. There’s at least a sense of humour about it. One of them was the office desk and chair suspended as independent pendulums. I stared at that for such a long time. And I didn’t know, if there was a message to be had from that, what that message was, but it was such a compelling thing to look at. But it was also humorous, in a way. It was an office desk and chair independently suspended from the ceiling as pendulums and never quite connecting and always missing and always in motion, and I thought that was really interesting.

But the other one was the actual neon sign that said ‘entanglement’ on two floors with a switch below it. And you approach it, and you switch the switch on and off, and eventually, it dawns on you that what you’re turning on and off is the sign on the other floor. And that engagement between those two things I guess says something about this idea of quantum entanglement and action at a distance and all those sorts of things. But actually, it was that you could almost tell a joke in a physical way that dawns on the audience as they engage with it, and I like that as the humanising aspect of what you do.

Was there this deliberate bringing of a sense of humour to things that are very, very seriously taken by very serious scientific minds to knock them about and go “No, no. There’s joy in this. This is not just cerebral. It can also be emotionally engaging.”?

Ariane        Well, I think playfulness is so important in human beings. Play is the way we learn and the way we discover, so having art pieces which tap into your inner child again… Which we should all be in touch with all the time. That amazing playfulness. So, yes, the Julius von Bismarck piece of ‘Freedom Table & Democracy Chair’ is fantastic because it is so playful. You’re like “What the… What is going on here with these things swinging in space? What is this about?”. And then you read the title of the piece and you go “Oh, yes. It’s about democracy and freedom. Oh.”, and then you think. But it really touches the heart as well, in a way, as well as the mind, and the same with Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s ‘Entanglement’ piece. Heart and mind touched through the senses, which art does, and also playfulness. Perfect. And equally, Lucy McRae’s piece ‘Survival Raft’, just as playful. Intriguing you. Tapping into your sense of curiosity.

Dubber      Well, we’ve talked about the relationship between art and science and that art can bring something to science and artists can respond to the work of scientists, etc. What’s the value in collaboration? Putting them in the same room together, getting them to work together, getting them to do this process of discovery. What’s the value in that?

Ariane        The value is literally different ways of knowing and different ways of approaching things, and I think that is fantastic. It’s always about multiplicity of approaches, multiplicity of understanding, and also the experiences you bring and your engagement with technology. You have different appreciations and different ways of relating with technology. So it’s totally super important, and I think more and more as we become much more… Well, as we carry on within our climate emergency as well as all the other emergencies, the works between arts and scientists collaborating together will become… Is. Is now, actually, and should be now even more prioritised.

Dubber      Yeah. It’s interesting because a lot of the rhetoric that we have at the moment is about this idea of ‘essential jobs’. You’ve probably seen, in a study in Britain, people were asked “What are the essential jobs? And rank them.”, and artist was the least essential of all the jobs. And it seems like what you’re saying is “No, no. This is becoming really, really important in this moment of catastrophe in all sorts of directions.”.

Ariane        Yes, in terms of invention and coming up with ideas and approaches to solving the issues, whether it’s surveillance or whether it’s… And raising public awareness, let alone coming up with solutions. Artists and scientists working together can move in that direction together.

And I think the reason for that, why artists are particularly important, is because they have… They’re allowed, even, to use their imagination. And scientists do use their imagination and do have an imagination, and, in fact, they’re becoming a bit more explicit about the role imagination plays in their work. For the last two/three centuries, it’s been derided to talk about or admit it. But artists, they’re allowed to use their imagination, and this is where artists are crucial because they are the imagineers. And I use imagineer as a purposeful word, with engineering fused with imagination, because they are looking at ways of going beyond where we are in the world and changing the world or expressing things in a way which haven’t been expressed before in that particular way. And I do believe, from my own background - I did my postgrad degree in Mary Shelley and Percy Shelley - I am probably a total Shelly because I do believe in the imagination as a place of revolution, as a place of change, as a place of innovation.

Dubber      It’s interesting Mary Shelley being one of the archetypes of creativity critiquing science and technology. But all of these things sound very compelling and convincing to me, and I guess that’s because of the things that I’m interested in and so on, but you have to make these arguments at a policy level. You’re advising to the European Commission and things like DG Connect and the Joint Research Centres, the JRC. How do you make these sorts of arguments at a policy level? Is it something that is warmly received, or is it an uphill battle? Is this something that people get when you’re speaking at that level?

Ariane        Most recently, I’ve been working with the JRC, which are the Joint Research Laboratories. There’s seven environmental science research and policy laboratories across Europe, and they’re the driver of environmental policy for the EU. And it’s absolutely fantastic that they have embraced a cultural programme and believe in the role and the importance of artists in working with them.

And in terms of convincing, they were actually convinced by CERN. So they actually saw the CERN project and came to me and went “Ariane, we really want to create something here at the JRC, and we can see how it works. We can see how it has raised awareness within the public about CERN, actually, and physics and what they’re doing and the specialness of doing it in a different way, in a creative way, and we want to do something like that here.”. So in terms of policy, they had already seen how it had made those changes. And I think these examples of how things work luckily ricochet through our culture and stand as a witness of their own persuasion, so I didn’t really need to persuade. I didn’t need to persuade because they’d been persuaded.

Dubber      Sure. And by your own work, to a large extent.

Ariane        Yeah, which is great. My work with the scientists and artists at CERN. It’s all of us together. It’s a community. I always believe it’s everybody working together. However much one person is, in inverted commas, the leader of it or initiator of it, it’s always about people working together, and I couldn’t have done it without the scientists and the artists at CERN and all the people who supported the network, everything.

Dubber      Well, you’re working at the top level of all of these things, as far as I can see, unless… Is there, in your ambitions, another step up that you would like to take?

Ariane        There’s always some new adventure, and there’s always something beyond. Yes. So I’m that spirit, basically. So I’m one of those people who I always define as explorers. You always want to go beyond. Always curious. So, yes, there are things I would love to do and which I will do, so we will wait and see.

Dubber      Sure. It sounds like there’s something in there you’re not quite allowed to talk about, but we’ll skip lightly over that. There was a job advertised at Aalto University recently, Head of Radical Creativity. Are we going to see more of these sorts of things? Is that now a job that exists in the world?

Ariane        I thought that was my dream job.

Dubber      You have to speak Finnish, unfortunately, don’t you?

Ariane        Yes, you have to speak Finnish. And I even wrote to the dean and said “Do you really have to speak Finnish?” because I thought, yeah, that is the best job in the entire world, Director of Radical Creativity, because, as I said, that’s what I believe in. I believe in creativity and the imagination and the radicalism it can do. So hopefully, yes, we will see more of those jobs. And hopefully, Aalto’s leading the way by being the first one to put its flag in the sand and say “Look, this is needed. This is what society needs.”. And Aalto’s brilliant at being ahead of the curve. Again, that’s another ‘watch this space’.

Dubber      Sure. So no thoughts of returning to the book?

Ariane        Returning to the book? Oh, gosh. That was funny. When you said the book, I couldn’t remember what the book was. There’s another book, unfortunately, which has preceded the nuclear book, has taken over, so the nuclear book is somewhere in the past at the moment. Will probably turn into a novel at some point. But there’s another book which I am interested in doing which is much more about art and science, so, again, it’s a ‘watch this space’ on that one.

Dubber      Fantastic. Well, I’ll look forward to it. Ariane, it’s been an absolute pleasure talking and really fascinating, and I hope we get to do this more often. Really good to talk. Thank you.

Ariane        Well, lovely to see you as always, Andrew, and thank you so much for everything. Till the next time.

Dubber      That’s Ariane Koek, and that’s the MTF Podcast. You can find Ariane online at That’s A R I A N E K O E K dot com. And you can find MTF Labs at, spelt how it sounds, and @mtflabs all over the social universe. As usual, thanks to the team, Jen Kukucka, Sergio Castillo, and Mars Startin, Sivan Talmor and airtone for the music, and Run Dreamer for the MTF audio logo you’re about to hear again. You have a great week, stay safe, and we’ll talk soon. Cheers.

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