On Nuclear Pasts and Radiant Futures: SALT. CLAY. ROCK. at nGbK

2.11.23 Type: Press release

Research Assembly
On nuclear pasts and radiant futures

November 17–19, 2023
nGbK am Alex, Karl-Liebknecht-Straße 11/13, 10178 Berlin
Free admission
Accessible with wheelchairs and strollers

The two-year artistic and curatorial research project SALT. CLAY. ROCK. tackles the pasts and futures of nuclear infrastructures in Germany and Hungary. In the first year, work group members and artists have visited places and communities that host uranium mines, power plants and waste repositories, or that have been important sites of anti-nuclear resistance. From November 17–19, they will present the preliminary results of their research at neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst (nGbK) along with contributions by activists, artists, researchers, and thinkers, who are invited to share their insights on nuclear cultural heritage, anti-nuclear movements, energy futures, and the ‘green transition’.

Germany and Hungary have chosen radically different paths concerning nuclear energy. While Germany completed its nuclear exit in 2023, Hungary plans to expand its nuclear capacity with the heavily debated PAKS II reactor. Despite these differences, both countries are challenged by the ongoing search for final repositories for their high-level radioactive waste, which has to be found within their national borders. Globally too, this is an unresolved issue, as most countries have yet to create safe storage for this high-risk by-product of energy production.

Inspired by the three types of rock—salt, clay, and granite—that are considered suitable ‘containers’ for nuclear waste storage, SALT. CLAY. ROCK. takes a situated and site-specific approach to artistic research. Artists are invited to engage with different places and communities across Germany and Hungary—from tiny villages to industrialized small towns—that host nuclear infrastructures (such as uranium mines, power plants, and waste repositories), or that have been important sites of anti-nuclear resistance. These sites are often in relatively remote locations on the peripheries of public attention, yet important to the local communities living there who are also the ones most directly impacted by this uneasy future heritage. SALT. CLAY. ROCK. sets out to inquire how artistic research can approach people’s experiences, what perspectives it can offer, and how it can engage trans-locally with very different places, people, and situations.

In the past months, the project’s work group members and artists have visited nuclear power plant training centers, waste repositories’ hi-tech multimedia ‘showrooms’, peeked into reactor control rooms, and walked down the dark shafts of former uranium mines and recently built underground storages. They have been to the Gorleben Archive–the living memory of the Wendland resistance, talked to activists about the future of anti-nuclear movements, and listened to the story of the Hungarian village Ófalu, where villagers resisted a waste repository in the 1980s thanks to their self-organization. They learned about the ‘nuclear elite’ of Paks, the underground life of the Morsleben repository and their extravagant Carnival parties, and about the struggles of the tiny village of Bátaapáti to survive and escape depopulation, which was only possible due to a trade-off made to host its repository. They admired the former Wismut SDAG’s uranium-glass plate collection, glowing under blacklight in the uranium museum of Bad Schlema, and wondered how to critically reflect on this intriguing materiality.

The research assembly is the first public event of the two-year SALT. CLAY. ROCK. project, where the work group members and participating artists will share the experiences of their first research visits and fieldwork. Additionally, activists, artists, researchers, and thinkers are invited to share their insights on nuclear cultural heritage, anti-nuclear resistance, energy futures, and the ‘green transition’.

The two-year research project will culminate in an exhibition, which will open at nGbK in November 2024.

With contributions by Ana Alenso, András Cséfalvay, Theresa Deichert, Krisztina Erdei, Ende Gelände / Kali, Gorleben Archiv / Anna Gäde, Green Youth Pécs / Júlia Konkoly-Thege, Max Haiven, Moritz Maria Karl, Péter Molnár, Csilla Nagy & Rita Süveges, Nowhere Kitchen (Pepe Dayaw), PPKK (Schönfeld & Scoufaras), Eglė Rindzevičiūtė, Katarina Šević, Sonya Schönberger, Marike Schreiber, Oxana Timofeeva, Andrea Vetter, Anna Witt, Working Group Image Archive Asse II (Susanne Kriemann, Judith Milz, Lena Reisner)

nGbK work group: Katalin Erdődi, Marc Herbst, Julia Kurz, Virág Major-Kremer, Vincent Schier

Production: Karoline Kerkai, nGbK (Germany), Dina Darabos, Kovács Kinga (Hungary)

SALT. CLAY. ROCK. is funded by the Zero programme of the Kulturstiftung des Bundes (German Federal Cultural Foundation). Funded by the Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien (Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media).

The neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst (nGbK) is financed by the Senate Department for Culture and Community.

The funding from the “Fonds Zero” of the German Federal Cultural Foundation aims to support cultural institutions in testing climate-neutral forms of cultural production and new aesthetics with the lowest possible carbon-footprint. To this end, project-related emissions are to be avoided, reduced, or compensated according to nationally or internationally certified standards.

With this funding, nGbK is setting out on the path to greater sustainability. It enables the Kunstverein to position itself more clearly in sustainability discourses and to use its multiplier effect as an art institution. Through artistic-curatorial work, an aesthetic of sustainability can be developed on a human, non-human, social, economic, and ecological level, opening up new perspectives on future forms of coexistence.

In addition, the funding made it possible to create the position of a climate officer, who prepares a climate balance sheet for the entire institution and looks for potential savings in emissions. One of the first concrete measures adopted was a ban on flights for routes that can be covered in less than eight hours by train.


Press release (pdf, 310.62 KB)