SALT. CLAY. ROCK.
In the midst of the current energy crisis, how do we think about nuclear energy and the search for energy alternatives? Can we imagine energy futures not only without fossil fuel, but also beyond the nuclear? And how do we deal with high-level radioactive waste?
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 curators 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.
From November 17–19, 2023 the work group members and participating artists will present the preliminary results of their research at a Research Assembly. The project will culminate in an exhibition, which will open at nGbK in November 2024.
nGbK work group: Katalin Erdődi, Marc Herbst, Julia Kurz, Virág Major-Kremer, Vincent Schier