Salt. Clay. Rock.

On nuclear pasts and radiant futures

17–19 November 2023

Event Series

nGbK, Karl-Liebknecht-Straße 11/13, 10178 Berlin


Theresa Deichert, Gorleben Archiv / Gabriele Haas, Max Haiven, Ende Gelände / Kali, Moritz Maria Karl, Nowhere Kitchen, Grüne Jugend Pécs / Júlia Konkoly-Thege, Péter Molnár, Eglė Rindzevičiūtė, Oxana Timofeeva, Andrea Vetter

Project group

Katalin Erdődi, Marc Herbst, Julia Kurz, Virág Major-Kremer, Vincent Schier

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.


Symposium “Research assembly”, November 17-19, 2023

The research assembly is the first public event of the two-year SALT. CLAY. ROCK. project, where the curators 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’.

Friday, November 17, 2023, 17:00 - 22:00
nGbK event space
Nuclear waste as nuclear cultural heritage, anti-nuclear activism and resistance, connecting past and future struggles

On November 17, Eglė Rindzevičiūtė, a London-based political sociologist from Lithuania, will present her research on the communities, materialities and locations of nuclear cultural heritage, followed by a conversation led by artist Anna Witt on the past and future of anti-nuclear resistance with activists from Ende Gelände, Gorleben Archiv and the Green Youth of Pécs, Hungary. They ask, “Who will continue these struggles, what can we learn from one another?” The evening comes to an end with a collective listening session by the artist group PPKK, who draw a poetic analogy between nuclear waste and human metabolism.

Welcome & Introduction to SALT. CLAY. ROCK.: guided tour by work group members and selected artists through the assembly’s research display

Keynote by Dr. Eglė Rindzevičiūtė: Hosts and Hostages of Nuclear Infrastructures: Managing and Containing Nuclear Materialities in the Post-Soviet Space

19:30–21:00 (in German and Hungarian, with whisper translation into English)
Conversation led by artist Anna Witt: on the pasts and futures of anti-nuclear resistance
Participants: Ende Gelände / Kali, Gorleben Archiv / Gabriele Haas, Green Youth Pécs / Júlia Konkoly-Thege

Artistic contribution: PPKK listening session

Saturday, November 18, 2023, 10:00-21:30
nGbK event space
Energy futures and solar politics, imaginaries of the future and the deep time of nuclear waste storage

On November 18, the Berlin-based author Max Haiven invites participants to come together to imagine other futures in the sci-fi fictioning workshop Writing After Their Future, followed by Nowhere Kitchen’s collective cooking and eating session. The afternoon will start with a reading of the workshop’s sci-fi texts and a collective conversation with SALT. CLAY. ROCK.’s participating artists and invited guests on the different sites they have been investigating, as well as on their respective artistic approaches to the sites.

Afterwards, the program enters the realms of deep time in an in-depth conversation with geologist Péter Molnár, who has dedicated decades of research to the clay rock in Boda that would potentially host Hungary’s final repository. The assembly then re-surfaces to contemplate our relationship to ‘Comrade Sun’ with philosopher Oxana Timofeeva, who will introduce her notion of Solar Politics and give impulses for further discussions on energy futures. This will be the topic of the last panel with transformation researcher Andrea Vetter, architect Moritz Maria Karl, and ecofeminist thinker Theresa Deichert on the challenges of a ‘green transformation’. They will also address how nuclear energy has recently been re-cast as ‘green energy’ by those who advocate for a nuclear techno-fix to climate change.