On nuclear pasts
and radiant futures
Artistic research
and exhibition

MOME/ERASMUS Photography MA's NUCLEAR ENERGY PROJECT with international participants

Krisztina Erdei
Paks & Bátaapáti, Hungary

MOME Photography MA course NUCLEAR ENERGY PROJECT in collaboration with international participants and ERASMUS

The one week course, which included field work and lectures, examined the production, use and social perception of nuclear energy. The participants’ goal was to expand their own experiences and map the mediating role of art, including photography, with regard to energy futures and climate change.

The growing demand for different forms of energy is a central feature of today's society, one of the biggest challenges we face both globally and locally. In our daily routines, we often ignore the myriad aspects of energy, mostly experiencing it as either abundance, or scarcity. The past decades have been characterized by disputes and crises over fossil fuel, nuclear, and sustainable resources fueled by competing technologies.

It is no different in Hungary either. The Moholy-Nagy University of Arts invited the students of Belgian KASK and Romanian Partium University to join them on a research project that revolved around the broader political, social and economic context of nuclear energy production in the Central European context. An important goal of the course was to extend conversations of energy, which is most often experienced in private life, to the field of social discourse by involving interdisciplinary methods, and to confront opinions articulated by different interests.

During the research period, we visited Paks. Paks is Hungary's only nuclear power plant with four operating reactors. The controversial Paks 2 project, also taking place at the same site, would expand the number of reactors. For now, the construction that started in 2019 and encountered many difficulties is still barely visible.

Radioactive waste from these reactors is stored in Bátaapáti, not far from Paks. When visiting both Paks and Bátaapáti, participating students were able to experience first-hand the local people's relationship with the nuclear power plant, the expectations, and the fears and visions related to the nuclear energy and nuclear waste storage; through field work and other translocal and collaborative methods. They visited local institutions and met people producing and storing nuclear energy in different ways and with different commitments. The experience of how the nuclear industry creates and stores its product and wastes, and the opinions of the people of Paks and Bátaapáti shaped the students’ ideas about energy and its context.

In the evenings, the instructors of the course–Mathieu Asselin, Krisztina Erdei, Gábor Arion Kudász, and Willem Vermoere–held lectures highlighting the multifaceted interpretation of the concept of energy. The presented different artistic practices in order to demonstrate other examples of how artists approach the topic of energy, such as: investigative documentary projects, research-based art, collaborative work, and social engagement. Two guest lecturers were also invited. One of them, Eszter Mátyás, was an international expert on environmental politics and nuclear energy legitimacy, and her critical presentation raised many questions about sustainable energy sources and our energy future. The other guest speaker was the Japanese photographer Kazuma Obara, whose artistic activity processed the background and consequences of several nuclear accidents including Fukushima and Chernobyl.

The knowledge gained during the field trip and the lectures provided guidance for work with people involved in the issue of nuclear energy – work such as planning interviews, researching archival materials, and overall the successful further development of student projects. We would like to present some of them later on this platform and at the event of SALT. CLAY. ROCK research assembly.

Participating students: Miclo Alexandra, Antal Anita, Szabó Csilla Fruzsina, Kiss Virág, Bíró, Borbála, Juhos Júlia, Nagy Hermina, Hompot Andrea, Tarcsi Anna, Oros Krisztina, Pauline, Claire Arnauld  Claire Bravo, Kedist Coppejans, Soutkin Coutteyne, Simon Gerlinger, Martijn De Meuleneire, Botstein Edward, Csejtei Anna Márta, Cseke Tamás, Dorogi Enikő Barbara, Hecker Sára, Hemet Lola, Takács Kamilla, Tudose Adrian Valeriu


International student group, down in the Bátaapáti repository.
International student group, kitted out and down in the Bátaapáti repository.
students at reactor
MFA Art students at the Paks reactor learning site.
MFA Students dazzled by a display.
Students horse'in around at the Bátaapáti repository.
Students horsing around, underground at the Bátaapáti repository display area.
Erasmus student
Student; contemplating energy.