Nuclear Forum

The British Atomic Nuclear Group installed at The Royal Society of Arts
James Acord, Steve Kurtz, Chris Oakley, Simon Hollington, Kypros Kypriano; Nuclear Forum, 2008.

Accompanying the Nuclear: Art & Radioactivity exhibition, the Nuclear Forum was organised by Arts Catalyst and SCAN in partnership with RSA Arts & Ecology.

The forum explored the impact of nuclear power in art and culture. Prominent artists, writers and experts discuss their work and engagement with the issues around nuclear energy, from Hiroshima through the 50s' white heat of technology and the Cold War nuclear tensions to present day energy debates.


James Acord, artist and 'nuclear sculptor'
Keith Barnham (Imperial College)
Paul Dorfman (Warwick University), expert on nuclear consultation and radioactivity risks,
Kate Hudson (LSBU), chair of CND and editor of the journal Contemporary Politics
Kyp Kyprianou & Simon Hollington, artists
Steve Kurtz, artist and activist, Critical Art Ensemble (by video link)
Gustav Metzger, artist and activist, founder of Auto-Destructive Art
Chris Oakley, artist
Pam Skelton, artist (Central St Martins College of Art)
John Wills (Kent University), historian, author of Conservation Fallout, a look at nuclear protest in California


James Acord was the only private individual in the world licensed to own and handle radioactive materials. He is likely to remain so since the authorities closed the loopholes after he achieved his license. His work was a story of a 20-year performance, a cat and mouse game with the nuclear regulatory authorities, in which he pursued his dream of converting highly radioactive waste into inert metal for use in art. Along the way, he created sculpture and events that probed the history of nuclear engineering, often incorporating radioactive materials. His astonishing story shines light on the secrecy and security with which society cloaks the nuclear industry.
Chris Oakley is a video and digital imaging artist fascinated with our perception of the world, and how this is continuously altered by the world around us. The artist is concerned with our experience of mainstream media, mass communications and augmented reality. In 2008, Chris Oakley created a film called “Half-life” which explored the histories of Harwell (birthplace of the UK nuclear industry) and the new development of fusion energy technology at the Culham facility in Oxfordshire. The film examined nuclear science research through a historical and cultural filter. With the recent widespread acceptance of the reality of climate change driven by carbon dioxide emissions, this work challenges our understanding of issues surrounding nuclear science. “Half-life” was then screened at The Arts Catalyst's “Nuclear: Art & Radioactivity” exhibition and featured in the accompanying symposium.
Gustav Metzger is an artist, activist and founder of the concept 'Auto-Destructive Art', where destruction was part of the process of creating the work. Born in the 1926, he arrived in Britain as a refugee following Nazi persecution. In 1959 Metzger wrote a manifesto 'Auto-destructive Art’. He describes his Auto-destructive art 'as a desperate last-minute subversive political attack on the capitalist system...(an attack also on art dealers and collectors who manipulate modern art for profit.' Metzger’s public, performative, temporary and critical approach to art has had a huge impact through the decades – especially influential during the 60s and 70s. His work has been, and continues to be exhibited extensively around the world.
Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) is a collective of five tactical media practitioners of various specialisations including computer graphics and web design, film/video, photography, text art, book art and performance. Formed in 1987, CAE's focus has been on the exploration of the intersections between art, critical theory, technology and political activism. The group has exhibited and performed at diverse venues internationally, ranging from the street, to the museum, to the internet. Museum exhibitions include the Whitney Museum and the New Museum in NYC, Corcoran Museum in Washington D.C., ICA in London, MCA in Chicago, Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt and the Natural History Museum in London.