The Opening Response: Delia Jürgens

The Opening Response titles a special series of interviews with artists, curators, writers, composers, mediators, and space-makers around the world. Dialoguing within and around the thematics which have rapidly emerged as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, we offer within this frame a differentiated, honest, and beautiful bid at understanding. Weekly, distinct doors are opened into the lives of the contributors; into their experiences dawning on pleasure, productivity, metaphysics, and paradigmatic shifts. Hopefully, these conversations can act as way-posts and lead to furthered empathy, unison, and co-creation. The Opening Response meets the need for weaving the autonomy of a web of conscious communications in times of extreme perplexity.

Delia Jürgens is a painter and installation artist living between Hannover, Berlin and Los Angeles. Her work deals with the ambiguity of life in today’s world shaped by global economics and digital networks. She establishes a link between the landscape’s reality and that imagined by its conceiver and focuses on concrete questions that determine our existence. Jürgens wants to amplify the astonishment of the spectator by creating compositions or settings that generate tranquil poetic images. She investigates in the dynamics of landscape and the omnipresent lingering of a ‘corporate world’ referencing postcolonial theory.

Delia Jürgens received her MFA in Fine Arts from the Braunschweig University of Art in 2014, where she studied with the German-American artist and professor of painting Frances Scholz, and a BFA in Scenographics from the Hannover University of Applied Sciences and Arts. Her work has been exhibited in group and solo exhibitions at the Guangdong Museum of Art (China), the Sprengel Museum Hannover (Germany), the ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe (Germany), the Kestner Gesellschaft Hannover (Germany), the Heidelberger Kunstverein (Germany), the Kunstverein Hannover (Germany), the Garden Gallery Los Angeles (United States), the _Tim Nolas Vienna (Austria) and the Kunstverein Langenhagen (Germany), among others. She received the artist in residence stipend of the Künstlerhaus Meinersen (2015), the working grant of the MWK Lower Saxony (2016) and the working grant of the Stiftung Kunstfonds (2019) and was honored with the Sprengel Price for Visual Arts of the Niedersächsische Sparkassenstiftung and the Sprengel Museum in 2018.

Delia Jürgens is the founder of the art collective DIS-PLAY. DIS-PLAY exhibits the merge of virtual versus physical prospects beyond a physical representation in a fusion of different reality states. Each virtual appearance occurs physically at a different venue across cultures, countries and time zones and brings together a wide array of artists and people to engage and rethink the actual. DIS-PLAY argues that the possibilities that the internet offers for self-organization and the sharing of information are undermined by often hidden power structures of economics and meditates on ideas of collectivity and togetherness.


Josseline BlackReflecting on this recent period of forced isolation, how are you articulating your response in a public discourse? What is your role in this larger conversation?

Delia Jürgens – At the beginning of the pandemic and throughout the first lockdown, I was in Los Angeles. It was a quite different experience than here in Germany, where I am right now. I was sheltering in place for 5 months, didn’t socially engage, ordered groceries mostly online and worked isolated in the studio. Here it’s different. Everything feels almost usual just that everyone wears a mask in public space. It is possible to see exhibitions, meet people and have an art exchange.

My perspective and approach towards my art practice tilts every time I’m in the US in general, but even more since the changes that came with the pandemic. Over there I always feel a much bigger responsibility to address topics that are more politically and socially related. As an artist, I see my role in questioning given formation processes, how they create value and how identity is shaped today. I think Instagram actually has the potential of being able to reach a wide array of people from very different backgrounds to reshape one’s own sight.

JB – Has your artistic practice changed through isolation? How has your practical capacity to produce work been affected by the pandemic?

DJ – My work changed in the past year. Usually I worked directly in and with the exhibition space. I created huge site-specific paintings with the approach to work with the actual dynamics and architecture of the specific space I was invited to show my work in. I called that group of work Fragmented Landscapes. Since a year and a bit, I am more interested in working on smaller paintings that are able to be autonomous (from the space they are shown in, from budget and from other external dynamics). I think the lockdown and its force to work from home brought an interesting perspective of intimacy into my work. In Los Angeles, I had a different situation with a garden and a separate studio space in the backyard of the house. In Germany, I am actually working in my apartment. You start to look from your inner landscape and your own gaze instead of from a common economically pre-shaped perspective. Such a situation might have more enriching potential to reflect on society, reality, and truth than a very economically organized working process.

JB – What is your approach to collaboration at the moment?

DJ – I’ve always been interested in collaborations. I believe in the power of visuality and always thought working with someone or a group of people in a visual way gives a lot of perspective. To me such a communication seems very direct and almost innocent.

During the lockdown in March I started working closely with my artist friend Carlotta Drinkewitz. We started to use Instagram as a studio and created paintings together through live streams. Our material was the soil of our locations – mine from the porch in Los Angeles and Carlotta’s from a public meadow in Brunswick – in combination with fabrics. We continued working on those paintings digitally and are now – as we met at the same place and physically – bringing the digital paintings back into a physical materialization.

Parallel to that, I founded an art collective called DIS-PLAY some years ago, which is actually doing a diary series throughout the pandemic. We think about time in relation with the different circumstances and what that means as an artist and for making art.

JB – How would you define the present moment, metaphysically/literally/symbolically?

DJ – I think it’s like the desert. Or the desert in the synonym of the ocean. A halt in the stream of dynamics and transformation processes that actually and literally pauses for reflection on the given. It’s like the silent eye of a storm. You have to watch out in which strata you put yourself into.

JB – Do you see the potential for renewed support for cultural production, in spite of macro and micro economies which are currently rapidly restructuring?

DJ – I do. I have been living between Los Angeles, Berlin and Hannover since almost 5 years now and am very used to being in touch with friends and curators through digital communication formats. When the lockdown and its huge shift into the digital space and realm happened, I suddenly felt home. Since the lockdown, especially in Germany, there are a lot of funding opportunities from the government to shift cultural production into digital space. In America, it seems as if it’s more privately funded and organized. I’m not sure if the support is sufficient. It will be interesting to observe if money will be put into micro economies which might have a more independent and more efficient approach and experience than in macro economies, whose interest might be primarily to sustain the given institutions.

JB – E.M. Cioran writes: “in major perplexities, try to live as history was done with and to react like a monster riddled by serenity.” How do you respond to this proposal?

DJ – I think I relate to it.

JB – How is this time influencing your perception of alterity in general?

DJ – I think the BLM movement shows the general response to it very clearly. Maybe we understand that we don’t differ that much from one another – we can all be affected by the virus and feel pretty much the same anxiety or vulnerability. To me personally this time shows the indifference of humans, but unfortunately the economic effects will produce huge economic differences and a lot of people will suffer.

JB – What is your position on the relationship between catastrophe and solidarity?

DJ – I don’t really believe in either of them. I am usually pretty balanced and take things how they appear or happen instead of seeing them in an ultimate perspective. For the effects of SARS-CoV-2 in relation to catastrophe and solidarity, I think the real catastrophe is how the human species behaves with the planet and towards a lot of other species. I truly believe that everyone should start thinking about reducing one’s own benefits, lifestyles and the spaces they occupy. How that occupation has an invisible chain of effects for others.

JB – What is your utopia now?

DJ – My utopia is pretty dreamy. I want to believe in the positive effects all this is bringing us into. I remember how different Los Angeles was after 2 or 3 weeks of lockdown. Usually you always hear traffic and are in a mist of pollution. You don’t really know your neighbors because everyone is always in their own house, in their cars or in indoor frames like the fitness studio or other clubs. After and through the lockdown, birds you’ve never heard before were singing and came back to their habitats, the air felt clear and the sun was actually visible as rays not behind a hazy cloud. People were on the streets walking or exercising and getting more in touch although they socially distanced than before. The utopia I want to believe in is a restart, where the effects of economic failure will be positive for the planet and other species. But I know it’s a utopia.

Josseline Black is a contemporary curator, writer, and researcher. She holds an M.A. in time-based media from the Kunst Universität Linz and a B.A. in Anthropology (specialization Cotsen Institute of Archaeology) from the University of California Los Angeles. She operated for five years as in-house curator of the international artistic residency program at the Atelierhaus Salzamt (Austria) wherein she had the privilege of working closely with a number of brilliant artists. Included in her duties within the institution she allocated and directed the Salzamt hosting of the E.U. CreArt mobility for artists program. As a writer, she has reviewed exhibitions and co-edited texts for Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea do Chiado, Portugal, Madre Museum Naples, the Museums Quartier Vienna, MUMOK, Guimarães Gallery, Gallery Michaela Stock. She is regular theoretical contributor to the Contemporary Art Magazine Droste Effect. In addition, she has published with Interartive Malta, OnMaps Tirana, Albania, and L.A.C.E (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions). In tandem to her curatorial practice and writing, she has for the past decade used choreography as a research tool inquiring into the ontology of the performing body with a focus on embodied cartographies of public memory and space. She has held research residencies at the East Ugandan Arts Trust, the Centrum Kultury w Lublinie, the University of Arts Tirana Albania, and the Upper Austrian Architectural Forum. It is her privilege to continue developing her approach to curatorship which derives from an anthropological reading of art production and an ethnological dialectic in working with cultural content generated by art makers. Currently, she is developing the methodology which supports the foundation of a performance-based trans-disciplinary platform for a spectral critique on art production.

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