MK: In the other works, you also show sites devoid of human life, where the present often joins the past. For example, Eurotopians deals with visionary buildings which emerged in the ’60s for an alternative living, whereas Borgo shows ideal villages built under Mussolini, which are today mostly abandoned. Is there a unifying theme to your works?
JD: My work is not about deserted sites. Eurotopians deals with the question how one could live today in 2015, looking at Utopists that still live within their Utopia. The trilogy Borgo Romanità Alleanza shows the handling of present day Italy with its fascist past, also showing the image programs of active institutions in Rome.
In general, I would say that my focus on external material and different places have at their core a subjective quest: my own »writing« of history. My quests have something to do with presence of the absent. In retrospect, the film Vater – consisting of fixed camera shots of a landscape with a voice-over telling fragments of memory – has become for me more and more a type of »silent« key component for this unidentifiable element. It’s not about the accumulation of historical layers. The type of material which results from analog photography – the appropriation of material, so to speak – becomes its own story. It’s not about documentation, but rather a form of re-writing, where a new quality enters the process. Without this, it would only be engaged photography.
MK: How do you approach photography?
JD: I find photography as a means can transport something very specific in its arrangement and omission, which is only possible in this medium. Firstly, there’s a long research process and collecting phase, in which I compile material and references. It’s a lengthy process, in which I only have an inkling at the beginning where it will lead me to. In this process, I consolidate the strands of material until I can create a work from it. I find images which for me present a specific essence I want to transport. For this, my presence as a photographer on location; spending time there; and working with a large-format analog camera, which requires a certain form of concentration, are essential. I usually only take one image of each motif and consider exactly how the image will be composed.
MK: Back to Solitude: What goals did you have in mind for your time here?
JD: There are various projects I brought with me, which are all at different stages. The Ukraine Series has a very definite form with the exhibition and book project, which is also a very exciting process. In addition to this, I am working on Eurotopians, a book project which came about in cooperation with the journalist and author Niklas Maak. An excerpt of this will be shown this fall at the Oldenburger Kunstverein as well as at Akademie Schloss Solitude next year. It deals with Utopians of the 1960s and 1970s, such as Yona Friedman, Claude Parent, Dante Bini, or Antti Lovag, whose designs fundamentally question the standard ideas of »living,« »building,« and »housing.« Many of these building are ruins today, the architects forgotten, some of whom – often over 90 years old – still live in their utopias. I’m currently in the process of planning trips to other Utopians to photograph there. The new, large-scale work Kassel is in an early stage and has a lot to do with my own biography. I’m currently working with letters, photographs, and diaries left over from 1937-2010 from my grandmother.