deganit schocken: architecture of small things

Deganit Schocken: Architecture of small things / Rachel Sukman / 1995

Deganit Schocken’s creativity in reality stems from her refusal to accept the separation between The Ideal and The World. “Observing the universe is an infinite source of pleasure for the philosopher. It will sweeten his lonely hours, fill his soul with the noblest of sentiments, lift his contemplations from the soil of the earth closer to the divine throne”. So writes Moses Mendelssohn in his essay “Letters on the Sentiments”.


Schocken’s works invite prolonged, close-up observation not only due to their size, but also due to the sensuality impressed on them.


The fact that the pieces are small-scale testifies to the modesty of their creator. But it is the creator who makes new things and brings them to life.  “He that never asked to be God was never a human being."


The jewelry pieces that Schocken makes are small. It is therefore appropriate to hold the green brooch in the palm of one’s hand. The brooch needs to be observed from the right distance; we would each have a clear notion of what the right distance is, for us, in order to be intimate


with a small thing lying in the palm of our hand like a treasure we wouldn’t want to loose. While observing it, we will feel a chill coming from the silver object with a water inset. The result of the contact between the silver, the water and our body heat is a gradual sense of warmth.

Now it is pleasant to keep it close; now it almost belongs to us, because we gave it warmth. Observing is not only about the distance between the eye and the object, but also about the meeting point between our desire to touch a beautiful thing and our ability to have it.

“Socrates: But it is the will, one of the things you mentioned, which is in every man. In that respect, no one man is better than another.
Manon: So it seems
Socrates: So it is clear that it is the ability to have that will make one man better than the rest.
Manon: Absolutely “

Another piece, Divided Pool, is built like a halved hexagon. One can look at it from a distance and imagine a miniature town square. Sunk at the bottom of each half are two drops of tinted oil which represent precious stones. Hence, “water-set”. The drops signify two eyes, and yet you can also see them as four shiny little puddles at the bottom of one large pool. The light reflected off the colored water creates a soft glow, sucking us into the court-like architectural structure, both an open and a closed piazza at the same time. The architectural set up of an environment – a street or a city – is made out of small things like pools, squares, objects, 

sculptures in motion, all on the same surface, note to note, like harmony, based on a combination of chords. An architectural thought of a harmonious composition lies behind the creation of the Pools, like a piece of music with several movements played by a solo performer
or a small ensemble.

I met Deganit Schocken while working on the exhibition “Tel Aviv in the footsteps of Bauhaus”. It was apparent to me that her objects-structures obey an architectural language and it is plain to see the links to Bauhaus architecture. Pool with a Drain has qualities of sculpture, sketching, design and architecture. The decisive line of her works flows in a way that is both beautiful and functional. Schocken builds her Pools like an architect, as is also implied in the name of 3 Story Pool, a piece which to me seems like a typical, ship-like, Bauhaus building. 
Bauhaus architects loved ships, their romance, and saw them as floating houses. Bauhaus buildings resemble ships not only because of their round windows but also because of their round banisters and balustrades, the use of white on them and the guiding principle of a functional space. Walter Gropius saw the house as a sculpture for human use, made for man to move and live in.

“I made a stone out of water”, says Schocken about her first Pool, “and out of that came the idea that perhaps it was possible to make a stone out of cloth as well. In the world of jewelry the precious stone is a status symbol, a theme that is put in the center, in a casing.

When the stone is hard, like a diamond, we focus on the stone. In the Pools the casing, the structure, is the main thing, just as the ‘stone’ – the
water – becomes an experience rather than matter.” The theme of the work is the container or the structure. The bottom of the Pool is a sort of hollow little tube with water, which changes color from light green in the
shallow area to dark green in the deep area. But the Pools are just as beautiful when empty.

I had the opportunity to observe Deganit Schocken while she was working in her studio. She was working on a spiral that day, a seemingly simple form. She was occupied for hours with the simplicity of the object and the need to choose the right color for the material. It shouldn’t be too shiny or too vulgar. It struck me that she was creating the spiral, and at the same time aiming to erase it, not to have it be too pretty, so it wouldn’t instantly be liked. The right amount of “beauty” required for a piece of jewelry meant to decorate a piece of clothing is important, but not enough. One should consider the brooch as a creation that has meaning beyond its beauty. It has to be good, in the Platonic sense of the word.

What is fascinating about her work is not only the finished product, but her ability to ask questions, the restlessness which leads to new explorations.  The thought which lies at the basis of the search for effective solutions (only in the realm of jewelry -making, or so it seems) for wearing a certain object, leads to creating movement within the object itself.

Movement is a prerequisite in the work. It is content, a theme, a dynamic place where the tension of a relationship creates a form. A good example of this is Brooch – a movable sculptural structure with varied wearing options. Here thought is put into developing the pin. It all happens at the base of the needle. The hinges allow movement in different directions, while the pin comes apart and splits again and again, creating other separate pins, which are connected through the hinges to the original pin.

“Choose, feel, contemplate and enjoy. Choose from among the objects surrounding you:  pick out the ones conducive to your wellbeing. Feel them: learn to observe them and control their essence.”

Works entitled Brooches, which are meant to be attached to clothing, combine the beautiful and the good – good in the sense of being functional, and beautiful in the sense of being liked. One Brooch looks like the front of a building. Between this Brooch and the previous one, in that space between the modular/complex and the unified/cohesive, between the thought and the ability to realize it, is where Schocken’s work resides.