Israeli artist David Schocken travels around the world gathering stories that he relates in a very conscious manner.
Careful to leave behind the smallest footprint possible, Israeli artist David Schocken in his exhibition “Heritage” on display at Instituto Cervantes, doesn’t use nails to hang his work but magnets. The remnants of our movements, residue of our actions is in fact what forms the premise of the show. An artist and a designer, David travels around the world gathering this ‘heritage’. In an e-mail interview, David explains his pre-occupation with the subject. Edited excerpts.
What is the trigger for “Heritage”? Has it emerged out of your extensive travels?
My fascination for stories, people and the heritage comes from living, studying, working and travelling in different countries. I studied at the Design Academy Eindhoven in The Netherlands where I started my journey at the product design department and I graduated from the visual communication department. There I learned that I could create sometimes an even a stronger impact carrying my message on a USB stick, rather than big, space consuming models. My challenge became to transfer a message with the smallest footprint possible. From there I went on to do a six month project in Santiniketan, West Bengal where I practiced traditional handicrafts, to the media department at the New York Times in Manhattan, followed by three year stint at a European fashion brand in China. Finally I came back to Israel where I run a strategy and branding consultancy where we work with tight timetables, budgets and targets for demanding clients such as the mayor of Tel Aviv, the Israel Securities Authority and various commercial companies. At the same time, I do my own art. Continuing to live between these worlds of mass production, handmade, personal stories and mass communication made me interested in researching and questioning the outcomes of our actions. The diverse cultures I encountered with all their contradictions between the East and the West, rich and poor, developed and developing, provoked a certain kind of sensitivity and passion for highlighting and telling different stories of life. Life is experienced differently by different people, I try to question our human habits by looking at it from different perspectives and creating not obvious connections between things and ideas.
What ‘heritage’ are you talking about?
The exhibition deals with different kinds of heritage. The teapot hanging on magnets attached to the ceiling is a development of a family heirloom. From being an expensive symbol of high social status, after it was cracked by time and use, losing its practical value still carries its fragile symbol of heritage. The tin can video shows me collecting rusted war rations used by soldiers many years ago. In a sense I am ‘cleaning’ the desert, removing their heritage from the landscape where it is just a pile of rusted cans now in an attempt to tell about the remains of these soldiers and the personal stories that they symbolise. In another piece there are two videos projected on a wall next to each other. One of them shows a side view of an escalator at the Hong Kong airport. This escalator connects between the shuttle train and the flight gates. Every two minutes a train arrives and creates a continuum of people for two minutes followed by a silent emptiness for two minutes. This is repeated in an endless loop like a production line. The second video shows Lakshman Jhoola in Rishikesh. I filmed it while visiting the area and fell ill. I found myself watching this bridge for days on end. Both the bridge and the escalator are taking people from one place to another, so similar, yet so different. What does all this human movement leave behind?
Does your art borrow from the volatile political world around you?
My art deals with politics in the same way it deals with any other human issue. I made a documentary about an attempt to brand a political message. The organization I followed is called ‘Combatants for Peace’. It consists of former combatants from both the Israeli and Palestinian sides who used to fight each other and now fight for peace together. I feel that this exhibition attempts to raise the issue of responsibility and morality in a broader sense. By looking at the heritage of our actions I try to question the reasons behind our actions. The unclear border between the essential and the non-essential is what I find myself trying to demarcate.
(The exhibition is on at Instituto Cervantes, Hanuman Road till June 30)