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On 23 August 2020, the Jewish Museum Berlin is opening its new core exhibition. Until then the museum will be closed for renovations.

GOLEM

The myth of artificial life – from homunculi and cyborgs to robots and androids – was the focus of an extensive thematic exhibition about the golem at the Jewish Museum Berlin. This most prominent of Jewish legendary figures has inspired generations of artists and writers to this day.

Our exhibition presented the golem from a variety of perspectives, from its inception in a Jewish mystical ritual to its role as a subject of popular storytelling in film and its afterlife in artistic and digital realms. You can still take a look at our online feature on the golem theme.

Past exhibition

Where

Old Building, level 1

Lindenstraße 9–14, 10969 Berlin

Exhibition trailer, design: Cee Cee Creative

What Is a Golem?

A golem is a creature formed out of a lifeless substance such as dust or earth that is brought to life by ritual incantations and sequences of Hebrew letters. The golem, brought into being by a human creator, becomes a helper, a companion, or a rescuer of an imperiled Jewish community. In many golem stories, the creature runs amok and the golem itself becomes a threat to its creator.

What Awaited You in the Exhibition

The exhibition demonstrated the thematic richness of the material, as is apparent from medieval manuscripts, many-layered narratives, and works of art from the last two hundred years. The golem symbolizes each era's dreaded dangers and hopes for redemption. The exhibition used the golem figure to examine topics like creativity, creation, power, and redemption. Whether in painting, sculpture, object art, video, installation art, photography, or illustration, the golem is very much alive and, with it, the question of what it means to be human.

Exhibition artists answer two questions about the golem

We asked artists whose work was shown in the exhibition two questions and filmed their answers.

Question 1: How did you first encounter the Golem?

This question is answered by: Joshua Abarbanel, Jorge Gil, and Mark Podwal.

Question 2: What does the Golem mean to you?

This question is answered by: Joachim Seinfeld, Tobi Kahn, Daniel Laufer, Mira Maylor, and Krištof Kintera.

Two yellow chrysalis sculptures with human faces hanging upside down from the ceiling

One of the literal meanings of the Hebrew word golem is cocoon or chrysalis. The Spanish artist Jorge Gil’s work Crisálidas (crysalis) explores the transition between two states of being: the caterpillar and the butterfly. He compares this to the clay golem’s state before the rabbi breathes live into it. Jorge Gil, Crisálidas, Spain, 2009, mixed media, synthetic resin, nylon, plush; courtesy of the artist, photo: Jorge Gil

Exhibition artists answer two questions about the golem. The answers are in English, German, and Spanish with German subtitles, October 2016; Jewish Museum Berlin

Video recording of the exhibition opening on 22 September 2016 with a keynote address by the humanoid robot Señora REEM and a talk titled "The Golem in Berlin" by Peter Schäfer, Director of the Jewish Museum Berlin (in German); Jewish Museum Berlin

Exhibition Information at a Glance

  • When

    23 Sep 2016 to 29 Jan 2017

  • Where

    Old Building, level 1
    Lindenstraße 9-14, 10969 Berlin
    See Location on Map