GOLEM

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.

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

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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

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Exhibition Information at a Glance

  • When

    23 September 2016 to 29 January 2017

  • Where

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

Where

Old Building, level 1


Lindenstraße 9–14, 10969 Berlin

Exhibition Catalog

Publication

Read More & Order
Monday Movies for the Exhibition (5) GOLEM Show all

GOLEM

Films related to the exhibition theme, screened at the Jewish Museum Berlin during the exhibition

Ex Machina

17 October 2016
Director: Alex Garland, England, 2015, 108 min; English with German subtitles

Frankenstein’s 200th Birthday

31 October 2016
Halloween Film Night

Le Golem

14 November 2016
Director: Julien Duvivier, France, 1936, 95 min; French with English subtitles

The Emperor and his Baker

5 December 2016
Directors: Martin Fric and Jirí Krejcík, Czechoslovakia, 1951, 112 min; Czech with English subtitles

The Golem and Jacaszek

23 January 2017
Silent Film with Live Musical Accompaniment
Directed by: Paul Wegener and Carl Boese, Germany 1920, 87 min

Events Accompanying the Exhibition (11) GOLEM Show all

GOLEM

Golem talks, workshops, readings, and film premiere: events for adults, kids, and families held during our Golem exhibition in 2016–17.

Long Museum Night

27 August 2016
The Golem is Coming! The Jewish legend figure has inspired artists and authors

Golem – The Legend of Man

13 September 2016
ARTE Film Première and Discussion

The Clay Giant's Alive!

Held on 8 and 9 October. A musical reading (in German) with the author Anke Kuhl, plus a visit to the golem workshop, for children aged 5 and older

The Golem is Coming

20 and 27 October: A vacation day all about golems for children aged 8 to 12 (in German)

Greetings from Golem

13 November at 11 am: Exhibition tour and screen-printing workshop for adults and children 6 and older (in German)

Joshua Cohen:
You want a golem?

17 November 2016
Golem talks: Joshua Cohen reads from his highly-praised Book of Numbers.

Cathy Gelbin: The Golem Returns

1 December 2016
Golem talks: The slide presentation examines the special role of the golem for the formation of a modern Jewish culture and identity.

Guided Tour for School Students

Program for school groups, ages 6 to 19

Tour for Adults

A one-hour group program

Workshop for preschool and afterschool groups

A program for school groups and after-school groups, ages 7 and older, who want to built their own golem

Public guided tour for adults

Every Sunday (23 September–29 January 2017), 2 pm