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.
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.