Emily D. Bilski
Medieval Jewish mystics are said to have worked in unison in order to make a golem, an act mirrored in the collaboration between Mark Berghash, Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin. Combining elements of photography, concrete poetry, performance and body art, the artists created a life-sized golem, each depicting a section of the human body adorned with painted Hebrew letters. Arranged in a grid like a Hebrew crossword puzzle or Scrabble board, the possible "readings" offered by this composition constitute a witty, multilingual play of words and meanings.
Reading horizontally from right to left across the middle grid, we have the Hebrew word emet (אמת)—"truth"—one of the combinations of letters said to animate a golem. The two letters painted on the figure’s hand spell met (מת)—"death"—the specific combinations of letters that will render a golem lifeless, the word’s meaning accentuated by the blood-red color. Once we start to read the letters along the vertical axis of the grid, the possibilities multiply. Beginning with the large black aleph (א) emblazoned on the chest and combining it with the two letters on the figure’s ankle (דם) we get adam (אדם), "man." But the second syllable of that word—dam (דם)—is the word for "blood2 in Hebrew, its meaning also highlighted by the use of red. However, we could read this same combination of letters as dame, the French word for "woman." If we include the letter mem (מ), which is painted on the figure’s head in sounding out the letters, we get "Madame."
The gender-bending wordplay is consistent with the mixing of male and female anatomies in the figure itself, which boasts a dainty female head perched atop a hairy male chest. Constructed from parts taken from different bodies, the figure calls to mind one of the golem’s most famous relatives, Frankenstein’s monster, though this golem is decidedly more beautiful. The discrepancies in scale and gender give the figure the appearance of having been created by exquisite corpse, a game (from the French cadavre exquis) favored by Dadaists and Surrealists as a collaborative method for creating a composition, the goal of which was to transcend rationality. We, as viewers, join the collaboration, for in deciphering the combination of letters, we help this particular golem come to life.
Emily D. Bilski (2016), Golem, Language, Dada. Article in the Exhibition Catalogue GOLEM.
Share, Newsletter, Feedback
Chapter 2 - Jewish Mysticism: Selected Texts (2)
The Golem in Berlin
by Peter Schäfer
The Golem Lives On
With Texts by Martina Lüdicke, Anna-Dorothea Ludewig, Louisa Hall and Caspar Battegay
With Texts by Emily D. Bilski and Martina Lüdicke
With Texts by Emily D. Bilski, Christopher Lyon, Rita Kersting, Jorge Gil and David Musgrave
With Texts by Martina Lüdicke, Peter Schäfer, and Harold Gabriel Weisz Carrington
Horror and Magic
With Texts by Martina Lüdicke, Karin Harrasser, Cathy S. Gelbin, Helene Wecker and Anna Augustin
Out of Control
With Texts by Emily D. Bilski, Arno Pařík, Marc Estrin and Charlotta Kotik
With Texts by Joshua Cohen, Tracy Bartley, Cosima Wagner
Golem Catalog Online
Selected texts from our catalog
Golem Catalog – Print Version
The full version of our catalog is available in German.
Exhibition catalogs, the JMB Journal, book series, and more
All About ...
Trailer, views of the exhibition, and more
23 Sep 2016 to 29 Jan 2017