The Golem Lives On

Thematic Exhibition on the GOLEM in the Jewish Museum Berlin

Press Release, 3 August 2016

From September 23, 2016, to January 29, 2017

The Jewish Museum Berlin will be opening a major exhibition on the GOLEM on September 22. The myth of someone who can create artificial life is the focus of this extensive thematic exhibition. To this day, this well-known legendary Jewish figure continues to inspire generations of artists and writers. Whether as homunculi, cyborgs, robots, or androids: the golem is presented in the exhibition from its creation from a ritual in Jewish mysticism through to popular narrative material in film and literature and its continuation in artistic and digital worlds.

The Legend of the Golem

A figure molded from inanimate matter such as dust or clay is brought to life by means of ritual incantations and a specific combination of Hebrew letters. Created by a human and possessing immense physical strength, the soulless creature becomes a helper, a companion, or a rescuer of a Jewish community in danger. There is no setting more closely tied to the story of the golem than Prague. According to legend, Rabbi Judah Loew created a golem out of clay in order to protect the Jewish ghetto from persecution. As in many golem stories, however, the creation gets out of control and becomes a threat even to its creator.

From a Medieval Golem to a Contemporary Cyborg

In every epoch, the golem symbolizes the threat scenarios and hopes for redemption of its time. As a figure of thought and a projection screen, the golem combines faith in progress and hope for rescue with the fear of an unleashed power. In seven rooms, the exhibition fathoms the wide range of material on the theme as it has been presented in medieval manuscripts, multifaceted narratives, silent film, and the fine arts over the last two centuries. With more than 120 objects displayed on almost 10,000 sq. feet of exhibition space, subjects such as creativity, creation, power, and redemption are examined. The thematic spectrum ranges from Jewish mysticism to the legend of Prague to the motifs of transformation and doppelgängers. The epilog brings visitors back to the present: Whether as a comic superhero, characters in a computer game, or a cyborg, the golem lives, and with it the question as to what it means to be a human being.

"All artists are creators of the golem"

The act of creation and the search for form are also reflected in the process of artistic creation: As soon as an artwork is completed, it escapes the control of the artist. Internationally renowned artists such as Anselm Kiefer, Joshua Abarbanel, R.B. Kitaj, Yves Gellie, Mark Podwal, Gert H. Wollheim, and Fritz Ascher have dedicated works to the golem motif. For its GOLEM exhibition, the Jewish Museum Berlin has brought together a wide range of objects – painting, sculpture, object art, videos, installation, photography, and illustrations – on loan from significant museums and private collections from around the world, including the Jewish Museum in New York, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

Extensive Accompanying Program

Parallel to the GOLEM exhibition, the Jewish Museum Berlin will be hosting talks with top-notch guests and film presentations, in which the different narratives in art, literature, and film will be examined in greater depth. On August 27, the Long Night of Museums, films, interactive stations, and a huge, virtual golem will set the mood for the exhibition under the slogan "The Golem is coming!"

Silent Film DJ D’dread will perform live accompaniment to turn the silent film classic The Golem: How He Came into the World into a psychoacoustic experience in the Golem Lounge. The documentary film Golem – Die Legende vom Menschen produced by ARTE/rbb to accompany the exhibition, will be celebrating its premiere on September 13 in the Jewish Museum Berlin, tracing the development of the Golem figure over two millennia.

+++ Save the date +++: Press conference on September 22, 11 am (Preview: 10 am).

Dates: September 23, 2016, to January 29, 2017
Location: Old Building, first level
Hours: daily from 10 am to 8 pm, Mondays till 10 pm
Admission: with a ticket to the museum (8 euros, reduced 3 euros)

Media partners
Wall, ARTE, Monopol, Yorck Kinogruppe, zitty Berlin, Wired

Press photos for reporting (listing credits and in compliance with copyright details) are available for download here.