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Chapter 3 of the Exhibition Catalogue GOLEM

Emily D. Bilski

Processes of transformation are at the core of the golem motif. For artists, the golem itself became a powerful metaphor for artistic creation and the struggle for form, for bringing inanimate matter to life. As soon as the work is completed, it escapes the control of the artist, just as a golem escapes its creator.

One of the meanings of the word "golem" in Hebrew denotes something that exists in an embryonic stage. Works of art that are concerned with the process of being can develop from this core. Some artists link the Hebrew words for "person, man, human" (אדם, adam) and "earth" (אדמה, adama), which can be read as a connection to the biblical story of creation. Dramatic images emerge, which are about the transformation of the human being from clay and about its becoming one with the matter. In some works the artist as creator is associated with God the Creator.

Emily D. Bilski is an art historian, the main focus of her work is the interface between art, cultural history, and the modern Jewish experience as well as contemporary art. She works as a curator and counselor for museums in the United States, Europe, and Israel. Her books Berlin Metropolis: Jews and the New Culture: 1890-1918 (1999) and Jewish Women and Their Salons: The Power of Conversation (2005) were both awarded the National Jewish Book Award.

Citation recommendation:

Emily D. Bilski (2016), Transformation. Chapter 3 of the Exhibition Catalogue GOLEM.

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