Until July 16, 2017 the Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme in Paris features Golem!
With 136 works from 28 institutions and private lenders, this exhibition explores the rich fate of the Golem figure in the visual arts, through a journey that combines painting, drawing, photography, theater, cinema, literature, comics and video games. From the presentation of a remarkable Sefer Yetsirah (“Book of Creation”) printed at Mantua in 1612 to the screening of excerpts from Terminator 2, works by Boris Aronson, Christian Boltanski, Mark Podwal, Gérard Garouste, Antony Gormley, Philip Guston, Amos Gitai, RB Kitaj or Anselm Kiefer, the exhibition shows how this medieval Jewish legend still operates today in a globalized imagination.
Hôtel de Saint-Aignan
71, rue du Temple, 75003 Paris. Website
Being clay animated with sacred letters, the Golem is one of the most famous Jewish myths and one of the major figures of fantasy literature. The one whom one is accustomed to represent in the guise of a giant with superhuman powers has never ceased to fascinate and endorse many meanings over time.
In the Middle Ages and then in the Renaissance, it is an entity known only to the mystics, who debate magical operations to bring it to life. In the 19th century, the Golem became a popular figure: a creature designed to relieve the Jewish community of hard work and to protect it from persecution. But many stories insist on the episode where this being turns against Rabbi Yehuda Loew, its creator, and it is at this moment that the first images of the Golem are born. In 1915, Hugo Steiner-Prag gave him a Mongoloid and disturbing expression in the illustrations of Gustav Meyrink’s famous novel, and Paul Wegener gave it, in his film of 1920, features that will last a long time the image of the twentieth century. The legend of Golem fascinates artists, who see it as a metaphor for their position as creators in the face of an inert matter to which “give life”. From the outset, they emphasize the character’s ambivalence: to be miraculous and monstrous at the same time, it oscillates between humanity and inhumanity, between protection and threat.
The plasticity of the myth of the Golem is at the origin of most artificial creatures, imaginary or real, and its fertile progeny continues to grow, especially in the field of robotics and computer science. A precursor to superheroes and digital avatars, the Golem is also a figure that allows us to think of a world where man might lose control over his inventions.