From a 16th-Century Book to a Robot-Assisted Performance, Artists Explore the Legend of the Golem
Noise-math philosopher Norbert Wiener once aptly compared the old Jewish myth about the golem with cybernetic technology. Viewed through that lens, everything from transhuman artificial life cyborgs to anthropomorphic robots to humanoid androids to posthuman digital avatars bear the mystical mark of an artificial body madly turning on its creator. This oily tale is the oldest narrative about artificial life and is now subject of the exhibition Golem! Avatars d’une légende d’argile at Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme.
The golem was first mentioned in passing as גֹּלֶם in the Bible in Psalm 139:16, but the first golem story was spun by the 16th-century Talmudic scholar Rabbi Loew ben Bezalel. In it, he supposedly used Kabbalistic magic, Hebrew letters, paranormal amulets, or mystical incantations to conjure into existence the Golem of Prague: a colossal figure built from mud or other base materials, who protected the Bohemian Jews of the country from the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II. Though initially a savior, the Golem of Prague eventually became harmful to those he had saved and had to be destroyed. There are myriad subsequent versions of the story, with many variations and contradictions. It is generally agreed that what animated this mystical entity was an inscription either applied to its forehead or slipped under its tongue, and the golem has largely been understood to be an artificial man that is part protector and part monster, but many other differences abound. This specious aspect makes the golem particularly interesting to artists because such contradictory vagueness yields opaque and elusive visual iconography…..
See full article at HYPERALLERGIC