In 2017, in response to the Charlotteville protests, artist Julie Weitz created her performative project “My Golem,” which centers on her embodiment of the mythical creature drawn from Jewish folklore. A futuristic highly-stylized figure covered with white mud, she was brought to life to respond to contemporary challenges including climate catastrophe, white supremacy, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia.
Over the past four years, “My Golem” has evolved from Instagram videos to performances at protests to creative collaborations- taking on a life of her own. “Golem v. Golem” is a new eight-part episodic video series inspired by the Passover story’s struggle between tyranny and freedom. Through the series, Weitz re-examines her multi-year project exploring “My Golem”’s creation story, her activism, and how the character has been received and (mis)-interpreted by different audiences in various contexts. Weitz’s journey through her previous work as both creator and creation requires retelling and reframing her past, and ultimately questioning her connection to God. The videos weave the themes of Passover throughout the dialogue and question the possibility of both psychological and spiritual liberation within all of us.
In addition to the installation at the Vilna Shul, “Golem v. Golem” is a digital project designed for Instagram, and will include an unfolding narrative with one episode available each day of the holiday, as well as supporting posts, stories, and a companion literary collaboration, “What We Talk About When We Talk to the Golem,” by Moriel Rothman-Zecher. Created, co-directed and co-edited by Julie Weitz, directed and co-edited by D.S. Chun of Rug and Vase alongside Director of Photography Mustafa Zeno, Sound Recordist Cameron Gibson, Costume Designer Jill Spector and musician Nyxe.
Julie Weitz is a Los Angeles-based artist whose work spans several media including video, film, performance, and installation. Her practice is grounded in Jewish folklore, mysticism, humor, and ritual. Weitz is currently a 2020-21 Cultural Trailblazer of the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and a Helix Fellow at Yiddishkayt. Her work has been featured in Artforum, Art in America, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, BOMB, LA Confidential, Photograph Magazine, Hyperallergic, and KCRW. Weitz has received grants from the California Center for Cultural Innovation, Banff Centre for Arts, Asylum Arts, and the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture. She is a contributing writer at Contemporary Art Review Los Angeles (Carla) and an activist with Never Again Action, a progressive, Jewish-led organization that takes direct actions to defend immigrant justice. Weitz founded the Instagram account @Jews4BlackLives in May 2020, which serves as an educational hub for the Jewish activist community in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.
Golem v. Golem by Julie Weitz is produced by Asylum Arts. The project is presented at Boston’s Vilna Shul in partnership with JArts Boston. A companion literary collaboration, “What We Talk About When We Talk to the Golem,” by Moriel Rothman-Zecher, is produced by Jewish Book Council. Additional partners include the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, the Jewish Museum of Florida/FIU and the Jewish Museum of Milwaukee.
What We Talk About When We Talk to the Golem
Julie Weitz’s Golem is a fictional character with a mythical pedigree; in responding to and conversing with this iteration of the Golem, Moriel Rothman-Zecher will create three characters of his own, each speaking from, if not for, a different part of American Jewishness in 2021. The central response from each will be in writing, including an earnest/nervous transcript of an interview with the Golem, a poetic essay on the Golem, and a conspiracy theory-laden report about the Golem. Additionally, each character will have a possible video component. These characters will, to varying degrees, be golem-esque themselves, in that they are each exaggerated in their attributes, and all three have a bit of childlikeness to them. Together with the Golem, they will give voice to a variation on the Four Children.
For the full written responses, please see “Interview with the Golem” and “What We Talk About When We Talk To The Golem”, “Episode 46: Red Pilling “The Golem”, and “The Golem Sonnets”.
Moriel Rothman-Zecher is a Jerusalem-born novelist and poet. His first novel, “Sadness Is a White Bird,” received the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” Honor, won the Ohioana Book Award, was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and was longlisted for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize. His work has been published in The Common Magazine, Haaretz, the Jewish Book Council’s Paper Brigade, the New York Times, the Paris Review’s Daily, Runner’s World, the Tel Aviv Review of Books, ZYZZYVA Magazine, and elsewhere. He is the recipient of two MacDowell Fellowships for Literature, and Yiddishkayt’s Wallis Annenberg Helix Fellowship for Yiddish Cultural Studies. Moriel’s second novel is forthcoming from Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 2022. He lives in Yellow Springs, Ohio, with his family.