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GALLERY 2010/2011

visual communication practice

A live Garden Gnome in Bad Ems!



Description of idea

Describe your idea and concept of your work in relation to the festival outlines:

Ein lebendiger Gartenzwerg in Bad Ems: HD video 5min. 33 sec. / 2010 / Actor: Josef Zeman / Voice-over: Tammo Sachs

Bad Ems is a small town in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. It is the county seat of the Rhein-Lahn rural district and is well-known as a bathing resort on the river Lahn.

In october 2010 the artists Ondrej Brody and Kristofer Paetau – winner of the ‘Kunstpreis Balmoral’ art award – realized a public artwork in Bad Ems with the thematic stipulated by the Art Award: Provokation aus der Provinz (Provocation from the province). Their award winning project is called: Ein lebendiger Gartenzwerg in Bad Ems.

A man of short stature, dressed up as a garden gnome, will accompany the two artists in the public space and in the gardens of inhabitants of Bad Ems. The little man – Josef Zeman from Czech Republic – works as an actor and model in Prague where the artists contracted him from a casting studio for film and television.

According to Wikipedia: today there are estimated to be about 25 million garden gnomes in Germany. A recent problem was the production of cheap garden gnomes by plagiarism, which came less from the Asian region rather than from Eastern Europe. Accordingly, the “Live Garden Gnome in Bad Ems” also comes from Eastern Europe since it was cheaper than a German one.

Garden gnomes are often regarded with an ironic and critical undertone, as a sign of bad taste and a good example of kitsch. But what could be the motivation of the artists Brody & Paetau to do a work with a live Gartenzwerg in Bad Ems? They say that they are interested in a different kind of public art and to get in direct contact with the population by working with an actor as a ‘living sculpture’. Nowdays anything can be art it seems, but the times when a sculpture was still carved out of stone fill our hearts with nostalgia…

Many works of art in public spaces meet with opposition. The ‘public’ in the public space is usually not prepared for contemporary art, or perhaps not interested in dealing with art at all. Of course children are an easy target because they are curious and have no preconceived ideas about art. But should we tolerate that these so-called artists are abusing a handicapped person and making fun out of him, putting him in the role of a Gartenzwerg!?

What kind of communication approach do you use?

improvisation, performance, film, interaction, provocation, humor, small sized "dwarf" actor...

What are in your opinion concrete benefits to the society because of your communication?

It can make people reflect over the Garden Gnome sculpture tradition in a different perspective...

What did you personally learn from creating your submitted work?

TV manipulates everything in order to get what they want, to be small sized "dwarf" is a handicap and it needs a lot of courage and humor to get along with this handicap, politicians are scared to death by media and don't care about art, but these things I should have known already :-)

Why is your work, GOOD communication WORK?

If it makes people reflect and smile it is maybe good.

Where and how do you intent do implement your work?

On the internet, in video festivals, in exhibitions and other communication platforms.

Did your intervention had an effect on other Media. If yes, describe the effect? (Has other media reported on it- how? Were you able to change other media with your work- how?)


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Entry details


A live Garden Gnome in Bad Ems!


A small sized "dwarf" actor playing the role of a typical German Garden Gnome sculpture in a small German town...

Concept author(s)

Ondrej Brody; Kristofer Paetau

Concept author year(s) of birth

1980; 1972

Concept author(s) contribution

Elaboration of the concept, realisation of the project together with the actor Josef Zeman and video editing.



Other author(s)

Josef Zeman

Other author(s) year(s) of birth


Other author(s) contribution



Czech Republic

Competition category

visual communication practice

Competition subcategory


Competition field


Competition subfield


Subfield description

This is a public art project in a small town in Germany with a small sized actor playing the role of a Garden Gnome sculpture typical in Germany...