In 2005, Ottmar Hörl reacted to the headline "Wir sind Papst" ("We are pope") by producing Ben, the praying garden gnome. Ben symbolises prayer as a symbol of spiritual and philosophical abilities, but also as a gesture that unites society and is understood worldwide.
Thus the garden gnome stands for a down-to-earth attitude towards life. He visualises all those skills of an apt craftsman and helper, skills attributed to him in the myths. The gnome was initially referred to as the "statue of the common man". With his jelly bag cap (adequate for mine workers in the middle ages), his beard and massive shoes, he was a common sight in the allotment gardens of industrial workers. Ottmar Hörl first repositioned the garden gnome in 1985. In the Frankfurt AK art gallery, he attached him to the walls head down during his "gelb-syndrom" [yellow syndrome] exhibition. 1994 saw the conceptual occupation of a city: Seligenstadt was the venue for Ottmar Hörl's "Rolling Change" sculptural project featuring a total of 1,000 blue garden gnomes (flipping the bird) and the gnome became part of an artistic concept, of communication in public spaces. Ottmar Hörl projected this adaptation in 1998 onto his large-scale sculpture with 4,000 garden gnomes in Max-Josef-Platz in Munich.
At the International Opera Festival, his "Welcome Gnomes" arranged around a statue of the first Bavarian King welcomed the audience. It goes without saying that the artist of the "Soap of Innocence" (edition of 82 million copies) was not left untouched by a sentence coined in 2005: "We are pope" is rooted in the principle of public dialogue anchored in Ottmar Hörl‘s artistic conceptions.
"Ben, the praying garden gnome" is therefore a consequence of this. World Church Day, which also took place in Cologne in 2005, almost required Hörl to make his first presentation of these art multiples at art.fair 2005.
"To me, the gnome is a sociological phenomenon originating in European mythology and gaining popularity towards the end of the 19th century in the shape of the garden gnome."
"Prayer as the symbol of the spiritual and philosophic – but also as a gesture uniting societies worldwide, is associated with a garden gnome in an art multiple. The gnome not only acts, but he takes a stand."