The history of the garden gnome goes back to 19th-century Germany, from where it spread rampantly around the world. These days one of the garden gnome’s fates is that his existence is issued into a mere symbol for 3D-printing. Makerbot advertises its products with a gnome that is printed, scanned, and released out into the world to be shared, improved, modified, and printed again (and again and again…).
In a way, this is an act of liberation, as the reproducible garden gnome embodies a new fact about material nature: now anyone can set free their creativity, they can design and reprint their own gnomes or other creatures (see the Makerbot Thingiverse). But still there is this undeniable fact: all the creators’ labor and fantasy, which they pour into their 3D prints, serve at the same time as advertisement (and hence an indirect source of income) for Makerbot. At the beginning Makerbot’s hardware was open access, but it’s not any more — a fact that should not be forgotten!
With a view towards Karl Marx’s general formula for Capital (M-C-M’), my concrete Karl Marx Garden Gnome can be seen as an embodied answer to these serialized processes of capitalist exploitation: this sculpture marks both the beginning and the end of the production process. Period! As an idea rendered concrete (literally!), the Karl Marx Garden Gnome reverses a tendency that Marx identified in the 19th century with his famous dictum that “all that is solid melts into air.”