Jeff Koons: One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank

Archer, Michael. 2011. Jeff Koons: One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank. London/Cambridge, Mass: Afterall/MIT. ISBN 978-1-84638-079-2 (paperback), 978-1-84638-078-5 (hardback) [Book]

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A study of Jeff Koons’s 1985 work, One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank, published by Afterall Books/MIT in Afterall’s One Work series. The rationale for this series is the idea that a single work of contemporary art, if viewed, reflected on and analysed in depth, can affect our understanding not only of art in general, but also of the ways in which we see and understand the world.

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One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank presents what Koons called “the ultimate state of being”--neither death nor life but the absence of change. It captured a spirit of the time, characterised by commodification, seduction, and political inactivity. Its stillness embodied the opposite of social revolution. But the “total equilibrium” of the work is actually temporary. In this extended essay on the work I put One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank in an art historical framework, describing its initial exhibition at International With Monument in New York. I consider it in relation to contemporary issues of media – especially the significance of TV, commercialism – notably the connections between junk bond manipulation and the burgeoning art market, and class. The book explores the wider context of the 1980s art world, in which a renewed attention to painting practices met the legacy of Pop and appropriation art. In the East Village environment where International With Monument operated, this clash of artistic approaches set the stage for the negative critical reception Koons’s artwork first received, a reception that included its description by such critics as Craig Owens, Rosalind Krauss, and Hal Foster as “an endgame,” “misleading,” and “repulsive.” The book contests these views, arguing for the importance of Koons’s rejection of irony as a tactic, and examining the work as one which sits comfortably with the cultural analyses of postmodern theory, while at the same time standing in insolent opposition to them. The work is further examined from the perspective of sport – as industry, as celebrity-making machine, and as metaphor for art, and with reference to the writing of Michel Serres, is viewed in relation to the politics of space exploration and the physics of equilibrium.


jeff koons, equilibrium, one ball total equilibrium tank

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November 2011

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18 Jun 2012 10:38

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 15:45


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