NARRATOR: Koons’s One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank, on view in the center of this gallery, is striking in its utter stillness—and surprising in its quiet presentation of something that seems impossible. Ordinarily, a basketball put in water would float on the surface. Here, Koons set out to make it behave differently.
JEFFKOONS: I would fill the aquarium up with water and I would have a basketball just hover in a state of equilibrium, where all the forces would be equal.
I wanted just to have water, something very, very pure, just like an embryo would be and water within the womb. But to achieve equilibrium, permanent equilibrium within the confines of an aquarium really became impossible. I worked with a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Dr. Richard P. Feynman, and he would always tell me, “Yes, Jeff, you can do it,” and he really pushed me. It was absolutely wonderful. It was a great experience to work with him.
I ended up just working with pure water, but I would add a very pure reagent grade sodium. The way light travels through a very pure grade of sodium is very, very close to pure water. The water is layered on top. I have heavy water down below and a lighter water on top. The ball’s in equilibrium between the two. But eventually it becomes homogenous and the ball will go to the bottom.