Featured in
Issue 223

Five Artists on Second Chances

Aria Dean, Calla Henkel, Rene Matić, Frieda Toranzo Jaeger and Yukinori Yanagi tell us what deserves a rebound

BY Aria Dean, Calla Henkel, Frieda Toranzo Jaeger, Rene Matić AND Yukinori Yanagi in Opinion | 12 NOV 21

Jeff Koons, Dr. Dunkenstein, 1985. Courtesy: © Jeff Koons

Aria Dean

Jeff Koons’s second solo exhibition, ‘Equilibrium’ (1985), is owed a second chance. The ‘Total Equilibrium Tanks’ (all works 1985) get a lot of attention, but rarely in relation to the NBA posters and bronze sculptures that were also present in the show. Perhaps due to Koons’s stated interest in the socioeconomics of Black communities, the posters are frequently drawn into facile analysis – subjected to reading on a purely political level, as so often happens when a Black person appears in an image – and presented as a mechanism of some postmodernist play between high and low. Considering the metaphysical bent of the other works – the suspended baseballs of the ‘Total Equilibrium Tanks’; the brazen irony of the materialist bronzes such as Life Raft – these posters deserve further investigation. They do more than perform a Pictures Generation-esque act of appropriation, or critique 1980s notions around race and cultural valuation: there’s something deeper happening here – an unsettling negotiation of whiteness, objects, Blackness and what it means when these things touch and/or envelop one another.

Frieda Toranzo Jaeger, waiting for fully Automated Luxury communism, 2019. Courtesy: the artist and Arcadia Missa, London; photograph: Tim Bowditch

Frieda Toranzo Jaeger

If we look at history, moments often mirror each other, repeating in cycles – albeit in slightly modified form.

Not everything has the privilege of a second chance but, when they occur, second chances coincide with our consciousness of the past. And such familiarity makes us stop questioning things and just accept our reality 

Is it the very nature of history to be cyclical?

Can we use this knowledge to change things for the better? Or are we going to insist on perpetuating the prevailing structures that fundamentally are destroying our world?

Interior of Zwiebelfisch, Berlin, 2014. Courtesy: © L42; photograph: Frank Nagel

Calla Henkel

Zwiebelfisch was one of those bars that felt preserved in amber. The walls – covered in neighbourhood ephemera and framed posters from ancient exhibitions – were hung with stagey, lackadaisical precision. The guests were a mix of West Berlin grey hairs, arrogant philosophy students and jovial drunks. The food was perfectly greasy. Then, in March, someone set the place on fire. As if Berlin hadn’t been bleak enough. It seemed like the final sooty curtain falling on the glowing stage. But, following an onslaught of donations from regulars and extensive reconstruction, Zwiebelfisch has been granted a second act. And it’s almost exactly the same. There’s an Inception-like quality to sitting in the bar: the edges shimmer, slightly askew, in this brand-new old.

Kathleen Collins, Losing Ground, 1982. Courtesy: © Milestone Films and Nina Lorez Collins

Rene Mati

Kathleen Collins (1942–88) was an African-American poet, playwright, filmmaker, civil rights activist and educator from New Jersey. 

After she died at the age of 46 the majority of her written work remained unpublished until her daughter started to unveil it in 2006, thank god.  

I became aware of Collins through her 2016 book of essays called Whatever Happened to Interracial Love which I have read over and over and over again. Her work frequently explores systems of power and powerlessness through the lens of family, gender, race, sexuality and, overall, LOVE. My favourite quote from Whatever Happened to Interracial Love is:

‘What about the love of two “human beings,” who mate in spite of or because of or instead of or after the fact of?’

Doesn’t that say it all?

Chu Enoki, LSDF 020, 2020. Courtesy: the artist and ART BASE MOMOSHIMA, Onomichi

Yukinori Yanagi

ART BASE MOMOSHIMA – a gallery located in an abandoned school building where my studio is situated – exhibits renowned artworks by a Japanese artist I admire most.

One of them, L.S.D.F 020 (2020) by Chu Enoki, consists of a cannon for celebratory gunfire and three tons of empty rifle cartridges collected from war zones that cover the floor of a traditional Japanese house that was renovated to serve as both a gallery space and guest house. His works had a huge impact on me when I was an art student. To this day, they inspire me to rediscover my purpose.

This article first appeared in frieze issue 223 with the headline ‘Bring it Back’

Main image: Frieda Toranzo Jaeger, The individual differences in the post-traumatic response to eco trauma, 2019, oil and embroidery on canvas, 40 × 30 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Barbara Weiss

Aria Dean is an artist, writer and curator based in New York and Los Angeles, US. She is editor and curator at Rhizome.

Calla Henkel is a writer, playwright, director and artist. Together with Max Pitegoff, she currently operates a theatre in Los Angeles, US, called New Theater Hollywood. Her upcoming novel Scrap (Spectre, 2024) will be published on 14 March.

Frieda Toranzo Jaeger is an artist. In 2021, she had a solo exhibition at the Baltimore Museum of Art, USA. She lives in Mexico City, Mexico.

Rene Matić is a London-based artist and writer whose practice spans across photography, film, and sculpture, converging in a meeting place they describe as ‘rude(ness)’ – an evidencing and honouring of the in-between.

Yukinori Yanagi is an artist. In 2021, he had a retrospective at Blum & Poe, Los Angeles, USA. He lives in Onomichi, Japan.