Janine Antoni

Eureka, 1993

Bathtub, lard, soap, and Dorian

Soap: 22 x 26 x 26 inches (55.88 x 66.04 x 66.04 cm)

Bathtub: 30 x 70 x 25 inches (76.2 x 177.8 x 63.5 cm)

Installation dimensions: variable

Photographed by Jodi Nieva at Fundació “la Caixa,” Barcelona


To make Eureka, Antoni submerged herself in a tub filled to the brim with lard. Once submerged, she re-flattened the lard at the top of the tub, removing what her body had displaced. The removed lard was mixed with lye and water to make a cube of soap. The artist then washed with the cube, slowly rounding its edges by repeated bathings.

This sculpture is inspired by a story of Archimedes. One day, the king asked Archimedes how much gold was in his crown. Archimedes was trying his best to figure out how to answer this question. One night while bathing, he realized that his body was displacing the water in his tub. He could answer the king’s question by doing the same experiment with the crown. The submerged crown would displace the amount of water equal to its volume. Archimedes jumped out of the tub, screamed “Eureka!” and ran through the streets naked.

Like Archimedes’ body, the artist’s body becomes the instrument by which she understands and makes meaning. Antoni is interested in what we can know through the body and how she might elicit empathy in the viewer through their imagining what she has physically done to make her objects.