Playing & Reality
Playing & Reality is a collaborative print set by artist Paul Wackers and writer Leigh Gallagher. Inspired by the 1971 book of the same title, Playing & Reality draws on psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott’s notions surrounding transitional phenomena and the power of human-object relationships in three fictional, cut-up case studies (Gallagher) and five original images (Wackers).
Sets contain five double-sided posters sleeved in a hand-stamped folder. 11 x 17, offset printing, signed edition of 100.
The following excerpt presents Winnicott's original text (small font) interwoven with Gallagher's.
Not long after his mother died, the patient visited the nowhere town where he’d gone to college two or so decades before, with the hopes of rekindling an old romance. I can see that I am in the territory of Fairbairn’s (1941) concept of ‘object-seeking’ (as opposed to ‘satisfaction-seeking’). Cecilia had in fact been his only romance, he had confessed to me, in that way that indicated he had long ago taken ownership of this abnormality, and Cecilia, in her singleness, had become ‘the one’ . . . a refusal of substitutes had become a permanent feature in his character. When I asked him to describe her, he explained the way she spoke, her tongue tripping up on certain words: weird, rural, girlfriend. It came out that he didn’t remember much of her face.
He drove across the country in a 1983 Toyota Camry station wagon with a rude penis finger-drawn in the dust on the back window (the culprits: a clutch of boys at a Sinclair station in Gary, Indiana—the patient has a proclivity for specific detail, which often causes our sessions to run over time) and packed to the gills with his ‘stuff.’ The use of a talisman, a closely allied phenomenon. Among this ‘stuff’: a present for Cecilia, boxes of musty hardcover books (which the patient described as “invaluable” without revealing any titles), a bocce ball hand-carved by an 18th Century Franciscan monk, his mother’s sterling silverware, and many, many other collectible brick-a-bracks. He went on at length, too, about a collection of tie clips he’d been purchasing at thrift stores and antique malls, with the aim of collecting exactly 1,000 tie clips, at which point he would sell the 1,000 tie clips for $10,000 to—quote—‘one of those Wall Street-types who wears a tie every day.’
Organized nonsense is already a defense, just as organized chaos is a denial of chaos. I didn’t ask how he would find this single deserving customer, nor what exactly he meant by a Wall Street-type or why this ‘type’ would be attracted to such an ambitious and exact number of tie clips (in object-relating, the subject allows certain alterations in the self to take place) nor how he’d determined the ten thousand dollar price or how much money he’d already spent acquiring the tie clips to begin with. I asked him about the gift to Cecilia. He gestured with his hands and said, ‘Something of my mother’s,’ in a tone that implied obviously. (He used this tone often.) It was something of hers that he’d played with since he was a little boy. As a little boy, I corrected. Oh yes, of course, as a little boy, he agreed. Two separate persons can feel at one, but here at the place that I am examining the baby and the object are one. I pressed him: an object, a toy? A figurine? A ballerina or a porcelain dog? He swatted away my questions. ‘No, nothing like that.’ He refused to describe the object, afraid that I would ‘read too much into the symbolism of it.’ (Reference to the original trauma not yet specified but all the time being worked out.) What had been important for him, on the trip, was that he get this present for the lost Cecilia into Cecilia’s possession; what was important was that Cecilia have for herself something of his mother’s. But why did he need to unite Cecilia and Mother? I asked. He had communicated an ebb and flow of movement in him away from and back to dependence. In his words, the moment Cecilia opened the package would be the moment that she ‘returned.’
Returned to what? Both returned to him and to the girl she had been. They’d once gotten caught in a rainstorm and run through the town at night (a Scrabble game had gone late), where they took refuge in a church neither of them had ever noticed before (every object is a found object). Inside the building’s dark womb, the water wicking off their cheeks, all shimmery in the filtered streetlight . . . he fell in love. This is the precariousness of magic itself. But had she fallen in love, too? I asked. Well, she had kissed him, hadn’t she? She had taken him into her bedroom, hadn’t she, and sloughed off her jeans and his trousers a little roughly, hadn’t she? The breast here is a symbol not of doing but of being. True, a month later she had begged off his advances, pleading time to ‘discover herself’ and then discovering instead an art history PhD named Jacques D. Metasavage. The theory of the roots of aggression. (The patient still relives this upset: ‘I am no one, I am nothing,’ and catches his face.) But that was so long ago and women were prone to regrets, weren’t they? Didn’t they relish the remnants of possibility—what could have been and what could still, maybe, be? And so he had gotten it into his head that he should nudge her to reconsider, he would bring her this gift . . . between me-extensions and the not-me. She would admire his persistence and see his search for her as evidence of true romantic devotion.