P LOT P stands for Parking Lot Pandemic: the photographic documentation of a current moment in which a shortage of parking, the scramble for the closest spot to the store, insurance cases, flattened run-over groceries from overfilled broken shopping bags, stray trolleys, parking tickets, the heat rising from a sheer number of vehicles in one place, all no longer exist. Such haunted images have been circulating since this pandemic began, their documentation of our acute situation becoming part of our daily intake of images and rapidly etching themselves into our collective imagination. We encounter them simultaneously captivated and fatigued – how they stand for the hiatus of our daily infrastructure, for sequences that went unnoticed until coming to a halt, in which we depend in how we’ve come to navigate public space. They fascinate not only for their actual proof, but in how they symbolize stand-still, the fragility of what was believed to be a sure sign of movement, and progress: The car, with its past as promise of freedom so fundamental to Western and especially American culture; with its future as threat to sustainability, stays parked in the garage, the ambivalences surrounding it momentarily withdrawn. The virus is tiny and invisible and huge and impactful at the same time, it is so tiny it could even be cute, needs to be taken care of, assumed powerless and thus all the more potentially dangerous, the human relation to its literal and metaphorical size constantly at odds – “an illusion of a magnitude different from sightings of Elvis or the Virgin Mary.”
Jeanne Randolph (*1943, CAN) is not really interested in such phenomena. Or perhaps she is, at first. The interplay between the text and the images in P LOT P reveal this: They relate to one another, but don’t belong together. They are both straight-forward, dry, even, and witty to the point of weird. They are intended as two different media through which we can renegotiate what we at first might have thought of this work’s subject matter as being about. Jeanne Randolph is a critic, artist and psychiatrist. Her works often take on formats that meld imagination and reality, that make us go to the fuzzy area in our minds that is memory, musing, dream. This melding stems from her interest in the relationship between art and psychoanalytic theory, especially in object relations theory as developed by D.W. Winnicott and Melanie Klein. Instead of entering art via the Freudian mechanism as expression of and gratification for the psyche of the artist, under which the viewer is required to unlock its hidden truths, Randolph explores art works as transitional, or, as she names them, amenable objects. Understanding objects as amenable opens them up to exploration, they serve as plaything between inner and outer life, as a prop with which to test perception, or phantasy against reality. An object is always subjectively conceived even if it is objectively perceived, and it is this blurring Randolph pursues throughout her work so as to engage the viewer or reader critically. The art object is no longer the central starting point from which to derive meaning but rather a thing with which to understand ourselves in our surroundings.
Jeanne Randolph’s writing practice spans from theory essays such as The Amenable Object (1983) and Why Stoics Box (2003), ficto-criticism of art exhibitions, a genre in which a more distant voice of the writer is interrupted by unconventional pronouns and self-doubt, and fictional writings such as Fifty Normal White Men: A Scientific Report (1987), My Claustrophobic Happiness (2020), and Psychoanalysis and Synchronized Swimming (1989), in which she writes about her method of appropriating notable psychoanalytic texts and changing the texts political implications by replacing one body part with another – the penis with the nipple, say. On this she writes: “The method was obvious. What made it so maddening was the effect. Why expend so much effort, wit and prowess to sustain the illusion that the relation between theory and practice is ridiculous? What was my motive? It hardly seemed possible it was anything but pretence. All the other athletes agreed you could get the job done without all that pretending.”
The publication has been printed in an edition of 50 unnumbered copies. A printed copy is priced at 10 EUR / 12 CHF plus shipping costs and can be ordered by sending your delivery address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The publication P LOT P and exhibition Telephone Booths were organised together with Dominic Michel.