Acquired directly from the artist
Private Collection, Massachusetts
Carol Wainio (b.1955) is interested in Walter Benjamin’s concept of experience: for him, “Experience was what occurred in slower times when sensory matter slipped, un-registered, into memory… Benjamin saw this kind of experience overtaken by a kind of self-consciousness resulting from the “shocks” of industrialism, urbanism, technology, and the sudden speeding up of life.” Rather than the slowness of experience, which allowed an individual’s memory to merge with a collective history, modern life demanded a self-conscious readiness - an anticipatory awareness of new technologies and the new speeds of life. These are registered as a shock, a disenchantment, and constant self-reflection.
From her early career, Experience and Self-Consciousness demonstrates Wainio’s early interest in exploring these competing ideas with dramatic flair. Bodies emerge from the painting: tall figures resembling female forms or ancient philosophers are stitched together, woven with broad strokes of colour which function as promenades for smaller, evidently historical figures. These tall figures are perhaps structural pillars, as the right hand of the painting dissolves into a quasi-interior. Throughout there is a sense of velocity and action: sweeping brushstrokes and blurs of colour merge and collide, while promenaders dawdle across the indistinct planes. A woman’s face peers out at us, curious, perhaps looking for our input in explaining what’s going on. Rather than providing a resolution, Experience and Self-Consciousness demands that we question our place between these two modes of knowledge, and how we can understand them through the ongoing relationship between modernity and our own lived experience.