These Key Truths: Carlotta Origoni in the StudioMay 10, 2018
Readers familiar with the Paris-based arts organization Femmes Nomades will find one particular similarity between their logo and the newest book in WSW’s collection: embroidery canvas. The logo designer and book author—both Art-in-Ed Artist’s Book Grant Resident Carlotta Origoni—loves it.
Carlotta joined WSW’s silkscreen studio this winter and spring to produce her handmade book, The Veil is Seen Only When It is Lifted. An edition of 49 works screen printed in four colors, the publication explores the relationship between design and social issues. In The Veil, created during a residency Carlotta applied for just months before the “Me Too” movement emerged, the artist is looking at facts surrounding the gender gap.
A few years ago, Carlotta felt she had to arm herself with statistics during an interactive, theatrical show by Femmes Nomades. It was styled as a game and, at one point, asked the audience if women’s lives in the city matched those of men. An accusatory, highly negative response one night left her in disbelief: “I wanted to say, ‘The difference is mathematical, not just my opinion!'”
The Veil‘s title stems from an Italian proverb that resonates with Carlotta’s own observations. Once she began searching for information on inequality between cisgender women and men—starting with the lofty 400-page World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report—the roles it played in her life became much more apparent. The book’s materiality echoes themes of unveiling, as pages are meant to overlap one another in ways that either amalgamate or obscure information.
Bound on either side of the book, the text is divided into two parts. One section of 32 Coptic-bound pages compile quantitative statistics. The second is spiral-bound, semi-transparent pages reporting the prevalence of qualitative perceptions, what the artist refers to as “reported data.” For example, the first infographics of either section represent numbers just over one-half. The quantitative page states that the average progress of closing the gender gap sits at 68%. The reported data reveals that, in one study, 6 of 10 women agreed that they enjoy the same equality and freedom to reach their aspirations as men. Page numbers on the edges of both pages indicate that they match together.
Carlotta’s not looking to flood readers with sterile facts, but asks that they consider methods of reading the subject. “I know that this book will be outdated in three years,” she says. “The data changes all of the time.”
Instead, she’s focusing on ways of seeing. Basic shapes of red, yellow, blue, and black—adopting very simple, familiar design to parse meaning and relevance among the facts pulled from global reports (Feminism and gender equality around the world) and concentrated studies (Sexism, Harassment and Violence against Women Parliamentarians and Life and Leadership after Harvard Business School). Key shapes or text interact when the context illustrates a mutual point; viewers may choose to read the sections simultaneously or separately.
Though the premise—a book with two bindings and overlapping information—might not be hard to imagine, navigating the book’s structure requires readers to solve a puzzle. If the two sections are kept apart, we have to constantly move and turn the book for the pages to key together. Carlotta adds, “I like thinking of a book as a game that you can play. Traditional books are a little boring.”
In part of her early research, Carlotta came across a text where it was “discovered” (she uses air quotes) that, at the general rate society attempts to amend disparity across the gender binary gap, equality is still centuries away. Humanity feels removed from the conversation and exonerated, as though equality will be a naturally occurring phenomenon. The Veil is Seen Only When It is Lifted offers means to reconnect the data in a meaningful way.
“You feel as though you are working on a mathematical truth: the gap is real, these are the fact,” Carlotta adds. “But then there’s a line of following questions. You can go on, asking why and never have to stop.” With her book, she challenges us to reconsider our approach, follow the conversation, or even engage in the “game.” From the two sections of her book to the thousands of pages of data available, there is plenty of room to join.
Carlotta Origoni is an Italian artist based in Paris, France. She studied theater at Conservatoire Scuola D’Arte Drammatica Paolo Grassi in Milan and Continuing Education in Graphic Design and Multimedia at the School of Decorative Arts in Paris. Find more photos from her residency on Flickr!