Discussions about the pay gap often explore the different social factors at play. However, the emotional toll it takes on those who are most affected, namely women and people of colour, is often overlooked. Given the complexity of the pay gap, it can often be difficult to communicate. That’s why American artist, Val Britton, teamed up with Gallery Wendi Norris and Hired to create an exhibit that materializes this subject.
Entitled, The Shape of Change, this exhibit displays 2D and 3D artworks that interpret statistical data from the 2018 Women, Work, and the State of Wage Inequality Report. Written by Hired, a career marketplace that matches talent with companies, this third annual report calculates current trends in tech salaries. Their data highlights the wage gap between men and women, and across race, sexuality, and age.
The Shape of Change by Val Britton. Image via Fast Company.
Britton didn’t want to create another pie chart; rather she wanted to present the information as if it were blown through a tornado. That’s why she extracted “rations and statistics” and transformed them into abstract geometric shapes, forms, and colours, according to the Minnesota Street Project. Made of paper and string, her 3D installation entitled The Shape of Change, is suspended from the gallery ceiling. Floating masses of jagged white paper are not so subtly speckled with geometric blue dots. According to Fast Company, its chaotic form illuminates how difficult it can be to understand the pay gap problem. It also calls attention to the fact that many women make less money than men, and what little sense this makes since women have a higher graduation rate from college and university.
Because The Shape of Change occupies a significant amount of physical space, it encourages visitors to physically experience the pay gap as they walk around and below the forms. The gallery describes the installation as “a material representation of the state of wage inequality to be corporeally understood and acknowledged”. By giving the statistical data form, Britton hopes her work helps start a dialogue about wage inequality and that the exhibit offers a creative space for problem-solving.
The Shape of Change was on display at the Minnesota Street Project art space from April 10th-14th in honour of Equal Pay Day 2018.