As more and more stories are being revealed about Dr. Larry Nassar, the Karolyi Olympic Training Ranch, etc, “Split: The Unsparing World of Elite Women’s Gymnastics” acts as a timely exposé that brings to consciousness stories which uncover the systemically toxic and damaging culture of American competitive women’s gymnastics.
The text, heavily adapted from the non-fiction novel Little Girls in Pretty Boxes, as well as a few curated, supplemental studies and testimonies, assumes the title of “Split” primarily as a means of forming the foundations of the book’s main visual gesture—that which investigates two polar understandings of the sport. Audience members perceive gymnastics as an awe-inspiring feat of athleticism, grace and perfection, while its athletes endure irreversable physical, emotional and mental damage in order to present the image they’re so deeply associated with. The book’s structural grid, color blocking, division of type and other gestures are all employed to mimic the content’s unveiling or subverting of clouded perceptions, bringing neglected stories and information to the surface.
Collage, image cropping, and handwritten scoring elements are all employed to didactically realize the essential instigator behind this current culture and our warped understandings, and that is the goal of perfection. Everything in gymnastics, or American sports in general, is ultimately endured and justified given the want to win, to be that best. Thus, the piece is concluded with the lone, chilling quote of "Nobody questioned Karolyi. Why? Because he won."
A small but vital detail can be found in the page numbers' depletion from 10.0 to 0.0 which, again, reinforces the concept of an athlete's complete sacrifice of self-worth, preservation, and personhood in the quest for the 10.0.