Performative Readings. Warja Lavater’s Wordless Tales


  • Daniele Colistra Università degli Studi Mediterranea di Reggio Calabria; Department of Architecture



folded stories, leporello, pictogram, silent book, Warja Lavater


In this essay we will analyse the graphic work of Warja Lavater, author of numerous stories made exclusively with pictograms. From 1962 to 1982 the Swiss artist created 24 books, initially conceived as ‘artist’s books’ but which were soon also used as a pedagogical tool. Lavater’s illustrated books can be divided into two groups: 19 Folded Stories, published between 1962 and 1967 by Basilius Presse, and 5 Imagineries, taken from as many stories by Perrault and published by the Parisian publisher Maeght between 1965 and 1982. Regardless of the artistic value of these works, we will focus on the relationship between diegesis and image sequence, trying to understand the semantic effectiveness of this narrative mode. We will also try to evaluate whether the pictograms –considered individually and arranged in sequence– are able to favour the development of a ‘spatial thought’ or whether they should be understood exclusively as refined style exercises. We will then consider some applications in the pedagogical field and, finally, we will analyse in more detail the artist’s first and last work, trying to evaluate the stylistic evolution and the different relationships between sign, symbol and content.




How to Cite

Colistra, D. (2022). Performative Readings. Warja Lavater’s Wordless Tales. Img Journal, 4(7), 100–125.