PhotoVictoria and Albert Museum, London
“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” is an 1865 children’s literary work by Lewis Carroll. In this work, a little girl named Alice falls through a rabbit hole into a dreamy world full of anthropomorphic creatures and sets out on a fantastic adventure. The characters she meets in the course of her adventure, such as the Cheshire Cat, the Queen of Hearts, the Hatter, etc., have been beloved by readers for over 150 years. “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” is beyond doubt one of the most influential works of children’s literature.
From the title Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser, it is obvious that this exhibition, based on the work’s intriguing wording, is held to unfold the enchanting glamor of the fantasy world. Originally, the comparative of the adjective “curious,” meaning “strange and unusual,” is supposed to be “more curious.” However, Alice is so befuddled by the surroundings around her after she tumbles down the rabbit hole that she can’t help crying “curiouser and curiouser.” She seems too surprised to speak grammatical English. The expression “curiouser and curiouser” is later used in English to describe a certain situation that is increasingly strange.
The exhibition is divided into five sections, highlighting Lewis Carroll’s manuscripts, photography by celebrated fashion photographer Tim Walker, the greatest female photographer of the 20th century Annie Leibovitz, and others. In the section Creating Alice, the audience can trace back to the 19th-century countryside in Oxford, the birthplace of Alice and where the story of Alice originated, and explore the place, time, people, events, and things that inspire the author, including the prototypal figure of the little girl Alice. This section also retraces the collaboration between Lewis Carroll and John Tenniel, the original illustrator for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
(Alice attacked by the cards, by John Tenniel (1820-1914), from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1832-98), for magic lantern slide by Newton & Co. Glass. London, Eng)
(Alice and the Red Queen, Illustration for Alice Through the Looking Glass by John Tenniel, 1872 (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London)
(Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Magic Lantern slide by John Tenniel, 1898. (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London)
Illustrator Chris Riddell also explicates in a video his interpretation of the characters in the story. He admits he draws much inspiration from Lady Gaga and singer Björk as well as from the illustrator for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, John Tenniel.
(Artwork of Alice following the White Rabbit. © Chris Riddell, 2020, reproduced with permission from Macmillan International Publishers Ltd.)
In addition to the familiar film adaptations, The Royal Ballet has once put on the ballet Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, with Zenaida Yanowsky majestically impersonating the Queen of Hearts.
(Zenaida Yanowsky as The Red Queen in Christopher Wheeldon's ballet Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The Royal Ballet. ©ROH, Johan Persson, 2011. Sets and costumes by Bob Crowley)
Moreover, Vivienne Westwood, the fashion brand most representative of punk culture, has once launched a fashion collection revolving around Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The combination of the story characters with the brand’s renowned check pattern and irregular cut of suits satisfied the fashion fans to the full.
(Gold Label, ensemble by Vivienne Westwood. Spring Summer, 2015. © UGO Camera)
The section Being Alice includes the works by photographers Tim Walker, Annie Leibovitz, and Anna Gaskell, showing how the modern world imagines and recreates Alice and her adventures.
(Override#26 (Override), artist Anna Gaskell, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (c) courtesy of Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne)
(Override#25 (Override), artist Anna Gaskell, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (c) courtesy of Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne)
Finally, the VR experience of this section combines with the scenes created by the illustrator, Kristjana S. Williams, which are based on the original work. Once the audience put on the VR headset, they can change into Alice right away, tail the Mr. White Rabbit to find his lost gloves, solve the Caterpillar’s various weird riddles, or visit the Queen of Hearts’ croquet garden, reliving those classic moments in Alice’s dream together!
“Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser” Exhibition
Venue: Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Time: From now until 31st December, 2021
Notes: Reservations for visits are required. Book tickets in advance on the official website for the Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser exhibition. Face coverings, correctly worn, are required after entry. Follow the visitor route and instructions for the prevention of the Covid-19 pandemic.
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