As a celebration for 150 years of the publication of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, the British Library has prepared an exhibition exploring how this story has been adapted, appropriated, re-imagined and re-illustrated over the years and how it continues to inspire new generations of artists all over the world.
As we take our first steps in the space, we are told the story of Alice through a series of illustrations, each represented by a different artist. A couple of mirrors playing with distortion are added to our journey in an attempt to make it more dynamic, I suppose.
Then, pointing arrows lead us to the back of a wall where we can read Lewis Carroll’s original manuscript and learn about the real Alice and, although it was quite interesting, it didn’t really add much to my knowledge of Alice in Wonderland. The whole exhibition was more about the illustrated Alice and how she has changed over time – from a young brunette in a navy dress to Disney’s blonde pre-teenager with a blue dress, a white apron and a black bow, to the modern goth adaptations. There were also a couple of elements such as clips from a short-film, videogames and an installation, all quite nice.
One thing I really enjoy about Alice in Wonderland is that no one really knows what it is about and, therefore, wonderland can become pretty much EVERYTHING. This tale has generated uncountable movements in almost every possible area – from politics to arts and so on.
The most exciting part of the exhibition, I would say, was the modern art adaptations stage, where people started imagining wonderland as a place full of magic, bright – or complete absence of – colours, where crazy things happened – like cats becoming invisible and caterpillars smoking pipe. I find it fascinating how, in the same period of time, some people would think of wonderland as a happy place, full of interesting friends, where anything is possible and others would see it as dark, scary place, where – well – everything is possible.
Overall, I think the British Library did capture the history of this tale.
The exhibition was quite informative, well-curated and actually interesting. However, I have to admit I found it a bit disappointing. For something created by the British Library, it was quite small and hidden from the public audience. I was expecting something that would be like entering into wonderland, sliding down the rabbit hole and, sadly, it was nothing like that.