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Alice – 150 Years in Wonderland

I wonder, when Lewis Carroll was tripping balls writing Alice In Wonderland, he had any idea that 150 years on his work would still be providing such fertile ground for artists, writers and performers? The reasons why are no-brainers for me, because I love Alice In Wonderland (like, legit. I don’t care much about what happens to me after I die, but I want a copy of this book to accompany me there). And the older I get the more I love it. There are so many layers, so many allegories and cunning references to aspects of Victorian society in the text, that it’s impossible to pick up on everything all at once.

Was Lewis Carroll off his brain on absinthe and heroin when he wrote it? Perhaps. Did he really write it for little Alice Liddell, daughter of his friend Henry, or was that just a cover that allowed Carroll to publish what academics consider a damning indictment on the people in his circle? These questions and more get debated year after year, as though we can’t rest until the entire work has been stripped of all its ambiguity. But I don’t really care about that. In fact I hope it never gets clarified, because what I love most about Alice In Wonderland is that everyone reads the book differently. Every person I’ve ever discussed it with loves it for a different reason, finds a different quote that resonates, or has a different understanding of the storyline. It is a book that we all seem to see aspects of ourselves in, yet never for the same reason. I can only dream of one day writing something that profound.

And perhaps because creative types are such a peculiar bunch who live in our own little bubbles a lot of the time, the rhythm and flow of the text, with its crazy made up words and strong visuals, continues to weave its way into all disciplines of the arts. Filmmakers in particular feel a sense of ownership over it, with everyone from Disney to Svankmajer to Burton thinking they can tell the story better. It is the ultimate surrealist fantasy, the ultimate romantic notion, and it easily out-Coelho’s Paulo Coelho with the profundity of its contemplations on humanity.

Anyway, all that is just a bit of guff to add weight to what is a total indulgence for me – a chance to look at some of my most favourite Alice-inspired works. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do 🙂

Del Kathryn Barton, Girl #6, 2004

Wolfe Von Lenkiewicz, All in the Afternoon, Full Leisurely We Glide

A promotional shot for Third Rail Projects’ immersive dance theatre production ‘Then She Fell’, currently playing at the old Kingsland Ward of St John’s Hospital, Brooklyn.

George Dunlop Leslie, Alice In Wonderland, 1879

Elena Kalis, Alice in Waterland

Elena Kalis, Alice in Waterland

Charles Blackman, The Chess Game, 1956

Rodney Campbell, Down the Rabbit Hole (Queen Victoria Building interior), winner of the Clique Photography Challenge, 2014

Mabel Odessey, from her series Alice in the Garden

Linde Ivimey, Off With Her Head, 2012

Linde Ivimey, Eat Me Alice, 2012

Annelies Strba, Nyima 438, 2009

Salvador Dali, The Rabbit Sends a Little Bill, 1969

  

Donna Leslie, Alitji in Dreamland, 1975, an illustrated translation of Lewis Carroll’s original work in Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal language, Australia.

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Yayoi Kusama, an illustrated Alice In Wonderland, 2012

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