A cool blend of contemporary & retro culture

The world goes Alice mad again, but this time old-school images are fed through the medium of VR

Who hasn’t been enamoured with Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland since childhood? I myself have around 25 books in various versions of Carroll’s classic tales – wonderfully warped stories interweaved on my bookshelf. Heck, I even have a strip of green turf on a windowsill in my bathroom stamped with the letters W-E-L-C-O-M-E and dotted with miniatures of Alice, the White Rabbit, Mad Hatter and Chesire Cat. A little cray to brighten up the loo never hurt anyone.

Theatre over the past couple of years has been all about Alice revivals, no doubt due to the story’s century-and-a-half anniversary. Melbourne’s Athenaeum hosted a production of Alice in Wonderland that featured marionettes, while the Australian Shakespeare Company put on a performance packed with acrobatics and camp acting.

Even the West Australian Ballet hosted a vivid and vivacious production simply dubbed ALICE with music courtesy of the WA Philharmonic Orchestra and gigantic surrealist sets that left audiences jaw-dropped.

No stories have bounced across more stages and peppered more artistic platforms than Lewis Carroll’s twisted tales about that little girl with the biggest curiosity.

Next year, an extensive exhibition is being mounted at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, complete with an extensive virtual reality experience that’ll take fans to the next level.

The new exhibition, titled Alice: Curiouser and Curioser, will chart 150+ years of Alice in Wonderland’s cultural impact, from fellow fairytales to contemporary music videos, fabulous fashion stories to Alice on celluloid.

In the meantime, fans can enjoy the virtual experience from the comfort of their loungeroom or desktop. Dubbed ‘Curious Alice’, the free, 45-minute VR session is scheduled for 2pm London time on October 22nd (that’s 9pm Perth time; 7pm Sydney on October 21st).

 

Participants can join via the VR platform Engage (sign-in is required ahead of time) or by logging on with a Windows PC or Android device. A live version of the event will also be available via the museum’s YouTube page in due course. For now, enjoy a sneak peek here:

During the preview, users will wander through a virtual environment inspired by the museum’s ornate 19th-century building, and will be chaperoned by a white rabbit similar to the one Alice encounters in her own trippy journey.

If that’s not enough excitement for Alice fans, there is a coinciding book published by V&A Publications that explores the global impact of Alice in Wonderland across art, design and performance, from the nineteenth century to today. Actually the book delves even deeper and looks at Alice’s influence in fashion, advertising, music video and video gaming (we still love Gwen Stefani’s take on the tale).

Beautifully bound in hard board and stamped with holographic lettering on the front and back, this coffee table tome shows Alice re-imagined and reinterpreted from one generation to the next.

From original illustrations by John Tenniel to post-mod artwork by Peter Blake and surreal takes by Salvador Dali, and from the 1951 Disney film to Tim Burton’s more recent interpretations, this playful publication provides hours of enjoyable reading, appealing to all ages.

Fun fact: Alice in Wonderland is a cultural phenomenon has never been out of print since its initial publication in 1865, it and has been translatd into 170 languages.

One element of intrigue is that most of the depictions of Alice are of an icon with brunette hair – very different to the blonde Alice I grew up reading about, but then truer to Carroll’s original muse, a dark-haired girl named Alice Liddell. Interestingly, there are big chunks of info about the real-life Alice – including anecdotes on her childhood, education, and even marriage, all matched with rare and unseen-before portraits.

Alice: Curiouser And Curiouser is a wonderful book with marvellous imagery and fascinating (many new) tidbits of information, brilliantly compiled by Kate Bailey, who is senior curator at the V&A Museum.

As Alice herself once said: “”What is the use of a book without pictures or conversation?” This book provides plenty of the former while encouraging, I’m sure, much of the latter.

Antonino Tati

‘Alice: Curiouser And Curiouser’ by Kate Bailey is published through V&A Publications / Bloomsbury, RRP $79.99.

 

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