Since the idea first fell down the rabbit hole and out of Lewis Carroll’s beautifully bizarre mind, Alice In Wonderland has been a staple of popular culture. In case it’s not enough of a testament to Carroll’s storytelling and symbolism that the tale still regularly does the rounds 150 years after it was originally written.
As such, the only way to truly give it the respect it deserves is to see its illustrious past laid out before you, at the Alice exhibit taking place at The British Library, London.
It’s a fascinating study of Carroll’s ability to craft a story that is, intentionally or not, so rife with ambiguous meaning that it can be dropped into different points in time and find a way to make sense. Whether it’s re-contextualised to slot into wartime ideology or visualised in sixties psychedelic style, Alice has become less a story for children than a phenomenon of cultural and even political significance. It has become a way for many artists and writers to allow society to view itself through the looking glass.
Other than on the level of meaning and adaptability, it’s just fascinating to see the different visual mediums than Alice has traversed. Not often does one fall down a rabbit hole in a written manuscript and emerge into a three-dimensional platformer game that visitors of the exhibition can play, or a world where they are being portrayed by a multitude of talented actresses.
But, of course, Alice is no ordinary girl. She is a girl of irreplaceable value that many have, and many more will, connected with and projected onto. It’s fitting then that the exhibition is more than a timeline of artwork and manuscripts; its people continuing to interact with the story by playing an Alice game or using the magnifying glass to inspect miniature models. It’s people coming from all around the globe (as many did) to admire and respect the story and all it represents.
Alice is a perpetually adapting embodiment of rolling cultural Zeitgeist, which hasn’t begun to feel dated even after 150 years.
The Alice in Wonderland exhibit and a pop-up shop of memorabilia, is free and open to the public until April 17th
Pictures are not permitted at the event
Words – Tom Roden
Images – The British Library