Alice in process…

Instead of the question “Who is Alice?” there are now paths leading to what Alice might come to be…

19 Jul 2012

Alice im Wunderland der Kunst


Charles L. Dodgson (Lewis Carroll, Alice Pleasance Liddell, Summer 1858, 
© National Portrait Gallery, London

"For almost 150 years, one of the greatest literary inventions has fascinated children and adults alike: Lewis Carroll's tale of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Soon after it was first published, the story of the little girl's journey down a rabbit hole and – in the sequel – through a mysterious looking glass, quickly captured the imagination of a wide circle of readers that included Queen Victoria and Oscar Wilde. Carroll's stories continue to captivate an audience of millions. Now, for the first time, an exhibition is being dedicated to Alice and the many different ways in which she has inspired and influenced visual artists. Alice in the Wonderland of Art at the Hamburger Kunsthalle brings together around 200 works from 150 years of art history, including paintings, sculptures, book illustrations, photographs, drawings, films and installations. The broad range of media on show demonstrates the variety of approaches to this subject matter and transforms the exhibition itself into a striking visual wonderland.

 The exhibition opens with works created by Lewis Carroll himself. The author, whose real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832–1898), was also a mathematics professor, a photographer and an art collector. The presentation continues with groundbreaking illustrations and documents relating to theatrical adaptations and films of the Alice books. While the display of independent visual artworks begins with examples from the late 19th century, the exhibition has a strong focus on surrealism, as artists such as Max Ernst, René Magritte or Salvador Dalí were among those who drew particular inspiration from the Alice novels as they ventured into the realm of the fantastic. The show continues with artists of the 1960s and 70s whose interest in forms of consciousness expansion and new understanding of the interrelation of language and image can be related to Lewis Carroll. Finally, the works on show by contemporary artists such as Stephan Huber, Anna Gaskell, Kiki Smith or Pipilotti Rist demonstrate the enduring fascination of his novels and the characters he created.

The Hamburger Kunsthalle is presenting its own, considerably modified version of the exhibition Alice in Wonderland that was recently shown at Tate Liverpool. The new display features works drawn from our own collection and loans from major international museums and private collections. These include large-scale installations by artists such as Stephan Huber and Pipilotti Rist."

Pipilotti Rist (*1962), Das Zimmer, 1994

 Thorsten Brinkmann (*1971), Bertha von Schwarzflug mit Zahmesdunkel, 2010

 Thorsten Brinkmann (*1971), Bertha von Schwarzflug mit Zahmesdunkel, 2010

"A Tour of the Exhibition

The Metamorphosis of Space 

 Rooms, doors, spaces – open or closed, narrow or wide: during her adventures in Wonderland, Alice not only meets a number of strange characters, she also comes across many extraordinary places. The works on show by renowned artists such as Monika Sosnowska, Pipilotti Rist, Luc Tuymanns, Mel Bochner and Gary Hill explore the experience of space in ways that recall the complex spatial dynamics of Carroll's Wonderland, enabling viewers to make their own journey through a fascinating world of visual invention. 

The Metamorphosis of Things and Objects 

 "Why is a raven like a writing-desk?" This famous unanswered riddle, posed by the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, was already the subject of much speculation during Lewis Carroll's lifetime. A raven and a writing desk do indeed seem to have so little in common that a solution may have to be found on a different level, perhaps that of language. Or perhaps the goal of Carroll's brain-teaser is to remind us that it is always possible to invent new 'rules' during an ongoing game – as children do without a second thought. It is a matter of being open-minded and curious enough to consider things and objects in different relations to one another – a quality that was later applied and demanded by the Surrealists. With its seemingly absurd comparison of unrelated thoughts, words, things and beings, Carroll's nonsensical riddle operates in this context and represents a strategy that continues to inspire artists to this day. 

 The Metamorphosis of the Body and the Self 

 In the Alice novels, the little girl is repeatedly asked who she is. Alice finds it hard to answer this question, as the changes she observes taking place within her own body also have an unsettling effect on her internal orientation and sense of self. On a purely mechanical level, the extent and force of these erratic changes in size – when Alice stretches and shuts up "like a telescope" – could simply serve to provide amusement. The real challenge for Carroll's main character, however, lies in her experience of – and constant awareness of – the possibility of physical metamorphosis. Not only does Alice become physically and mentally estranged from herself as she grows and shrinks; the subliminal threat of unexpected changes occurring in her body also means that her sense of identity is permanently unstable. "


Susanna Hesselberg (*1967), 
Ohne Titel, 2001 

"Alice in Wonderland is frequently interpreted as a story about coming of age, told from the perspective of a young girl seeking to find her place in a world whose laws and customs are unfamiliar to her. In order to correctly play the role expected ofher, Alice needs to learn these unfamiliar codes. One hundred and fifty yearslater, the conventions may have changed, but they still dictate the transition from girlhood into womanhood. This aspect of the story remains as topical as ever and is reflected in contemporary works – especially by younger women artists – with Alice as an identification figure.

In a number of photographic works,for example, key scenes from the novels are re-enacted in a contemporary context, while in some of the sculptural pieces, Alice's body and the challenges it faces have been brought together in different combinations, similar to how the letters of her name are rearranged to create the works' titles, turning Alice into Lacie, Elica... Carroll's Alice has an enduring fascination and will surely continue to inspire future creations in the Wonderland of art."


1 comment:

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