Alice in process…

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

3 Oct 2016

The Path of Curiouserism by Adriana Peliano

Thanks to Clare and August  Imholtz
for the invitation to write this essay
which awaken new ideas.

Falling Alices by 150 illustrators.

Down, down, down. 
Would the fall never come to an end? 

" Whenever Alice adventures into the rabbit-hole, she shakes minds and hearts and takes us in her endless journey, which continues to inspire spirals of dreams and burn curiosity in pictures and conversations. After her traveling around the world for 150 years, we find in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland new mathemagic hats where spring out alicisms and alicedelic alicinations. From the curiouser-est cup of tea in the mad-tea party arises intriguing interpretations in multiple fields of knowledge and unusual artistic creations feeding the wildest imaginations. Alice in Wonderland is an inexhaustible book that we never open twice since, along with Alice and her wanders and wonders, we are always changing and recreating ourselves. “Curiouser and curiouser!”

“Who in the world am I?” we ask of ourselves, as readers partaking in Alice’s turbulence. “That is the great puzzle!” Alice replies. In another twist she continues: “How puzzling all these changes are! I’m never sure what I’m coming to be, from one minute to another.” At the same time when the caterpillar asks again and again, “Who are you?” Alice does not know the answer. “I know who I was (. . .) but I think I must have been changed several times since then.” Wanderer in a dream world, Alice is stunned to discover that everything is in a constant creative flux. And we, understanding that it is impossible to settle on Alice’s identity, witness that when she was once only drawn by Sir John Tenniel in Victorian England, a tradition of Alices have followed in his path since then. Even today Alice inventors and impersonators keep working in this unstable balance between a commitment to tradition and artistic freedom. But Alice is no longer the Victorian Alice, instead she is a living kaleidoscope of all of the possibilities and quantic probabilities. Instead of the question “Who is Alice?” those paths lead to that which Alice might come to be ...

 collage by Adriana Peliano 

Since the beginning of the last century, each decade, through different curiouserisms among artistic landscapes, existential paths, intellectual perspectives, looking-glasses, magic formulas, and boring clichés, created their own Alices: Victorian, Edwardian, art nouveau, art deco, surrealist, psychedelic, pop, futuristic, gothic, naïve, ethnic, dark, sexist, kawaii, steampunk, postmodern, pop surrealist, sadomasochist, alien, and much more. Alice is, by turns, a sweet and naïve girl, a questioning feminist, a perverted child, a mad and bloody serial killer, a drugged adult, a seeker of worlds beyond the rainbow of consciousness, a delirious psychedelicist, a philosophical curiouserist, and a shielded warrior, always multiple and mutating. “What are you?” said the Pigeon. “I can see you are trying to invent something!” This is Alice. She sets out for the new and looks back to reinvent herself all over again. Alice is all of them and none of them, and she opens herself up like the largest alicedelic alicescope ever seen!

Alice leaves the shelves and goes to live in the modern, contemporary world with its puzzles and complexities. She jumps out of the book’s edges, and adventures beyond illustrations into art, into movies, into fashion, into animation, into games, into advertising, into comics, into toys, into memorabilia, into consumerism, into the mix that now reigns and requires other comprehensions. I do not know of another girl with so many faces, a traveler from an imaginary world, bringing with her the paradoxes that defy our senses, the nonsense and the common sense. The Alice books do not fit into any mold or explanation, instead spreading a worldwide net of creative possibilities. We are faced, then, with a new logic, a call to awaken the alicedelic imagination and enigmagic thinking. After all, Alice “had got so much into the way of expecting nothing but out-of-the-way things to happen, that it seemed quite dull and stupid for life to go on in the common way.”

Alice in Wonderland is not just a book about transformation, but the book itself is also in transformation, through pictures and conversations traveling in space (different cultures), time (different eras), and beyond. When the Alice illustrators and artists find the Cheshire Cat in their readings, they wonder which paths to take and partake of. All the paths are possible; it is our turn to decide. We are always invited to make our own choices. Each picture unfolds a new possibility to the reader and the viewer, creating an amazing maze of simultaneous tracks, intertwining the lines of the text in an exciting game of mirrors in a mise en abyme. We are all together in this journey, and the route to take depends on where each one wants to go.

 collage by Adriana Peliano 

Hungry to get into the most beautiful garden ever seen, Alice wonders if she can find a book of rules for shutting people up like telescopes. Instead, she found a little bottle tied with a paper label with the enigmagic instructions “Drink me” beautifully printed on it. Alice adventures into a very nice taste—and one unpredictable recipe—in a strange mixture that made her finish it off very soon. I would say that instead of a book of rules, she was moved into an experience, choosing the path of curiouserism. Her adventures in arts and visual culture also arrive at this crossroad: should we follow formulas and instructions or risk the unusual and believe in the impossible?

A burning curiosity moves Alice from the monotony of everyday life. She chooses to follow a watch in a waistcoat-pocket—and its rabbit! Alice runs after him into his hole, never once considering how in the world she would get out again. Drinking and eating and biting and fanning, she experiences extreme transformations, between the fear of disappearing like the flame of a candle and growing as big as the largest telescope ever seen. From spiraling like a serpent into the sky to flattening her head on the floor in a nerve-racking nightmare. Step by step she deals with how to balance her height from two pieces of mushroom, and manages to find her size again going through a sequence of curious experiences.

“I wish I could tell you half the things Alice used to say, beginning with her favourite phrase ‘Let’s pretend.’” We find that out in the very beginning of her Looking-glass adventure. Alice is usually ambiguous and puzzled about the obligation to repeat what she had learned as proper manners and important words to impress her audience versus the drive to the unknown and out-of-the-way. After crossing the magic portals and throwing habits into the rabbit-hole, there is no manual anymore: it’s all nonsense, experience, and discoveries.

 collage by Adriana Peliano 

Both paths are opened to Alice as they are to the artists and to the readers in both art and life. Other characters that Alice finds in her journey present her enigmas, which also provoke us to read Alice in renewed conversations with her pictures. While the White Rabbit runs against time, the Mock Turtle loses it, and the Hatter is locked in the same repetitive ritual for having killed Time. We are then stimulated to be friends of Time, diving again into Alice’s adventures as a never-ending story. Time for making choices revealed by the wise, mad cat. Time to accept change as the only constant, and to be open to the new and the confrontational with differences and multiplicity. Time to flow in enigmas with no answers, twinkling and thinkling like the stars. Time to mock morals and good taste, as we see with the Ugly Duchess. Time to lose our heads with the Queen of Hearts. Time to find out Time does not exist as we suspect. Once friends of Time, we can do whatever we want to with the clock. And in doing so, take the chance to see the world always in different perspectives, looking up from the side of a riverbank or from the top of the highest trees, carrying our bag of mushrooms as a looking-glass lens of relativity.

Let’s pretend that a book cover is a magic door. A shelf is turned into a corridor full of doors, a library into a labyrinth. Opening a door and facing an illustration, we are invited to wonder: how can I enter this picture and wander about among those beds of bright flowers and those cool fountains? Our key is curiosity. It is time to strengthen our power of “let’s pretend,” still haunted by the child’s dreams and the dream-child. As Virginia Woolf said, the Alice books “are not books for children. They are the only books in which we become children.”

 collage by Adriana Peliano

This time, as a curious Alice in a time-travel machine around wonderlands, I am amazed by the preciousness of this exhibition, calling to us from another time and space. Following our white rabbits, we are invited to discover the time to appreciate an illustration and penetrate it as if the spell from a dream-child, again and again, and always find something new. The time of searching and finding new Wonderlands in multiple paths, tracks, and treasures, partaking in her transformations in the timeless time of love gifts. Also keeping precious golden keys, synchronizing hearts and minds for a lifelong adventure. We are also called to the Time of daydreams, memory, enchantment, and serendipities. Holding these time portals open, we find the Carrollians Clare and August Imholtz, sweet warriors, guardians of the doors and pathways presented through their cherished collection, which we thank them for sharing.

“Alice in the Sky with Diamonds,” the girl with kaleidoscopic eyes, shines between a logical world and an enigmagic world. The dream of Alice is able to dive into the source of creativity and challenge the limits of the possible. Gardens of delights can bloom as we wander in woods where things have no names, flow in the river of metamorphosis, believe in impossible things, follow paradoxical and corkscrew paths, make deals with fabulous monsters, become a friend of Time. We can follow our own path into the most beautiful garden, and awaken as Lewis Carroll invites us to infinite Alices laughing like mad grins traveling in the air. And you! Who are you? I can see you are trying to invent something!"

Adriana Peliano and 
 anamorphosis by Antonio Peticov.

This text originally belongs to the catalog:

 Alice: 150 years. The legacy of Lewis Carroll: Selections from the Collection of August and Clare Imholtz. University od Maryland Libraries, 2016. pp. 8-11.

The pictures that illustrate this post do not participate in the exhibition.
They originally belongs to the book

Site Zahar

Translation: Maria Luiza X. de A. Borges

Ilustrations: Collages by Adrian Peliano after John Tenniel and many others.

No comments:

Post a Comment