Search This Blog

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Alice at ACMI!

So, yesterday I met a friend from work in the city and after lunch at Young and Jackson's, we crossed the road to Federation Square to enjoy the Alice In Wonderland Exhibition at ACMI(Australian Centre for the Moving Image). I've been there for other exhibitions, though not recently. A few years ago I took two of my younger family members, Amelia and Dezzy, to see the ABBA exhibition, at their request. They had a ball, and I enjoyed it too, as I did the Martin Scorsese and Tim Burton exhibitions, but this one was special.

I have, of course, read both Alice In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass, both as a child and as an adult. I have them in ebook now, from Project Gutenberg. Rereading Alice made me remember how very Victorian it is. A lot of the jokes were aimed at kids of the time, who would have been rolling around laughing at his parodies of poems they had to read for school. But they were funny anyway, and I read those books when I was about Alice's age(seven) and loved them enough to call my very first doll Alice. Hey, I was a nerd even then - what can I tell you?

I went to Oxford many years ago, to meet a friend, Margaret, who got stuck in a meeting at work and couldn't make it, so as long as I was there, I went wandering through the streets of Oxford, where I discovered Christ Church College, where Alice Liddell's father worked and across the road from it, a gift shop, Alice's Old Sheep Shop, which was the very shop John Tenniel used for his illustration of the old sheep's shop in Through The Looking Glass.  It was one of the many historical sites in England that delighted me.

The books are funny and clever and over-the-top, with their very prim and proper Victorian child suddenly finding herself in a world that simply doesn't fit with the kind of world she knows. Somehow she ends up accepting both worlds, however absurd they are. The stories and the illustrations alike have fun with the politics and politicians of the time, but if you don't know this, it doesn't matter. Who would have thought a mathematician could create something so enchanting?

And the books have been enchanting the world since they first came out in 1865 and 1871, inspiring everything from art to film(the first one came out in 1903). When we entered the gallery for the exhibition, we were handed maps which were designed to be scanned and bring up a picture or a video on the various machines around the gallery. You got a character from the stories - my friend Jasna received one with the Queen of Hearts, I got the Cheshire Cat.

Inside, there were original pieces of Victoriana connected with Lewis Carroll, models from the various films, costumes and bits of the various films themselves. We sat down to watch a silent version made in about 1908, but they also put together scenes from many different versions. I remembered an animated version in which Sammy Davis Jr played the Cheshire Cat, but he also did a live action version in which he was the caterpillar. I think I spotted a snippet from a 1966 version of Through The Looking Glass in which Agnes Moorehead was the Red Queen, and there was a bit from the recent animated version in which Helena Bonham Carter was the Queen of Hearts, screaming for her missing tarts.

We went as a group into a room with a table meant to be the Mad Hatter's Tea Party. There were plates, cups and tea pots, which we were asked not to touch. There was something very planetarium about the place. As the lights went off, there was music and a landscape built up around us on the walls and then - the plain white plates and pots became beautiful colourful pieces of Victorian crockery, with cakes on the plates.

The final activity was in a room with stickers you had to cut up to represent the decoration on a playing card, and place on the blank part of your map. The stickers were various characters and body parts from the Alice books and we were invited to make them as silly as we pleased. Then you went over to a hole where you put your head, slotted in your card and had a photo taken. A few seconds later, you appeared, wearing your card, on a screen, dancing around as a gardener of the Queen of Hearts, painting the white roses red because she will have your head cut off if she sees the white roses!

Here is a photo I took. That's me on the right, in the front. I have no idea who the other lady is, sorry!

Afterwards, we went through a small souvenir shop. The prices were pretty phenomenal for everything. I managed to resist the catalogue, because I know how things are with catalogues and me. I buy them, I drool over them for a while, I stroke them and drool some more... then I put them away and never read them again. Last Christmas, I gave away my Van Gogh exhibition catalogue, because the friend who received it had missed out on getting a copy at the exhibition and I knew it was going to gather dust on my shelves.

Here is what I bought instead. It was horribly expensive, but I just couldn't leave without it - and it will be used. In fact, I used it this morning at breakfast. This was part of a limited edition created especially for the exhibition by T2, which charges outrageous prices for its tea, so no surprise. But it is beautiful! Don't you think? They had sold out all the cups and saucers, so I found something pretty, if not matching, to drink from this morning.

When I went to the cloak room to collect my stuff, while waiting for Jasna to emerge from the Ladies, I chatted with the cloak room lady, who was surprised to hear I'd been in that room with the cards. "That was a children's activity!" she said. I assured her there had been no one under about twenty in that room when I was there(and it is school holidays in Melbourne) and as if to prove my point, several other people arrived with their decorated cards!

We went to the lounge upstairs, where we ordered tea and something to nibble before heading our separate ways(after all that, I was joining another friend for dinner!)

A very enjoyable day, in all!


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue - sounds an amazing exhibition as do the others ... I love visiting museum or library exhibitions - they are so brilliantly curated ... and delightful. I love the tea pot - what a treasure ... cheers Hilary

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Hilary! Yes, it’s great what creativity exhibitions can bring out in the curators. I’ve been to some amazing ones. A beautiful tea pot, indeed. I will treasure it and drink much tea from it,

AJ Blythe said...

I do the kids activities too =) I read the books when I was a kid, but haven't revisited.

My link to Alice has been through music. I had a Danny Kaye tape and used to sing along in the car (not sure the Barbarians appreciated my singing) and one of the songs was I'm Late from Disney's Alice in Wonderland.

Sue Bursztynski said...

“I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date!” I didn’t know Danny Kaye sang it. Not surprised, though!