The V&A’s ‘Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser’ Exhibit is Offering a Virtual Reality ‘Wonderland’ Experience
The original Alice may have escaped into her Wonderland as a result of some combination of boredom and wild imagination – but after a year of pandemic lockdown and fear, going down the rabbit hole would actually seem more like therapy now, considering the particularly and consistently oppressive nature of reality during this long coronavirus crisis.
So our first order of travel business once all restrictions are lifted is quite likely to be crossing the pond to London…as the V&A has just opened Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser, the first ever comprehensive exhibition on Lewis Carroll’s utterly beloved and yes, very, very curious little seven-year-old girl. Appropriately, they have devised a fantastical Virtual Reality element, which allows visitors the chance to undertake their own surreally peculiar Alice moment.
Beginning in the museum’s subterranean Sainsbury Gallery, the exhibit itself is divided into five sections: Creating Alice, which looks at the inspirations Carroll drew upon to create the original story, first published all the way back in 1865; Filming Alice, charting her screen history from the first cinematic adaptation in 1903, to Tim Burton’s magical 2010 blockbuster starring Johnny Depp and Mia Wasikowska; Reimagining Alice, exploring artistic interpretations of Alice by the likes of Salvador Dalí, Yayoi Kusama, Max Ernst and Peter Blake; Staging Alice, celebrating her time on the prestigious stages of Geneva, Copenhagen, London…and beyond; and Being Alice, which muses on how her influence continues to this day, in fashion, art, pop culture and even science.
The Virtual Reality experience, specifically, is meant as a modernistic reimagining of that journey down the rabbit hole, taking one first into a hall of doors – which then leads to the Queen of Hearts’ croquet grounds for, naturally, A Curious Game of Croquet. And what could be more curiously wonderful than that? It’s all based on new works by Icelandic artist Kristjana S. Williams, which had been commissioned specifically for the exhibition publication. The finished experience was brought to realization by HTC Vive Arts, in cooperation with immersive game studio PRELOADED.
Surprisingly, it’s actually the first time the always forward-thinking V&A has ventured into VR – though it’s safe to say more will follow from here.
“With our founding mission to inspire the next generation,” observes Kate Bailey, Senior Curator of Theatre and Performance, “the V&A is the perfect place for an exhibition on the cultural impact of Alice in Wonderland across artistic disciplines. Alice encourages us all to question, to learn, to explore, and to dream – and discovering why she’s an endless source of inspiration for some of the world’s most creative minds has been an extraordinary adventure, even taking the museum into a new dimension of Virtual Reality for the first time. We look forward to welcoming visitors into Alice’s magical and mind-bending Wonderland, to imagine their own world on the other side of the Looking Glass.”