6 Dec 2019

Te Papa visitors go down rabbit-hole in new exhibition

From Checkpoint, 5:55 pm on 6 December 2019

Visitors to Te Papa will have the chance to immerse themselves in the psychedelic multi-verse of Alice's Wonderland with the opening of a new exhibition. 

The interactive experience celebrates the screen history of the more than 40 films made of Lewis Carroll's classic book from more than 150 years ago.

The Alice in Wonderland story has been told again and again - and a history of its many lives on film is on display at Te Papa in Wellington.

From paper strip annotation and lantern slides of the Victorian era - through stopmotion, puppets, cartoons and CGI extravaganza - the Wonderland exhibition has it all.

Sarah Tutton from the Australian Centre for the Moving Image - or (ACMI) - put the show together.

"As we looked at the films we realised that there was so many different interpretations of it, and I suppose because of the story of going into other worlds, it demanded that the filmmakers play with reality and play with visual effects and special effects. And that we could tell the story about the history of cinema through the eyes of Alice in Wonderland."

The story has completely penetrated pop culture, and has also been embraced by those traditionally outside the mainstream - the LGBTQI community and the beatniks and hippies. 

Plucky, wilful and adventurous Alice opened people up to a world of wildness - and weirdness.

"Before there was Caroll, children's literature was about telling you that you needed to behave in a certain way," Ms Tutton said. 

"Alice doesn't behave how she's told to behave. She is tough and sassy and super smart, and I think that because of that the story is ... owned by lots of different communities."
Ms Tutton's favourite film is the unsettling and surreal version by Czech filmmaker Jan Svankmajer.

"I mean for me that really appeals the trickiness of it, and I think it's interesting that different audiences that Alice in Wonderland has had. 

"It's obviously a very beloved children's story, but it also has had, you know, a darker, more surrealist, more trippy life. It appeals to people who are into ... curiosity and imagination and ... that more surreal world."

Stephanie Gibson from Te Papa said the show's innovation and creativity was a perfect fit for the museum. 

"It's incredibly rich in terms of history, surrealism, cinema, trickery. It's a really rich experience for people to really get stuck into."

She says children are going to love the interactivity, with secret doorways and hidden drawers to be discovered. 

The Wonderland exhibition opens tomorrow and runs through to March.