Christoph Benjamin, Curator
What I wanted to attempt with this room here was to create an entrance of the show that brings together very literal references with kind of abstract levels of reference.
Gavin Delahunty, Head of Exhibitions & Displays, Tate Liverpool
What you are seeing in the first room is a coming together of some of the understood themes of Alice – language, scale and perspective, and the journey from childhood to adulthood. But you go upstairs, then, really to see the birth of the book – where does this artwork come from?
Well, it was our idea to show, really, how this kind of masterpiece of literature was created; so we brought together as much material on its publication and creation as we could. So what we have is original preliminary drawings by Dodgson that he made even before writing the book, or in the process of writing the manuscript, but we also have a lot of material around the publication of the book. We have the first photograph that Lewis Carroll took of the young Alice Liddell, I guess when she was four. We really wanted to show that the aesthetic that he used in his photographs are influenced by the aesthetic of that very time; so it was our aim to bring these two different means of artistic expression together, which is of course a challenge, because photography and painting have a very different quality and also presence in space.
What you find with Surrealism is Alice starts to morph, and she starts to change, so those original illustrations by John Tenniel, and indeed, the original imaginations of Alice, they start to transform into something else; and there’s an extraordinary work called Alice in 1941 by Max Ernst. It’s an incredible painting where you have the figure of a very elegant woman being held up; being almost cradled by nature; being thrust into the front of the image.
We’ve kind of come through the Sixties and Seventies where artists were using Alice as a kind of prism to look through their social experience at that time, and now we’re in, like, the Eighties and Nineties – what is often described as a Postmodern moment where things begin to be recycled. This idea of glass, or mirroring, or reflective surfaces, permeates the entire exhibition, and here we are in Dan Green’s pavilion, and again this mirroring; the reflected surfaces. What happens when you look at yourself in the mirror, what happens to your reality when you hold up that mirror?
Whilst we were putting together the exhibition, which is broadly chronological, some of the same motifs or metaphors reappear time and time again.