13 Apr - 22 Sep 2019

Fall down the rabbit hole into Wonderland, an immersive, playful and interactive exhibition for all ages, celebrating Lewis Carroll's timeless tale of Alice's adventures.

This one-of-a-kind exhibition follows Alice's journey through popular culture and invites you to take a trip through the looking glass into an enchanted world where expectations are upended and curiosity is rewarded. Using theatrical sets, bold, interactive environments, eye-catching props and amazing audiovisual artworks, Wonderland spectacularly conjures up the surprising and magical world of Alice and her adventures!

Discover how artists and filmmakers have portrayed Alice and her story for over a century. Since her first appearance on the page in 1865, Alice has delighted audiences in more than 40 films and over 30 television programmes, and has become a subcultural icon through her presence in music videos, video games, high fashion, advertising and more. Drawing together a remarkable selection of original behind-the-scenes material, Wonderland includes over 300 artefacts and objects including first edition books, drawings, original costumes, films, magic lantern projectors, animation and puppetry.

Developed by Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), this ground-breaking exhibition makes the first stop of its global tour at ArtScience Museum.


The Lost Map of Wonderland

The Lost Map of Wonderland plays an integral part in your Wonderland experience. Unlock surprising experiences during your exhibition journey and beyond! Once you enter the exhibition you'll get to choose one of four map characters – the White Rabbit, Cheshire Cat, the Queen or the Mad Hatter – and from there begin your adventures in Wonderland uncovering more stories as you go.

The adventure continues after you leave the exhibition! Unlock a new world of content and behind-the-scenes material by entering the special code found on your map on a secret website that will be launched very soon. There is even a riddle to be solved! 

Wonderland at ACMI
Wonderland premiered at ACMI last year. Here’s a sneak peek of what you can expect:

Who’s Alice?
An essay by Michelle J. Smith, Monash University, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics, Faculty Member Deakin University, School of Communication and Creative Arts, Post-Doc
Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is one of the most popular children’s books in history – it has inspired a curious visual dreamscape that has expanded far beyond the words found in its pages; a blank surface onto which we can project and explore any dream, vision, or anxiety, with the simple sight of a playing card, pocket watch, or tea party. Alice is a key to the cultural imagination of the strangest and most beautiful visual worlds, however fantastic.
Alice’s curiosity came to symbolise the widest reaches of psychological possibility and imagination in the 1960s. Jefferson Airplane made metaphorical use of the story in their psychedelic paean to drug use. In response, the National Institute of Mental Health in the USA figured that Alice’s adventures in a trippy realm of heroin, speed, and a weed-smoking caterpillar could also deter children from experimenting with mind-altering substances.
Alice Au Pays des Merveilles (1949), courtesy of Lou Bunin Productions.
Alice Au Pays des Merveilles (1949), courtesy of Lou Bunin Productions.
Wonderland collapses the division between the waking world and the realm of dreams. It dissolves the borders between the real and the unreal. On film Alice can manifest as a cryptic clue in science-fiction, with the white rabbit leading The Matrix’s Neo out of a dream world and into reality. She can transform from a doll into a human in a dark surrealist imagining, or sing and dance her way through a musical. With the constant confusion of her dramatic transformations in size, Alice also embodies the difficulties of growing older and the awkwardness of adolescence. In fantasy stories about boys, usually they grow up—their journey leading them to maturity.
Alice in Wonderland magic lantern slides (1905-1908), W. Butcher & Sons, courtesy Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
Alice in Wonderland magic lantern slides (1905-1908), W. Butcher & Sons, courtesy Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

Fantastic girls like Alice, however, tend not to develop as a result of their experiences. Instead, she is highly symbolic. Alice’s ambiguous nature means we have put her to use to express innumerable hopes and fears. In popular music, she has been used to celebrate individuality, embody female sexuality, and, as a metaphor for the search for creative inspiration. In Japan, Alice maps perfectly onto the idealised figure of the ‘shojo’, or girl, who occupies the space between child and adult. Her cuteness and innocence often serve as a foil for K-pop and J-pop boy bands.

Japan’s embrace of Alice has enabled the merger of a fascination with Victorian England with the modern genre of anime. Just like Betty Boop, kawaii cartoon figure Hello Kitty has also been transported to Wonderland. But she is most definitely not cut out for the illogical adults who reside there. Although she is often depicted as a woman on screen, Carroll’s Alice was only seven years old. While her blue or yellow dress and pinafore are relatively unchanging, the wild possibilities of Wonderland are a fertile ground for high fashion and beauty brands who wish to convey innovation and their embrace of the strange and unusual.

Alice can be mobilised as a prim and polite figure to advocate for the merits of Dr Pepper or be called on as a key to gain entry to a magical world of glamorous products and sophisticated people. The world inside the book or through the looking glass can contain anything that we desire, including an ideal version of ourselves.

While early games recreated the tone of the novel, Alice has since come to embody some of our darker fantasies. Alice is now commonly reoriented within stories for adults. She can embody innocent discovery of the enchanting and unfamiliar. Yet in a time of cultural upheaval Alice can now be represented as mentally disturbed or murderous. This contrasts with her traditional role as a bastion of sanity among “all mad” characters. These dark visual manifestations reconfigure Alice in ways that Carroll never imagined.

Whatever kind of Alice we need in any time, place, or culture, for audiences young or old, we can create by using the template of one girl’s encounters within a dreamscape. The curious world of Wonderland is a cultural silver screen onto which we can project images of anything we desire, however fantastic.
About the Partners
ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image)

ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image)

ACMI is the most visited moving image museum in the world, and Australia’s national museum of film, videogames, digital culture and art - situated in Melbourne. ACMI connects and fosters creative industries by illuminating the moving images and technologies that define our age and presents a vibrant calendar of exhibitions, films and events.