Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland:

Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass - Introduction from Wikipedia: 

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (commonly shortened to Alice in Wonderland) is an 1865 novel written by English authorCharles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll.[1] It tells of a girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures. The tale plays with logic, giving the story lasting popularity with adults as well as with children.[2] It is considered to be one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre.[2][3] Its narrative course and structure, characters and imagery have been enormously influential[3] in both popular culture and literature, especially in the fantasy genre.

We discussed different aspects of the book in class and some of the issues surrounding the book such as:
  • Was Lewis Carroll using drugs when he wrote the book? Laudanum regularly used in this era. 
  • Did Lewis Carroll like young children a little to much? 
  • The supposed endless sexual references in Alice in Wonderland?
There has been loads of speculation and discussion about what Lewis Carroll really meant when he wrote Alice in Wonderland. Wikipedia is filled with pages of such speculation. Interesting as it is, I would prefer to just take it at it's face value - a piece of nonsense literature which sparks the imagination of the reader. Does it have to be more complicated than that?

Subject area:

Undecided, but want to use the 3D skills I've learnt in my piece.

  • Reading the book as a child and seeing the Disney film.
  • Watching later versions of this film as research for this project.
  • A a child, my imagination was captured by Alice in Wonderland. I used the check rabbit holes that I found when playing in the woods as a kid (also the backs of wardrobes...)
  • The whole changing of size after eating and drinking me thing.
  • Looking through the door from the corridor into the garden - a sneaky peek into another world.
  • Play with words. Was a feature of comedy in the 70s/80s The Two Ronnie's and their fork 'andles etc. Loads of word games in endless car journeys in the back of a Lada - before the days of ipads.
  • The madness of the characters various.
Don't think I want to depict any of the characters from the story physically - maybe I can tap into their madness in a different way.

  • Shadows created by other objects and projected onto a wall - kaleidoscope on the wall.
  • Abstract version of Alice in 2D or 3D.
  • Small door with peephole that audience has to bend down to look through like Alice.
  • Footsteps getting smaller in a garden and features. The grass changes shape.
  • Something covered in word play from the story.
  • Make things back to front eg. sky made of grass and grass made of sky.
  •  Small kaleidoscope.
  • Mad version of falling down a rabbit hole.
  • Using glass/reflection
  • I'm late, I'm late for a very important date - messed up clock.

Experiments - A Wander in Aliceland

Cast footprint - idea to play with footprints in the grass - maybe raised profile instead.

Sand in tray. Make footprint then fill with plaster.

Mixed fine casting plaster. Overalls on.Can mix powder with bare hands, but not cast limbs by holding them in plaster as it sets. Your hand will cook.

Water in bowl first them add mountain of plaster (with extractor fan on). Mix to the consistency of single cream, then pour into the cast.

Could try to coat this in glue, Eleanor's gunk to create smooth cast. Hmmm. Another idea I think...

I'm late!
I'm late!
For a very important date!
No time to say 'Hello', goodbye!
I'm late!
I'm late!
I'm late!
I run and then I hop hop hop
I wish that I could fly
There's a danger if I dare to stop and
here's the reason why.
You see I'm overdue
I'm in a rabbit stew.
No time to say 'Goodbye', hello!
I'm late, I'm late, I'm late!

Pocket watch with hanging rabbit. Be fun to make the bottom of the rabbit into chunks stew which I could splatter all over the floor.
Maybe the watch face could be mirrored. Hands of the clock going in and out and reversing to echo the theme's of messed up time and reality in Alice in Wonderland.

Rabbit hanging from a noose - fits with the rhyme. Kind of funny. I'd like the rabbit to swing backwards and forwards though... not just hang down. Maybe could use the workings of a metronome to get a satisfactory swinging action.

Contextual Research:

Yayoi Kusama, born 1929

Source of info about Kusama below from Tate website:

Yayoi Kusama
Tate Modern: Exhibition
9 February – 5 June 2012
The nine decades of Yayoi Kusama’s life have taken her from rural Japan to the New York art scene to contemporary Tokyo, in a career in which she has continuously innovated and re-invented her style. Well-known for her repeating dot patterns, her art encompasses an astonishing variety of media, including painting, drawing, sculpture, film, performance and immersive installation. It ranges from works on paper featuring intense semi-abstract imagery, to soft sculpture known as ‘Accumulations’, to her ‘Infinity Net’ paintings, made up of carefully repeated arcs of paint built up into large patterns. Since 1977 Kusama has lived voluntarily in a psychiatric institution, and much of her work has been marked with obsessiveness and a desire to escape from psychological trauma. In an attempt to share her experiences, she creates installations that immerse the viewer in her obsessive vision of endless dots and nets or infinitely mirrored space.

Yayoi Kusama The Passing Winter 2005 © Yayo Kusama courtesy Victoria Miro Gallery, London
Yayoi Kusama

The Passing Winter


© James Deavin
Courtesy Victoria Miro Gallery, London
© Yayoi Kusama
At the centre of the art world in the 1960s, she came into contact with artists including Donald JuddAndy WarholJoseph Cornell and Claes Oldenburg, influencing many along the way. She has traded on her identity as an ‘outsider’ in many contexts – as a female artist in a male-dominated society, as a Japanese person in the Western art world, and as a victim of her own neurotic and obsessional symptoms. After achieving fame and notoriety with groundbreaking art happenings and events, she returned to her country of birth and is now Japan’s most prominent contemporary artist.

Kusama has a really interesting story. Born in Japan, she was an artist from an early age. Her ambition saw her move to New York in 1958 determined to succeed in a male dominated art world. She did so by exhibiting work that broke the boundaries of space. The viewer was not in charge of the experience, she was and this was a new idea.

She worked hard, which caused her mental health to break down. She moved back to Japan and since 1977 lives voluntarily in a mental institution in Tokyo and she works there daily with a team of assistants. She's found a way that works for her - lots of people don't manage to do that.

I love the way she encourages participation and interaction with her work. This film about The Obliteration Room at the Tate exhibition is really fun. The film shows people of all ages interacting with her work and gaining their own experience from it. This is something we try to do at the place I work in Doncaster, and I guess over time it has become part of me too. It's an ambition for my own work.

Kusama shows others the world as she sees it. Her personal experience of mental health issues and the way that has affected her view on the world - she shares the world as she sees it.

In her installations she uses mirrors and lights to create confusion and alter perspective. That's an idea I want to use.

Yann Kersale

Yann Kersale is a French conceptual artist who works with light. Born 1955. He illuminates both nature and buildings. Looks like his work is more public and straightforward than Kusama, but interesting effects that show how everyday things can look magical.

James Turrell

Artist's website:

I like his projection pieces and tunnel pieces. They look very sophisticated and not something that I could ever achieve, but gives me ideas about how I can change the tunnel created by a periscope into something interesting that alters perception.

This is a projection piece. Artist's website describes this work as: A Turrell Projection is created by projecting a single, controlled beam of light from the opposing corner of the room. The projected light appears as a three dimensional form.

These are his tunnel pieces - very cool.

2 February - National Media Museum

Went on a day out to Bradford Museum of Media. Was a bit average, but the interactive kids section had periscopes and I was playing around with these a bit. Like that you can see some of the inner tube before seeing the image at the end. This made me think of the rabbit hole in the story. Maybe I could play around with the sides of the tube and the images that are seen at the end and then set the whole thing into something that is interesting. Maybe a rabbit hole or could maybe work it with the looking through the door into the garden idea.


Used in art:

Periscope and camera obscurers:

You can see inside the periscope when looking at the view, so is begging to be decorated in final piece as the rabbit hole that Alice falls down to enter Wonderland. I will do some experiments with glow in the dark paint to see if this will work.

Disney version:

Alice falls past normal household stuff, I'd like to echo that but also use more trick of the eye stuff to improve the illusion further.

Escher? bloke who did never ending stairs?

Make the sculpture look like a tree trunk?

Done some sketches of tree trunks and went out for a walk to collect some bark, tree trunks and other useful stuff. Could I build a sculpture that incorporates these found materials?

27 February

First college session after half term. Time to build some of the ideas that have been going around in my head over the holidays. Some of my ideas I still like and want to develop, others I have gone off a bit. Am really aware of how hard I find it to task complete, and this is the point where I would normally start to lose interest. Has been nice to come into college today and see that lots of other students are feeling the same. It's just part of the process and pretty much the same for everyone.

Mid-point evaluation statement

Referred back to my sketch book. Stuff I want to keep:
  • Kalidescoping images - I still want Alice in Wonderland related images to be strobing before your eyes.
  • Playing with words - using some of Carroll's rhymes and word play to decorate my creation.
  • Use of mirrors.
Stuff that has sprung into my head as I've been going along through research and trips out:
  • Kusama's work
  • Periscopes
Where's my head at now?

Have been considering the tree stump/rabbit hole sculpture. On reflection I think this will be time consuming and on a practical level it will be hard to adjust the mirrors in the periscope if it is surrounded by a solid sculpture. I need fiddly access baby.

Looked back at my sketch book of original ideas. One of these is a small door idea. Maybe I could combine this with the periscope so that you look through the door into Wonderland. This would be more straightforward to construct and I could build in easy access. It would also be quicker. I need to be mindful of the time I have to complete this project and the other work that I have on right now.

Reflecting on the artist's work I've researched, Kusama is my favourite. For me she is streets ahead of the others I looked at. Why? Because...

She messes with everyday things and makes you look at them differently. Take the Obliteration Room - It's just an average room painted white and lots of stickers. A simple idea but really effective.

She uses changes perceptions by using things like light, perspective and mirrors to confuse the viewer a little.

She takes some control of the viewer's experience by dictating how her work is viewed.

How can i apply this to my work?

Did some experiments in class and built a test version of my door out of a cardboard box and a couple of vanity mirrors.

Looking into the box from above you can see the periscope tube attached to the side of the box. The mirrors need to be positioned at 45 degree angles so that the image or view at the end of the periscope is bounced back to the viewer via the mirrors.

I cut a square out of the front of the box so you can see inside the periscope. I put my phone inside and set it up to do a slide show of my pictures. I shut the box to make it dark and then took a video to see what sort of effect I got:



Worked pretty well. Am liking this idea and want to develop it. I've got my head around how it's going to look, but now I need to focus on the images that will be playing at the end of the periscope. What I've learnt from this experiment?... To use bright and contrasting colours and to make the images switch over quickly else it will get boring

Where am I going to start?
  • Playing cards
  • Characters from the book
  • Kusama's illustrations of Alice in Wonderland
  • Collage from magazines

All these images are from a bunch of magazines I found in the textiles room - Home and Gardens 1986 and I didn't even dig deep! A full ten years older than Eleanor! Made me feel old I can tell you.

Could also use some images from the Sewhat fashion show - the Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee with the mad hatter looked cool. Could maybe do something with these:

I've found a free website online called which allows you to upload pictures and then use different filters to change them however you want. To be honest I've found this part of the project very revealing. Whilst I want the cool images, I don't enjoy creating them on a computer. Lunapic gives me instant results without me having to learn about how to use Photoshop in a very limited time frame.

I want to make my door as small scale as I can. I found a mini digital photo frame that you can load 50 pictures onto and do a slide show. It only loads up bitmaps so can't use gifs for moving images but I like the mini size and the mini price! (£2.99).

Here are the images I've created. I've added effects like kaleidoscope and altered the colour saturation and things like that. I know this bit of the project could be stronger, but haven't enjoyed the whole Photoshop thing...

Construction of box

I made the box from corrugated cardboard and then covered it in grey board to give it strength and a smoother finish. I want the end product to be clean and white - inspired by Kusama (with a 'dot' knob as my way of paying homage to the dotty one for using her ideas). I want a lack of colour on the outside with vibrant colour inside when you open the door and peek inside, just a bit of blue ribbon for Alice.

I also want the box to be really small so it relates to Alice in Wonderland and playing with scale. I've also decided to place the door on a mirror so that the viewer gets a view of their own face when looking at the images - this ties in really well with the Alice theme.

As the door opens I have put a quote from the very first line of Alice in Wonderland: “Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sisters on the bank, and of having nothing to do”... I’m also hanging a label that says ‘open me’ on the door handle – because it’s rude not to really...

Self Evaluation

Inside the box I could have spent more time on the box editing pictures and messing with mirrors. If I continued with this project, I would experiment more with images, effects and using gifs instead of jpegs or bitmaps so I could use moving images.

I’d also play around with tricks of the eye designs on the periscope wall. As it is I have used coloured paper to give a more interesting effect for the viewer, but I think this could have been developed and been better. I’d also have liked to experiment with magnifying mirrors to see if I could have warped the images and made them bigger.

Overall I am pretty happy with what I’ve come up with. Looking back at my original ideas, I have used these, but not in exactly the way they started out. I’ve also made some good construction decisions along the way which have helped. Eg. Being able to fiddle easily with the image generating keyring.

Learning – I need to just crack on sometimes – have a habit of thinking too much. Now some thinking is good of course, but then you just have to do. Can’t help feeling that if I had done this I would have had more time to fiddle with mirrors, other effects etc.

Thinking about the brief I think that my ‘thing’ would fit the brief – a piece that could be displayed in an Alice exhibition where people of all ages could visit.

I think my thing would engage people of all ages at some level. For kids it is just a fun, cool thing, for adults I think there are enough cues in the piece to maybe take them back to when they read the book or to maybe encourage them to pick it up for the first time.

So here's the finished product!

Peer evaluation

Other stuff I found along the way

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