A determined Estonian, Viive Noor, has made a gift to Lewis Carroll’s beloved book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) on the 150th anniversary of its publication. She has curated a thematic exhibition called “It’s Always Tea-Time” in the Estonian Children’s Literature Centre, which will be exhibited there until 28th of November. Entrance is free of charge.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a crazy story that has bothered minds of all times – what was meant with the unusual characters and situations? I remember reading the book as a child; it made little sense to me, but still brought joy to my little heart. Rethinking the book now, I understand that I am one of many who question the characters and sense of the adventure. Nevertheless, I liked the exhibition that taught me one thing for sure – you do not have to understand everything to enjoy the fun that this crazy story has evoked in the artists’ imaginations.
The initiative has brought together 72 artists from 19 countries, including Estonia, Hungary, Iran, Italy, Latvia, Russia, Spain, and others. Until visiting the exhibition, I had never wondered about how many other children from “exotic” countries dreamed about Mad Hatter, March Rabbit and other extravagant characters. The exhibition that represents so many different countries assures me that Alice in Wonderland is the common currency for dreams and fun. The proof of this statement is the homogeneity of the exhibition that represents a small craziness. Almost no national characteristics can be seen in the works. The exhibition is a homogenous, colourful tea party where all of the book’s characters are invited.
The exhibition takes place in the Estonian Children’s Literature Centre – a cosy and warm place on the threshold of Old Town. Although I did not meet too many children there, the small tables and chairs, not to mention the spiral stairs in one of the halls, made me feel as in a wonderland for small children. The artworks perfectly fit in this atmosphere, where the rulers seem to be the smallest members of the society. However, once overthinking the artworks, which represent many different styles, I am not sure for whom they were meant in the first place. A grown-up would definitely look deeper and find that the Iranian artist’s painting “… and Carroll Saw” actually represents the life cycle and time to which all creatures are subjected to. However, I imagine that the smallest visitors would like the painting for something as unimaginable as a clock table depicted in it. That is why the exhibition is so fascinating and family friendly – while children enjoy the colours and fun of the illustrations, the adults ponder over the crazy story.
The exhibition not only represents different artists from many countries, but also many different types of art including graphics and sculpture, which at first does not seem to be a common choice to portray the colourful story. However, it still leaves a very strong and bright impression. It is fun to see the same excerpt from the book illustrated in so many different styles and emotions. The most popular episode of the book is, of course, the tea party, which might be explained by the fact that the whole exhibition is named after it. However, even though most of the works play with the same episode, they are very different from each other, leaving one with a feeling that one has revisited all the old friends by reading the book all over again.
Fun! That is the characteristic that best describes the exhibition. I left the premises of the Estonian Children’s Literature Centre in a very positive mood, although most of the artworks provoked deep inner discussions about Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the true moral behind it. It is magical how such a light topic has materialized in something that complex. For this reason, I warmly recommend the exhibition to everyone. You can enjoy it both ways – either for the pure childish happiness or to provoke yourself to rethink the unbelievable obvious and translate it in your current state of mind. Take your family and go!