Marina Bay Sands may have blown up over the weekend with the opening of Marquee Singapore, but a stone’s throw away, an exciting new exhibition has opened its doors too. Over at the ArtScience Museum, the much-anticipated Wonderland welcomed its first visitors on 13 April to fall down the rabbit hole with them.
The travelling exhibition by ACMI makes its first stop here, with over 300 artefacts, objects and immersive experiences charting the evolution of Alice in pop culture. From now till 22 September, take a whirlwind trip through the timeless tale through our looking glass.
Before you start, be sure to complete a short Wonderland character quiz on the museum’s Facebook Messenger Chatbot – which will determine which character you are, and which copy of the Lost Map of Wonderland you receive at the door. Hold onto it; the map doubles as a physical interactive tool that works with many of the video installations peppered around the exhibition.
Your journey officially begins in the Drawing Room, which is furnished to look like Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll)’s drawing room from his time at Christchurch, Oxford. Peek into his life Before Alice through a series of photographs and objects in the Victorian-era space.
Find yourself at a dead end? Open either of the two doors, and crawl or walk through to the next room: the Hallway of Doors. In the adventurous spirit of Alice’s story, choose again from the three doors to continue your journey; the section introduces Alice Liddell and her siblings, all of whom inspired some of Carroll’s literary characters.
In you’ll go to The Pool of Tears, a nod to the book’s second chapter that brings together some of the original material from the first movie adaptation, in one magical space. See lantern slides and projectors, movie jecktor strips, and a projection of the films released in 1910, 1915, 1927 and 1931.
The next two rooms highlight major Alice moments from film and television of the ‘30s to ‘80s, detailing the gradual shift into live-action filmmaking through props, set drawings, character designs and script pages. Original costumes from Alice Through the Looking Glass House take centre stage, along with perspective-distorting sets that let you recreate the illusion of Alice’s curious growth spurt.
You’ll likely spend some time at Advice from a Caterpillar – a neon-lit tribute to Absolem The Caterpillar, whose famous words include a smoke-exhaled “Who are you?” to Alice. The section itself celebrates all things hand-drawn and Disney, chronicling Walt Disney Studio’s long-term interest in Carroll’s story through story sketches, animation cels and audiovisual clips.
Throw back the curtain, and you’ll arrive at one of the exhibition’s most interactive segments: The Queen’s Croquet Ground. Here’s where your map comes in handy – on it, decorate your own playing card with the stickers provided, then watch it come to life as a soldier with your face onscreen. Developed by digital toymakers Mosster Studio and Sandpit, the projection tech basically sees you run amok in the Queen’s Croquet ground painting the illustrated roses red.
When you’ve torn yourself away from birthing playing card mini-mes, it’s time for the highlight of the ACMI exhibition. A Mad Tea Party seats 25 at a time at a life-sized table, beautifully set with fluorescent cutlery. Watch as a mesmerising series of visuals are projection mapped onto the table, flitting between cakes and pastries, and actual scenes from Alice in Wonderland’s cinematic past (finally, projection mapping that isn’t just on building facades).
You’ve near come to the end of your adventure, but take some time to coo over behind-the-scene materials from the 2010 live-action blockbuster, which heralds a new era of Wonderland storytelling in highlighting the blending of live-action with digital animation.
And in the final room, Alice’s Evidence, an 18-screen panel nostalgically charts the various representations of Alice from different times and cultures – anime Alice, Hello Kitty Alice, commercial campaign Alice – in a fitting conclusion to a truly wondrous exhibition.
Photo credits: Marina Bay Sands
Wonderland runs from 13 April to 22 September 2019 at the ArtScience Museum. Get your tickets here!