By Dr. Carola Muysers
Postgraduate #Guckstu with the Avenger of Art and lectures for everyone and always:
Morning, morning and welcome to the avenger of art from the postgraduate course #Guckstu. Here you can learn how to do art avenging professionally, for which you don’t need a school-leaving certificate, but can do a master’s degree, a doctorate and a professorship straight away. As a final paper, you simply submit „something with art“, then you’ll eventually get a certificate from me.
But now it’s time to study, and that goes like this:
Vorlesung #1: Alice im Wunderland
So this Corona virus throws you completely out of time. It’s not even morning any more! Doesn’t matter. I’ve already heard from a few people that they won’t be going out again for the next three years. Home office, ordering food and groceries online, you’ve got Skype, Zoom, watch parties and Netflix. Good grief, are all the cups still in the cupboard? Apparently not, and today I have chosen a suitable picture story to go with it. Because in times like these, parables are the best help. Please listen and #watch:
Alice is bored. Then a white rabbit runs past with a pocket watch. Alice follows him, falls down a deep hole into a room with 1000 doors, finds a key, opens the one door, doesn’t fit through, drinks a shrinkage remedy: Welcome to Wonderland.
Lewis Carroll actually wrote the story of „Alice in Wonderland“ for children. But all of England, where the book was first published in 1865, was literally crazy about it. In 1998, a first edition was auctioned off for $1,500,000. Even Queen Victoria is said to have devoured it. Which brings us straight to the subject.
For not only does Alice constantly change size in the story, e.g. blocking the White Rabbit’s house in giant size or stirring up the court hearing against the Jack of Hearts convicted of allegedly stealing cupcakes. She is also catapulted into the most absurd situations herself. For example, she gets into the tea party with the March Hare and the Mad Hatter, where the only thing that matters is to move up a table while talking nonsense. Or she is the Queen of Hearts, who pronounces death sentences on all the players in a game of croquet, which the King of Hearts invalidates with an immediate pardon. By the way, a flamingo serves as a racket and a hedgehog as a ball in croquet. And first, the Cheshire Cat, who appears and disappears at will, her broad smile hovering in the air long after her exit. She even has her own Wikipedia entry.
I mention that Carroll wrote the book for little Alice Pleasance Liddell, the model for Alice, so that you can see behind the scenes. Carroll was an imaginative, comical rascal who is now said to have a paedophilic tendency towards little girls. His photographs of girls provide evidence, research is on the subject, and I still go on about Alice in Wonderland. Because I am against the erasure of masterpieces by masters who have fallen into disrepute. Rather, we must enlighten, enlighten and enlighten again. Picasso was also a woman-eating monster, Edward Hopper and Lovis Corinth were declared enemies of women artists, and Joseph Beuys was connected to right-wing networks. It’s true, but it’s still art and important!
Back to Alice. What made the book so popular and famous was the pictorial criticism of the prevailing pedagogy of the time. Time and again, the clever and thoroughly honest Alice exposes the anti-child rules as total nonsense. The girl shimmies from nonsense to nonsense until she wakes up in the morning at her sister’s side. Whew, it was all just a bad dream!
As famous as the story are its illustrations by the hand of cartoonist John Tenniel. I think everyone knows them: How Alice sits in Habacht pose at the tea table listening to the coy March Hare and the over-excited Hatter crowned with a giant top hat, while the groundhog, who later lands in the teapot, snores away. How she squeezes herself hugely into the rabbit’s far too small chamber and unintentionally chases it into flight. How she communes compassionately with the abused croquet-flamingo. How she airs the soldiers‘ head hinges. How she conspiratorially gathers with the animals, including the handsome dodo, the sly owl, the nimble mouse, the sharp crab and the strong eagle. And how she mixes up the cards, and how she brings it all down.
No, Alice is not the little girl with cute-funny daily adventures. Alice is the person who is always trying to find her way in a society that has gone collectively mad.
Alice is the modern Sisyphus, which has lost none of its relevance even after 150 years of this tale’s publication. On the contrary, at present we are all one Alice and no one will get away scot-free.
A few words about Tenniel (1820-1914), who, in addition to his Alice illustrations, made a name for himself with caricatures for the political satire magazine „Punch“. His drawing „the pilot disembarks“ on the dismissal of the Reich Chancellor Otto von Bismarck in 1890 became world famous. Three years later Tenniel was made a „Knight“.
So, my dear Alices, come well through Wonderland. Greetings from your Alice, the Avenger of Art.