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The Storyloom/Tea With Alice: The Story Museum, Oxford
Ted Dewan calls Oxford “the Hollywood of stories”. The artist in residence at the Story Museum fermented his ideas in Philip Pullman ’s shed relocated to his garden.
The location of the Story Museum is significant in the realisation of Ted’s installation The Story Loom.
The tale he weaves grew out of Rochester House in Pembroke Street. Here was sited the first student accommodation, where monks from three counties and travelling Jewish traders crossed paths, so it is fertile soil for what Ted calls “the Oxford Gyre” — storytelling energy. In Ted’s installation, Lord Rochester is a brilliant engineer who devised his machine to extract children’s imagination, but Ted’s is the only remaining story loom because, around the time of Alice Liddell and Lewis Carroll, gangs of Luddite children called ‘the Blighters’ roamed the country destroying the others. Ted promises not to activate this one, so visiting children will leave with their lives and thoughts intact. Ted tells a tale from which all the family can ‘extract’ something (sorry!). Adults are quite safe with Ted’s machine, by the way. Sadly our imaginations have ossified.
The other exhibition at the museum, Tea with Alice, shows 100 Alice illustrations, putting her firmly in a contemporary setting. Acclaimed artists from around the world have applied varied techniques from pen and ink to gouache, acrylic, collage and even coffee to illustrate her adventures.
I think everyone will have their own favourites. I particularly enjoyed American artist Maggie Taylor’s digital collage called Herald — her white rabbit is a mystical creature with a hint of sadness. Volumetric relationships are important in Alice in Wonderland and the same artist’s The Great Puzzle illuminates that. In Dusan Kallay, of Slovakia’s, gouache, Alice is boxed in, trapped a bit like that earlier fictional traveller, Gulliver. Alain Gauthier’s picture has moonlight magic, whereas Iban Barrenetxea’s has a terrifying Red Queen. The exhibition shows how Alice in Wonderland has universal appeal. Award- winning Anthony Browne is probably the most well-known artist representing the UK. Lucie Laroche’s cover illustration brought me back to the story loom. Did Lewis Carroll extract Alice’s imagination?
For a flight of fun try on a few hats at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party or chill out in the reading lounge and thumb through some recent editions of that quintessential Oxford story.
The exhibition continues until September 16. Thursday to Saturday 10am-5pm and Sunday 11am-4pm. Full details and prices www.storymuseum.org.uk 01865 790050