Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) never ceases to spark the imagination. From the many book versions to a multiplicity of plays, dances etc., the story remains popular. Even visual artists find inspiration in Carroll’s famous narrative, as the recent exhibition No Cover Image at Arti et Amicitiae proved. Artists Stephan Jäschke, Laurent Proux, Tillmann Terbuyken, Marjolijn de Wit, Thijs Rhijnsburger, Arthur Stokvis and Bonno van Doorn created a space where one art piece flows over into the next and engaged the audience.

The exhibition space could just as well have been Wonderland, for there was a lot of sense and nonsense going on. Everything in the show seemed to contribute in giving the viewer a curious experience, as if one had stumbled into a different reality; paintings covered the wall like landscapes, some artworks resembled architectural elements and there even were references to (imaginary) characters who lived in this fantastic environment.

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No Cover Image (detail), 2016.
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No Cover Image (detail), 2016.

The floor was covered with reflecting isolation material which connected the three rooms. Through a gate like structure a myriad of artworks came into view; some recognizable, some more elusive. Close to the portal was a rotating column of moving boxes, reminding of Andy Warhol’s Brillo boxes (1964). Moving boxes suggest going from one place to another, add the swirling motion and this piece brings to mind the story of another girl transported to a different world. I am talking about Dorothy in The Wizzard of Oz, a tornado brings her and her whole house to the magical land of Oz. This strengthened the feeling of having come to a different reality.

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No Cover Image (detail), 2016.
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No Cover Image (detail), 2016.

There were smiley faces in several works which could refer to the Cheshire cat in Carroll’s story. This cat spoke a lot of nonsense to Alice, but was also sometimes of help to her. The Cheshire cat was said to appear and disappear at will and his smile was the last thing one would see.

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No Cover Image (detail), 2016.

These are some of the more obvious interpretations, with the reference to Carroll’s book in mind, but there are more layers to be found in this exhibition. Each spectator has a different background and knowledge and could therefore make his or her own relations between artworks and generate meaning from that. For instance there was a painting with pink dolphins on one wall and on another wall one with the words ‘SEX GOD’. The combination of these two could conjure up a myth about the sometimes pink Orinocodolphins (riverdolphin) in the Amazone. Local villagers believe(d) that this dolphin would transform into a handsome young man at night to seduce the village girls and make them pregnant. Though another visitor would have seen something entirely different in them.

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No Cover Image (detail), 2016.
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No Cover Image (detail), 2016.

A big drawing in the back of the biggest space tied everything together while maintaining the otherworldly experience. It presented the exhibition space with all the different artworks in a metaphorical way by showing the artists hands.

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No Cover Image (detail), 2016.

The last room contained only a video of short films of every artist in the exhibition at work, giving an idea of their process of working. While it sounds like this brings you back to earth, this video oddly enough remained in the same vibe of the whole show. It kept you wondering.

No Cover Image
April 9 until May 14

Arti et Amicitiae

Photographs by author
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