A DREAM OF
A DREAM OF
―A CONTEMPORARY ART EXHIBITION IN A
16TH CENTURY VENETIAN PALACE
BY FONDATION VALMONT
It all started with a collaborative workshop in Greece, the cradle of Western civilization. All artists and curators came together on a boat, a physically confined space, for a few days to read Lewis Carrol’s original novel ALICE IN WONDERLAND (first published in 1865) and discuss remarkable passages and which ideas they spark. Lewis Carroll’s work is iconic – to this day, countless creatives have been inspired by Alice to develop their own works. “ALICE IN WONDERLAND is special as it does not have a plot”, explains co-curator Luca Berta. Instead, it offers a set of ideas, topics such as one’s quest for oneself, the potency of dreams but also growing up and finding yourself. The artists’ ideas were refined collectively but each artist had also a room of the exhibition assigned to work on by themselves.
In the creative process of the artists invited by the FONDATION VALMONT, a completely different perspective on the story of Alice was born. The result is the exhibition ALICE IN DOOMEDLAND – Alice is no longer in her “Wonderland”, she has arrived in the contemporary world and deals with pressing questions of today’s society. An iconic story as vehicle to address current social issues.
The exhibition at Palazzo Bonvicini is intended as an individual and personal journey and is very much based on Alice’s experiences: each visitor has the opportunity to open a certain door, or not.
The first room, a collaborative work of all four artists, invites visitors to rest and get in a dream-like state. Just like Alice in the garden at the beginning of her story. The experience of The Garden Dreamers is amplified via subdued light, inviting seating cushions and a carpet designed by Isao on the floor and special scents coming from selected herbs which Didier Guillon discovered during mountain hikes. On the ceiling of the room, a multimedia installation asks you “Who are you?”.
THE EXHIBITION AT PALAZZO BONVICINI IS INTENDED AS AN INDIVIDUAL AND PERSONAL JOURNEY
This theme continues in the second room, entitled The Crossing (Ad occhi chiusi). A colorful, immersive installation by Silvano Rubino invites visitors to take a few steps upward only to lose control when going down a slide immediately afterwards. Just like Alice, visitors slide into a dream-like experience. A dark, blue room with one illuminated question „Who are you?“.
A shining yellow light draws visitors into the next room. The space expands, encourages to take a big breath. To the left is a set of severed heads, representing old “selves” which each and everyone of us has left behind in the course of their lives. Right in front of the visitor is a video installation which shows people reacting to the same music audible in the room. Silvano Rubino had the protagonists listen to the music for 30 minutes and selected the 1 minute per person where he felt they were in touch with themselves the most. One woman cries, a man sways his head as if in trance.
Looking closely at the screen, visitors see another illuminated phrase that is placed mirrored behind them but can be read when looking at the screen. “Why is a raven like a writing-desk?”
Of course, Alice does not find an answer to this question. Visitors only need to turn to the right to suddenly feel small and child-like, standing in front of a seemingly large writing-desk with a raven luring on top of it. “The visitor needs to go underneath the desk in order to advance – just like a child”, explains artist Silvano Rubino.
A SET OF SEVERED HEADS REPRESENT OLD “SELVES” WHICH EACH AND EVERYONE OF US HAS LEFT BEHIND IN THE COURSE OF THEIR LIVES
The next room Drink Me by Isao & Stephanie Blake captures Alice’s predicament after becoming very large. In their work, Alice is clearly the center of attention. A large part of the room is taken over by an oversized figure that is obviously far too big for the space. An emotional work that arouses trepidation. She seems surreal, but she remains equally grounded in reality, as her giant hand and shoe are made of ceramic by Isao – materials that remind us of Victorian dolls, which were very popular when the novel was first published.
The artist duo takes on Alice in Wonderland and reflects on her symbolic changes in size. In doing so, they invite visitors to question their own relationship to space, to their surroundings. They will emerge from the space enriched with a new perspective, a new way of seeing.
The next room by Didier Guillon brings ten personal and universal challenges together and asks visitors to decide where they stand, answering “Who are you?” on both a personal level with respect to luxury, appearance, and food but also with respect to universal challenges such as migration, COVID-19 and global warming.
The Room of Tears thrives on interaction. Didier Guillon was particularly concerned with materializing these challenges in a dramatic and compelling way. To do this, he worked with the motif of the cage, which are kept in a strong blue and thus remind us of the tears of Alice, who in the book itself faces many major challenges. The visitor is invited to open them or to keep them closed. It is a very personal experience. By viewing the world through Alice’s eyes, both the artist and the visitors gain significant insight into their surroundings. Moreover, by looking at the world through Guillon’s eyes, visitors will find within themselves unexpected answers to the complex questions we all must confront. “Ideally, visitors of the exhibition undergo a transformation – just like Alice in the story”, says Didier Guillon.
The curators Luca Berta and Francesca Giubilei have the ambition to make contemporary art accessible instead of intimidating. Luca Berta: “For the third time, we are taking popular fairy tales as foundation for a contemporary exhibition. We started with BEAUTY AND THE BEAST in 2017, continued in 2019 with HANSEL & GRETEL and now offer ALICE IN DOOMEDLAND in 2021.”
This connection to popular material, makes the art more accessible by default. The curators even aspire to make the exhibition understandable to children as well. “If it doesn’t work for a child, we didn’t achieve our goal”, explains Luca Berta. This is also exemplified by the final room, The Mad Tea Party which was created in collaboration with young students from Publicolor, a New York based not for profit organization. Publicolor normally focuses on keeping at-risk youth in schools and has devised several targeted programs in the last 25 years. The famous scene from the novel is well-suited as an outlet for the students’ creativity. The room simultaneously captures a hopeless world and a reclaimed cheerfulness.
Art is part of the DNA of the Valmont Group. Founder and CEO Didier Guillon inherited this passion from his family. Guillon comes from a family of artists, art collectors, aesthetes and patrons, such as the Parisian art dealer Charles Sedelmeyer or the sculptor Stanislas Lami. Founded in 2015, the Fondation Valmont sees itself as the fourth pillar of the Valmont Group. It is an independent institution dedicated to collecting contemporary art and discovering new talents. More than 300 works of art, nearly thirty artists and as many talents have been unearthed and supported by Fondation Valmont.
The foundation arranges traveling exhibitions in unexpected places, such as spas and department stores, and stands out especially for its international projects, including its continued participation in the Venice Biennale. Various exhibitions have been shown in cities like Hong Kong, New York, Tokyo, Munich and Berlin. Since 2019 the foundation has moved to a permanent exhibition space in Venice in Palazzo Bonvicini: a renovated 16th century palazzo, with original frescoes and typical terrazzo floor.
ALICE IN DOOMEDLAND
at Fondation Valmont, Palazzo Bonvicini
Calle Agnello 2161/A
22 MAY 2021—27 February 2022