Wednesday, October 28, 2020

"Alice In Lockdown" Reflects How Maddening the Pandemic Has Been To Date

All images in this post are by Marta Zubieta ©2020
"Equating the dream logic of Lewis Carroll with the lived political reality of Covid19. Alice in Lockdown is a self-directed illustration project where Zubieta explores the confusion and self-transformation journey we have gone through since the beginning of Lockdown. Bringing vibrant colour to often bleak subjects, Zubieta explores the millennial culture and its issues through pink-tinted glasses, neon colours, and dreamy characters. Zubieta found in Alice the perfect metaphor to explore the reality she was living in during the outburst of Covid 19." (Summary from
Marta Zubieta's quarantine-created "Alice In Lockdown" series has been getting a lot of attention on social media and it's easy to see why. The "logical nonsense" world of Alice In Wonderland speaks perfectly to the surreal challenges we've all been faced with since going into lockdown.

What isn't as well known is how this Spanish artist (based in Bristol, UK) came to create her paintings. It's a little more than "artist expresses feelings visually when stuck at home"... Here are two excerpts from Zubieta's first blog post as her new series was developing in May 2020:
First piece: Alice in Lockdown: Alice trapped in the new reality, in this piece I combine pop culture symbols and pastel colours to express the feeling of fake comfort in our houses while we are being hyper controlled.

The idea started at the beginning of the lockdown when some art contests where happening working with the concept of self-isolation and staying at home. I imagined myself trapped in my house forever and I envisioned Alice when she grew really big and got trapped in the Wonderland house.

My social commentaries about how coronavirus was being handed in England weren’t very welcome on Facebook so I thought I would put this social commentaries in pictures. The result was even better than expected, people who would normally criticise conspiracy theories were very impressed with the artwork even if when looking close you can find symbols of conspiracy theories.


...Second piece: Down the Rabbit Hole: Alice going through the rabbit hole of our digital world, a hyperreal maze of content that tell us what to believe, what to do, what to buy, and how to entertain ourselves, does that rabbit hole ever reach an end?

With this piece I want people to question themselves about their everyday interaction with the digital media and how it influences the way the think or act. I want to talk to everyone but I am sure it will resonate with my generation the most.
Zubieta's next post speaks about how she wanted to express the warped reality we all suddenly found ourselves in, and her thoughts on how to go about it so it would be heard.
From her second progress post:
Following my research of storytelling and the hero’s journey from last year, and my previous essay about hyperreality and its relation with social media, I wanted to get a broader knowledge on archetypes and the power of these in combination with pop culture for communicating ideas, as a global visual communication that goes beyond language, location or race.

What is the purpose? I want to create art that tells the other side of the coin, In a period where lot the artwork is being created to make us feel uplifted and hopeful, I want to create artwork that empathise with the feelings of impotency, loneliness, connection addiction, and misunderstanding of the uncertain situation we live in. (Ed.: All emphasis in bold is by OUABlog.)


She goes on to explain that by using a very familiar character and archetype, she can more immediately express well-known elements and it was Alice in Wonderland that resonated with her experience in quarantine, straight away (for example, Alice growing so large she can't fit inside the house anymore). As a result, she can immediately refocus the lens, twisting the images to express well-known aspects of the story in a different way and encourage people to consider things from this perspective. In a very real sense, it's a short-hand that allows for very direct communication with whoever sees the art.

It's clear in part this is because the rules - which society needs to live by for a stability - become distorted and topsy-turvy. What's less obvious to the viewer (or reader of Alice) is that by beginning from an illogical place but still attempting to proceed logically, is quite literally maddening. The more we apply logic, the less it makes sense, which is the opposite of what should happen. As a result, reality becomes even more distorted than it would have if the absurdity was thrown into the middle of something normal; something that wasn't already twisted. The madness of a situation - in our case, a pandemic in the middle of political upheaval - tends to creep up on Alice (us), until we realize that we've been trying to make sense of something nonsensical for a long time, only to find ourselves suddenly overwhelmed and exhausted, not knowing what to do or how to keep coping. It's a very real challenge.

Zubieta writes: 

Going down the rabbit hole in the book is a representation of going to the unconscious, connected with lockdown, the covid-19 seems to be the hole that has trapped us all at home, making us having to deal with our inner monsters but also with the voice we listen the most: the media.
Inner Jungles: How do we make sense of the outer world in our intimate spaces? (@wordincanvas)
Zubieta also connected with James Tuson (@wordincanvas), a writer who creates poems and spoken performance pieces based on other visual artist's work, and asked that he add his words to her images. (We adore artists collaborating!) Here's an excerpt of one of the results:
Alice in Lockdown

Have we gone mad?

Down the habit hole

...At least the hedgehogs can now roll free through our empty parks

Why sometimes I’ve disbelieved as many as six explanations to all this before breakfast

Getting curisor and curisor as the days drag on

Curious little oysters aren’t we whilst its’ all convenient for us in our shells.

Hell I even find myself talking to the flowers...
You can read Tuson's whole poem at the bottom of Zubieta's post HERE. We've included another excerpt by Tuson with a different thought process, a vignette, created in response to the Tea Party scene below.
The Mad Hatters Invitation the official Tea Party, by James Tuson, @Wordincanvas (excerpt)
The Mad Hatter inconveniently invites you to attend the corona party, come come all we must commence with this befuddlement and such it’ll be very very rude indeed if you don’t fall in line and keep your distance at our signs. We’ve gone to great many lengths to make this as straightforward for you as possible. Improbable you say? Do you have any idea why a raven is like a virus? Unkindness! Now now let’s not dampen spirits you’ve only just arrived, you must, you must have a cup of tea and have a go on our sweet sweet 5G, it’s truly the best in all of silly gits end. Am I making sense? (Continue reading HERE.)
Being fascinated with how people connect and use fairy tales for expression, reflection, and to consider changing social narratives, we also wanted to include this fascinating mind-map (below - click to enlarge) of the development process that Zubieta included on her blog. There is no commentary attached to the image but it's easy to see how the idea grew, marrying the resonant story to fairy tales and fairy tale characters and archetypes. (You can spot references to Peter Pan in there, along with Chihiro from Spirited Away.) It's clear that what wasn't palatable for people to see discussed (as she mentions, on Facebook) was a lot easier to consider and reflect on, by using the vehicle of fairy tales, fairy tale imagery and a reframed familiar story for people to think about on their own terms. 

It's an excellent study in the use of fairy tale relevancy and why revisions of beloved tales can be more communicative than regular forms of communication. In a world where it's harder and harder to trust words being spoken by authorities and the media, and many people are polarized, minds closed and defense mechanisms operating on a hair-trigger, sometimes it takes the reframing of a familiar fairy tale to bypass barriers and speak to the shared experience we are having. 

That's powerful stuff.
Going down the rabbit hole, in the book, is a representation of going into the unconscious. (When) connected with lockdown, Covid-19 seems to be the hole that has trapped us all at home, forcing us to deal with our inner monsters but also with the voice we listen to the most; the mass media. (Zubieta)

You can support Marta Zubieta and find her work online in the following places:

Main website:

Facebook: @martazubieta

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