Alice, Interrupted


In Brooke Leigh’s video Searching For Alice, 2015-2017, scenes of a deciduous forest bereft of leaves are interspersed with close-up shots of a young woman’s mouth. She recites variations of a plaintive refrain, repeatedly wondering where Alice has got to and why she hasn’t come back. The voice gets increasingly agitated and staccato as the camera moves in closer and closer, until her mouth fills the screen. In this way, the artist captures both the anger and anxiety we can all feel when we are inexplicably left behind.

Leigh is crying out for the little girl who fell down the rabbit hole and went through the looking glass in the stories by Lewis Carroll. And even though for many these are beloved childhood tales of adventure and surreal mayhem, Leigh is quite right when she points out that there is a dark side to what happens to Alice. As the artist says, the character is just a child, vulnerable, frightened and alone.

“Wonderland repetitively presents Alice with situations outside of her control and she begins to discover how little agency she has over the outcomes of these events,” she says.

“Alice experiences the feeling of hopelessness and helplessness so intensely that she cries an entire pool of tears large enough for her body to drown in.”

Leigh’s video will be shown in her solo exhibition Alice, Interrupted alongside a series of prints based on performative drawings. As an artist Leigh confronts trauma and repressed emotions, and her work is rooted in what she calls “intense psychological states”. In both her works on paper and performances, she explains, “the act of mark-making gives agency to a cathartic release, and materialises a sense of control over the intense and all-consuming experience of emotions related to my anxieties and fears.”

Alice, Interrupted
Brooke Leigh
Canberra Contemporary Art Space
14 – 24 June

Preview Words by Tracey Clement