Submitted Review

Alice in Hackneyland ‘Octagon 300’

  • Orleans House Gallery • England

  • 12 October 2020—20 March 2021

  • Tabish Khan • Published 26 October 2020

300 years ago, the Octagon room was built as an attachment to a stately villa in Twickenham, South West London to host stately balls & banquets to court favour with the Royal Family.

While much of the original villa was destroyed the Octagon room remains & now it’s hosting a contemporary banquet — an eye-catching fluorescent pink one created by artist collective Alice in Hackneyland (co-founded by London based Australian artist Jonathan Roson).

The sculptures may not be made from food, yet it’s got all the trappings that we’d expect to see in an extravagant banquet including a pig’s head with an apple in its mouth, plenty of fruit & a cheeky lizard trying to steal a bite. A glowing pineapple reflects the fact the fruit was a status symbol in Georgian times with persons renting them to carry a pineapple to a party as the must have accessory.

‘Plenty of fruit & a cheeky lizard’

The banquet is a piece you’ll want to spend time with as there are little details that reveal themselves over time — whether it be the respirator used for painting the work now integrated into the banquet, the shisha (water pipe) with a caterpillar crawling across it in a nod to Alice in Wonderland – the inspiration for the artist collective’s name, or the gravel across the table noting the fact a mining company tried to destroy the Octagon room so they could use it & the surrounding area as a gravel quarry.

Alice in Hackneyland’s ethos is to make art accessible to everyone, including children, so there’s an Ames room that allows two participants to stand at either side & the optical illusion makes one look a lot larger than the other – children will love it.

Upstairs pink stickers ensure we can see the historical items in the archive that link back to the contemporary artworks. It’s the perfect blend of combining history & contemporary art in a playful exhibition.

Tabish Khan

Alice in Hackneyland
(co-founded by London based Australian artist Jonathan Roson)