HMS Alice Liddell, 2022
St. Pancras Wires Commission
From 29 September 2022
St. Pancras International unveils HMS Alice Liddell, a major new site-responsive art installation by Shezad Dawood that continues St. Pancras’ legacy of art commissions in a fresh approach to the destination’s calendar of arts and cultural experiences.
Combining wide-ranging science fiction, steampunk, architectural and literary references, Dawood’s sculpture imagines a new travel vessel, reconfiguring the past to suggest the importance of shared journeys into possible collective futures.
Situated in The Circle - a modern area of the station located in the junction between the original building and its modern extension - HMS Alice Liddell reflects elements of William Henry Barlow’s innovative and radical engineering of the station itself, as well as Sir George Gilbert Scott’s gothic spires of the now St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel. This iconic architecture was formative to Dawood, who grew up locally and has a longstanding relationship with the area. Its aesthetic and cultural heritage is profoundly embedded in the work: the sculpture’s namesake is the real inspiration behind Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Carroll’s original manuscript is archived in the neighbouring British Library.
Dawood’s work reclaims Alice as a traveller for our times: a proto-science fiction heroine who explored the quantum possibilities of multiple, but connected realities and universes. In Dawood’s trademark blend of physical and digital worlds, visitors can use their phones to scan a QR code that unlocks an Augmented Reality filter, expanding the experience of the work. Together with the physical sculpture, this digital space invites audiences of all ages to embark, much like Alice in Wonderland, on literal and metaphorical journeys, moving through the past and into a kaleidoscopic future.
The AR also reflects Dawood’s collaborative approach, featuring a newly commissioned song by JayaHadADream, a member of the Nottingham-based, all-female music collective WondHERland established in partnership with New Art Exchange. This collaboration connects the commission in London with the vibrant art scene of Nottingham, a key stop on the HS1 route. Audiences will be able to tune into a series of podcasts produced by WondHERland in dialogue with the themes in Dawood’s work, and listen to songs written by the musicians on St. Pancras Station’s well-loved jukebox. This collaboration also involved visual artist Honey Williams, and sound artist Tom Harris, both of whom are also Nottingham based creatives.
Suspended in space, and able to be enjoyed from multiple vantage points, HMS Alice Liddell is painted with a polychromatic finish, in a nod to the psychedelic colourways of imagined wonderlands and voyages to outer space, while also paying homage to the diversity of London’s communities. The work embodies a fantastical vision, where the past meets the future of travel, technology and collective experience, via the space of the imagination.