Universiteit Leiden

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PhD project

Flora in Utopias: On Thinking Through Moving Images

How do documentary moving images and fictional narratives involve and evolve each other?

Ilaria Biotti

Ilaria Biotti is researcher at PhDArts, doctoral programme in visual arts.

Research Project

The research project ‘Flora in Utopias: On Thinking Through Moving Images’ addresses approaches in docufictional digital video practices. These practices invite viewers to problematize constructions of meaning within the documentary. Through the overlaying of diverse perspectives, docufictional practices display ambiguous factual narratives. A critical approach to documentary intentions renders the understanding of images as no longer unequivocal.

A central question in this research project is: how do documentary moving images and fictional narratives involve and evolve each other?

The concept of the imaginary voyage is contextualized as a precursor of both contemporary documentary and docufictional moving images. On the one hand, in terms of a tool able to manipulate the spectator towards particular views, and on the other hand as a catalyst of critical reflections towards the practices of the societies in which narratives were envisioned.

The relationship between floras in the utopian sub-genre of the imaginary voyage to earthly/heavenly paradises and in actual landscape is chosen as a field of inquiry. The term flora is understood as a particular form of the non-human that functions as the epistemological vessel for socio-political intentions within contemporary physical landscape – such as historical facts or colonial practices in which single utopias originated.

A fictional narrative of digital video recordings of flora is adopted as a method of research to examine the role of imagination in the production of meaning. This follows the belief that such living organisms connoted by time and movement relate to the human urge to 'represent', not only by weaving connections between the factual and the fictional but also by editing and externalizing narratives of displacement for an implicit public.

Further artistic and discursive means alongside digital video and text will support the research process, such as (digital) gardens, dioramas, a lexicon of utopian floras, or the establishing of biotopes working as identifiers of utopian situations.


  • Prof.dr. A. Haarmann
  • Prof.dr. E.Viskil
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