Alexandra Crouwers: The Appeal of the Unreal

Doctoral Project

Alexandra Crouwers, PhD in the Arts


In my original phd proposal, ‘Through that which is seen: The Diorama & The Appeal of the Unreal’ from October 2019, which main focus was an investigation of the diorama as simulated nature in relation to sceen-culture, I asked the question how these explicitately un-interactive three dimensional snapshots of natural scenes in all their stillness are moving anyway. 

At first, the direction of the research looked into the emotive quality of ‘dead things’, animism, if you will. Due to some pivotal moments, connected to discussions, a closer look to my own body of work, and the upheaval of a virus, the direction of the research shifted.


All inhabitants of any period in history probably felt that they were living in extraordinary times. But compared to the whole scope of mankind's existence, we’re now dealing with such outrageous circumstances relating to the way our behaviour has been using this planet, that it would be a mistake not to address that in one way or another. My earlier work has sometimes foreshadowed these kinds of ecological shifts, which up till recently were regarded as ‘science fiction’. 

The diorama has become a tool, a means to explain the works that arise behind the glass of my computer screens, and a souvenir. How they’re moving is now connected to the relatively new notion of ‘ecological grief’, or, in a related term, ‘solastalgia’: the sense of existential dread that comes with the loss of species and habitat. 

The goal of the research is to find ways to deal with this mourning, and to search for solutions. While we’re trying to adapt to a ‘new normal’, we need to say goodbye to our old ways. As we can see happening now, this can be quite difficult on all levels, may they be political, economical, or personal. 

As an artistic researcher, I’m using examples from the arts, science, popular culture, and my immediate surroundings to implement in a string of works. These works, like the multimedial aspects of the diorama or an opera, reflect biodiversity. My attempts to help society deal with this crisis may end up in using strategies that are flawed, but may also lead to an actual contribution to a solution through the arts. This is a utopian quest in an apocalyptic setting. May the force be with me. 


  • Dr. Wendy Morris (Supervisor, LUCA)
  • Dr. Jan Verpooten (Co-supervisor, KU Leuven)
  • Theun Karelse (Advisor, FoAM)
  • Agnieszka Gratza (Advisor, art critic)

Research Unit: Intermedia

Duration: 2019-2023


Research Unit Intermedia

Alexandra Crouwers is a researcher at LUCA School of Arts, Sint-Lukas Brussel, Research Unit Intermedia, Research cluster deep histories fragile memories.