This website is about recovery, art and utopia – the hope and active desire for a better present and future. It is mainly about recovery from substance mis-use but also concerns mental health. It documents a “recoverist” research project  – a bringing together of art, activism and recovery.


Wonderland: the art of becoming human is a co-produced arts project that explores the utopian impulses of recovery.

As researchers and participants we are interested in several things.

First, we want to understand the recovering person’s emotional landscape. Especially people in longer term recovery. There is not much research about this.

Second, we want to know about the uses of visual art in research about “connected communities“. We think art can strengthen the health of communities. We believe artists help to develop “felt knowledge” in research  – ways of asking questions that honour and use feelings, senses and first hand experiences.

But we need to understand more:

  • What is an artist doing when they succeed in developing feelings of ‘community’ between people?
  • How can they work with people in ways that are inclusive?
  • Who is the ‘right’ artist for any given community research project?
  • How can the research findings be communicated to a wider public in ways that ‘keep faith’ with the artist’s knowledge and the participants’ experiences?

Third, we want to know what experiences of recovery tell us about utopian impulses – the desire for a better world. Do experiences of recovery reveal something important about the human ability to hold out hope for a better present and future?

The project focuses on photography and self-portraiture. Our lead artist, Cristina Nuñez is an expert in the self-portrait, having initiated the SELF-PORTRAIT EXPERIENCE® . Cristina teaches her self-portrait method all over the world.

Our project is a collaboration between Manchester School of Art (P.I. Dr Amanda Ravetz), the organisation PORe – Portraits of Recovery (Director Mark Prest), artists Cristina Nuñez and Huw Wahl, and participants from the north-west region who are in longer-term recovery. Everyone involved, including the academics, has some kind of recovery experience, whether from substance mis-use, or as someone affected by substance mis-use and/or mental health issues.

The research is  funded by the AHRC as part of the Utopian Fesitval under the Connected Communities strand. Art work produced by the artists and participants was shown at Somerset House in London as part of the Utopian Fair from June 24th – 26th 2016 and included interactive sessions involving self portraiture.