Defended PhD projects

Since 2008, the University of Antwerp has conferred the Doctor of Arts on 57 PhD candidates.

Defended PhD projects 2024

Mirjam van Tilburg - Studies in Art Teachers-Savants​

  • 20 February 2024
  • Indra Wolfaert (Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp), Pascal Gielen (University of Antwerp)
  • Language: Dutch


In her quest, Mirjam van Tilburg explores the possibilities for the life-long development of art teachers with students aged 12 to 18. One way she did this was through the ‘Studio’ experiment. With ten arts teachers in 2020 and 2021 she explored the shifting dynamics of their profession during de lockdowns. What makes art teaching an artistic connected practice? What is needed in life-long development of art teachers? What image is now dominant in this field? What other possibilities are there? Can life-long development be a practice of commoning?

Els Dietvorst - Partisans of the Real. How art can strengthen the individual and play a role in the transition to a socially just, sustainable society​

  • 2 May 2024
  • Supervisors: Johan Pas (Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp), Pascal Gielen (University of Antwerp)


“To be a human being among people and to remain one forever, no matter in what circumstances, not to grow despondent and not to lose heart—that’s what life is all about, that's its task.”(Fyodor Dostoevsky)

My work is driven by an ongoing exploration—a quest for beauty, a connection to the collective subconscious, and what I see as the 'missing link' between art and society. I truly believe in the link between art and society. This goes beyond the narrow institutional focus on issues like poverty, exclusion, and marginality, encompassing broader social and human concerns. These include life stories, interpersonal dialogues, migration, cultural diversity, human aspirations, and the broader spectrum of the human condition in the society of today. This also incorporates the impact on human nature of a predominantly capitalist and Western society which leads to major themes such as life and death, anxiety, alienation and desire. I view art as a poetic and vital force that generates diverse dynamics, serving as a social process and a catalyst for uniting individuals from varied backgrounds. My work frequently reveals what often remains invisible, preferring wonder to denunciation.

Experiment & serendipity, primal intuition and dialogue are the foundations of my work. I firmly believe in the role of art as a catalyst serving to bridge social divides and enhance social cohesion. My work has the power to work across diverse communities, artists and non-artists transcending boundaries and barriers. In this sense I perceive art as a collaborative effort—an amalgamation of shared experiences, warmth, and vitality arising from people coming together. It is within this collective engagement that art takes form, evolves, and becomes a dynamic force.

My approach to creation is holistic and inclusive, permeating the world, embracing both the living and the deceased, as well as overlooked objects and people. Working collaboratively allows me to connect with individuals from diverse backgrounds, bridging boundaries of culture and societal norms. All these experiences contribute to my growth as both a human and an artist.

My aim is to stimulate a new ethical consciousness and promote a form of spirituality in which humanity does not dominate society, but rather exists as a small part of the natural world. In this view, individuals have the opportunity to transcend their physical and sensory experiences by living less rationally and more intuitively.

Working holistically and regeneratively, this interaction has led to the emergence of a new form of art. The objective of this emerging art form is to actively participate in the entirety of social reality, transcending boundaries between artists, institutions, urban and rural environments, and public spaces, ultimately fostering empowerment.

(Els Dietvorst, April 2024)

Nadav Katan - Informed Phrasing

  • 24 May 2024
  • Supervisors: Frank Agsteribbe (Royal Conservatoire Antwerp), Bart Eeckhout (University of Antwerp)


'Informed Phrasing' was an artistic research project that delved into the intricate and often contentious relationship between music analysis and performance from an artistic, performative standpoint. With a primary focus on the Phrasing aspect of musical performance, the project explored the points of contact and interactions between Schenkerian analysis, Gestalt psychology, musical performance, and embodied music cognition. Through this exploration, a performative-analytical process emerged, firmly grounded in performance experience, with the aim of stimulating individual creativity and fostering expressivity.

Defended PhD projects 2023

Alireza Farhang - De la modélisation à la notation - Composer le geste avec les nouvelles technologies dans les œuvres musicales transdisciplinaires

  • 21 January 2023
  • Supervisors: Jean-François Trubert and François Paris (Université Côte d'Azur), Kurt Vanhoutte (University of Antwerp), Frank Agsteribbe (Royal Conservatoire Antwerp)


When the gesture becomes the driving force of a musical piece, the composer deals with musical ideas that go beyond the framework of a conventional musical parameters of pitch- duration-intensity. Therefore, she/he must build a new strategy to be able to notate features that better represent her/his ideas. This becomes more important when it comes to transdisciplinary works, where the erosion of boundaries between the arts, and the fusion of different artistic forms give rise to a multidimensional artistic discourse that cannot be represented only by conventional notation. In the 1950’s, American composers like John Cage on the one hand, and European composers like Dieter Schnebel on the other hand, invented graphic signs to represent their musical language. The scores of Mauricio Kagel feature the scenic space and the presence of the body of the musician at the same level, to the point that they come into tension with the musical content. If the graphic representation of music as a performance medium can be considered as an aid to performers, then what happens when notation becomes the active agent in the process of composing a work? This thesis develops the artistic research carried out through the composition of three works, including a musical theatre piece, by situating them in a landscape where other systems of aesthetic and technical thoughts coexist. After a discussion about artistic research and the role of new technologies in musical creation, as well as its ethical, social and political aspects, I will explain the artistic context in which the sound gesture becomes the central element of the musical discourse in my works. The first part of this doctorate is the composition of a vocal piece whose composition process is focused on the notation of the speech gesture as a composition tool. Subsequently, the research that I carry out on this occasion is used for the composition of the musical theatre piece where the vocal gesture and the sound gesture join physical gestures. The creation of a hybrid score remains at the heart of this second part of the thesis. The hybrid score includes extra-musical elements, including text and dramaturgy; the graphic representation of gestures; the technical aspect (electronics); and of course the music. As for the third and last part, it is a concerto for flute and orchestra where the sound mass becomes a vector for the gestural profiles of the solo instrument.

Katharina Smets - Between Me and You. On the attitude of the audio documentary maker 

  • 20 May 2023
  • Supervisors: Pascal Gielen (University of Antwerp), Luk Van Den Dries (University of Antwerp), Clara Van Den Broek (Royal Conservatoire Antwerp), Martine Huvenne (HoGent)


'In the beginning is the relation,' writes the philosopher Martin Buber, ‘as the category of being, as readiness, as a form that reaches out to be filled, as a model of the soul.’ In this essay I have brought together my own small collective of like-minded people, and through it I have learnt a great deal that has helped me to shift from a focus on the 'I' to an openness towards the 'You'. I experimented with different approaches in my work. Kaitlin Prest told me of her conviction for sharing the realities of her intimate life with her listeners. Jonathan Goldstein bases his first-person narrator on a literary tradition free of journalistic intent, and listening to his work has taught me to establish a conclusive persona for my narrator, as well as how to use literary devices when writing for that voice. Rikke Houd, the master of metaphor, has showed me how using more imagery can sometimes bring me closer to the truth, while Maartje Duin showed me that journalism is not the same as feigned objectivity. Ethical journalism can go some way to saving us from an egocentric focus on ourselves. It brought me to the notion of what real listening actually is, and what its consequences might be. I returned to Eleanor McDowall and Alan Hall, proponents of not featuring as a protagonist in the work they create, a choice which retains the power to show a particular reality. However, that dynamic is also reciprocal, and as a maker, I have a certain responsibility. I can create an idiosyncratic form to elicit a direct experience, and I have the power to document real encounters with the people I interview, as well as a continued dialogue with my audience. In this search for 'I' and 'You', I have found my own attitude in my work; an empathetic exchange with the other to enrich my view of the world. Real encounters cannot be fully directed. That, of course, makes the final work documentary, not fiction, as I do not just move but am moved also; I must be willing to let the encounter change me. Only in editing can I give direction to the recorded tape and blend factual reality with emotional reality to create a documentary. Martin Buber writes: ‘Such work is creation, inventing is finding. Forming is discovery. As I actualize, I uncover.’

Anton Cotteleer - Blurry scanning

  • 19 October 2023
  • Supervisors: Gert Verschraegen (University of Antwerp), Ria De Boodt (Royal Academy of  Fine Arts Antwerp)


The phantom statute of the unsharp, its relationship to our memories, its intimate character and openness for interpretation is what attracts Cotteleer in the blurry. After investigating the meaning of the blurry and the sharp within photography, he looked as a sculptor how the sharp and unsharp relate to sculpture. In this he developed a well-founded personal vision about 'the blurry' or the unsharp. In the project, he analysed how analogue family photos from the 1970s and 1980s, from both personal and anonymous photo albums, could become blurred and how this lack of focus determines our perception of the images. He created new photographs through the act of enlarging and cutting. These new images brought forth mysterious, occasionally broken shapes that were unrelated to the intended subject of the original family photo. They triggered unexpected emotions and memories that paved the way for new interpretations.Based on these new images, he created tactile sculptures and installations that are characterized by blurriness. How do sharpness-unsharpness relate to the memory that takes shape through visual media such as family albums? What is the role of focus and blurring in sculpture versus photography? And what is the impact of this effect on our memories and emotions? How does sharpness-unsharpness relate to the tactile space and how does 'being embodied' in a tactile environment relate to the sculptural? How does this relate to other media? These are just a few research questions he dealt with. By the exhibition ‘Out-of-Focus II’ at DE STUDIO and the publications ‘An Out-of-Focus Scan, part 1’ and ‘An Out-of-Focus Scan, part 2’ Cotteleer gives both visual and theoretical answers to the questions.

Carlos Brito Dias - Hearing a Culture: Integrating Sound and Environmental Elements of Braga's Festivities into new compositions

  • 14 December 2023
  • Supervisors: Pascal Gielen (University of Antwerp), Thomas Moore (Royal Conservatoire Antwerp)


This research explores the creation of contemporary musical compositions inspired by traditional soundscapes. Drawing upon personal experiences and hometown traditions, the project delves into ethnomusicologist Veit Erlmann's concept of 'hearing a culture'. The sonic environments of traditional festivals, often dismissed as mere background noise, are carefully captured and analyzed, serving as a rich source of inspiration for new musical pieces. Each celebration that sparked the composer's creative spark possesses a unique auditory landscape, prompting solitary sonic immersions to fully absorb the intricate tapestry of sounds that define these moments. The project reflects on the profound influence of hometown traditions on the composer's journey and their integral role in shaping identity, guided by the concept 'from-roots-to-routes' (S. Hall). This transformative process enabled the development of a distinctive stylistic language that harmoniously echoes the composer's heritage and experiences.

Andrew Claes - JAZZ HANDS - Open Hardware Hybrid Saxophone System - Andrew Claes

  • 21 December 2023
  • Supervisors: Steven Latré  (University of Antwerp), Kurt Van Herck (Royal Conservatoire Antwerp)


This research journey traverses the realms of music, technology, and innovation, culminating in the creation of a groundbreaking hybrid saxophone. The project unfolds as a multidimensional narrative, interweaving technical expertise, artistic exploration, and a quest for the challenging future of musical expression.

The journey begins with the transformation of the student from a musician into an aspiring engineer, fueled by the vision of a new instrument. The core idea combines traditional saxophone craftsmanship with cutting-edge technology, integrating sensors that transmit mechanical movements into the digital domain, elevating the saxophone into a full-fledged MIDI controller without compromising its original acoustic properties.

The research documents the progression of each phase, from self-study in the digital landscape to the development of a functional proof-of-concept model. The prototype is unveiled during a concert with the Goeyvaerts String Trio at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp.

This doctoral research is a pioneering milestone at the intersection of art and technology. It encapsulates the journey from novice to innovator, intertwining knowledge acquisition, prototyping, and artistic expression.

Defended PhD projects 2022

Thomas R. Moore - Redefining the Conductor’s Role in New Music Ensembles

  • 19 February 2022
  • Supervisors: Koen Kessels (Royal Conservatoire Antwerp), Pascal Gielen (University of Antwerp)


Over the last seven decades, the role of the conductor has evolved in new music ensembles that perform integrated concerts. It was problematized by John Cage; doubled (or split) by Charles Ives, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Mark Applebaum; manipulated by Thierry De Mey, Simon Steen-Andersen, and Stefan Prins; instrumentalized by Alexander Schubert, Alexander Khubeev, Michael Maierhof, and Pieter Matthynssens; and deployed tactically by Serge Verstockt, Jessie Marino, and Carl Rosman. For these composers and artistic directors and others in their genre, the presence of the conductor is no secondary phenomenon of the music, by an affirmative and active choice to deploy one to meet specific artistic and/or socioeconomic needs. The systematic study of this relatively new and developing situation allowed me to find tools and methods for forming the required piece-specific performance practices with the aim of better functioning as a tactical and curated conductor.

→ Link to the PhD defence of Thomas R. Moore

Bob Selderslaghs - MoE 2.0 - from dramatic-inquiry towards an artistic result in art education

  • 4 March 2022
  • Supervisors: Annouk Van Moorsel (Royal Conservatoire Antwerp), Kurt Vanhoutte (University of Antwerp)


Little research has been done on how to create a healthy balance between process and product in arts education. Yet researchers, artists, teachers, teaching artists, teacher trainers, students and audiences alike recognise the need for such a balance: without a high-quality process, it is impossible to achieve a high-quality product. And a product of a poor or dubious standard will, at best, be overlooked by spectators if they have an emotional connection to the artist(s) or if they know that a valuable (social) process did precede the product. The MoE 2.0 doctoral research project explores how the dramatic-inquiry approach to learning and teaching Mantle of the Expert, a form of process drama, can be enriched into a methodology in arts education for creating non-scripted theatre performances with young audiences and thus create a harmony between the artistic process and product.

Sarah Hendrickx - The Bureaucreative Age. A parafiction on the aftermath of the creative industries

  • 18 March 2022
  • Supervisors: Wesley Meuris (Sint Lucas Antwerp), Pascal Gielen (University of Antwerp)


The parafictional documentary meandmywork and the (Bureau)Creative Age and the accompanying exhibition at the M HKA in Antwerp (24/02/2022 – 20/03/2022) are the final result of visual artist Sarah Hendrickx’s Phd research in the Arts at St Lucas Antwerp and the University of Antwerp.

The Bureaucreative Age is a research that finds itself tangled within a corporate, economic and bureaucratic environment and is explored inside an artistic parafiction. The artist plays with an overlap between fact and fiction through the imagination of the Research Centre on Creative Abilities meandmywork.

The story in which meandmywork is ultimately set up as a fictitious character, over-identifies itself with the bureaucratic and corporate processes experienced in the business field of creativity incorporated. In order to leave the door open for speculation, the research is an artistic act of futuring: a process to think about the future, envision what may happen, and to gain insight into actions to take in the present.

Several different layers were constructed meticulously to work on the truthiness of the story while at the same time adjusting sentences, words, visuals, ways of editing, etc. that hint the fabrication of the whole fiction. Real interviews bring about other reflections and opinions and strengthen the documentary’s credibility.

Another part of the research enters the stage by means of an exhibition showcasing so called artefacts dating from The Bureaucreative Age and the journey of the Research Centre meandmywork, encouraging the viewer to step further inside its fiction.

The parafiction of The Bureaucreative Age and the Research Centre on Creative Abilities meandmywork as its lead role, produce their meaning in the encounter with the spectator, creating a specific multiplicity while introducing a fatalistic version of what might happen when art and creativity get absorbed by corporate dominion.

Winnie Huang - Sonic Silhouettes Musical Movement - Investigating the Musical-Gestural Perspective 

  • 4 April 2022
  • Supervisors: Ine Vanoeveren (Royal Conservatoire Antwerp), Peter Reynaert (University of Antwerp)


In the contemporary music world of the performing arts, an increasing number of musical-gestural works are being composed and performed. The rise of these pieces, the curiosity in creating them by composers, and the growing demand for these types of performers necessitate investigation from an artistic researcher’s perspective, in the hope of providing insight and agency for future creators, artists, and academics in this field. Through a methodical investigation on various case studies, different in the degree of composer/performer collaboration, Sonic Silhouettes Musical Movement questions the identity and role of the musical-gestural artistic researcher at all the varying degrees of participation during the process of collaboration, composition and performance.

This research aims to examine how musical-gestural pieces are learned and performed through an exploration on the various skill sets, performance practice methods, notational issues, and the physical states a performer adopts, and effectively provide additional knowledge towards an evolving group of artists and the spectrum of creatives around and within.

Finally, this research hopes to explore how the performer inhabits the artistic body in the creation/composition process and during the performance, the presentness; understanding the artistic body’s physical presence, self-awareness, and sensorial interactions while in rehearsal/performance, since dramatic movements seemingly provide some of the strongest contributors for human expression, intention, and focus. Through proactive embodied research, the emergence of new pathways, and the collaborative and transmissive experiences, this critical reflection showcases the expanding nature and collective knowledge gained from the musical-gestural perspective for all participants.

Marco Fusi - The Creative Performer and Giacinto Scelsi: Building a Creative Performance Practice in Dialogue with Giacinto Scelsi’s Artefacts

  • 13 May 2022
  • Supervisors: Ine Vanoeveren (Royal Conservatoire Antwerp), Marlies De Munck, Arthur Cools (University of Antwerp)


Direct contact with Giacinto Scelsi has been the only acknowledged approach to the interpretation of his music, hence forming a circle of elite-performers, recipients of an understanding “beyond the written score”. However, in order to preserve the accuracy and faithfulness of performance, it is essential today to investigate the complex creative process of Scelsi, looking for interpretative suggestions residing within his artefacts. This research has led to discovering the importance of the performer’s creative participation in the process of conceiving, notating and delivering Scelsi’s creative output. To approach the performance of Scelsi’s opus the creative performer needs to devise performative approaches specific to each work, based on their individual experience and personal creative interaction with the materials of performance.

Vijai Maia Patchineelam - The Artist Job Description, a Practice Led Research for the Employment of the Artist, as an Artist, Inside the Art Institution

  • ​8 June 2022
  • Supervisors: Nico Dockx (Royal Academy of Arts Antwerp), Paolo S.H. Favero (University of Antwerp)


The artist’s experience of being inside art institutions, starting from the effort made to be accepted in order to develop one’s art practice, then the experience of going through them, and while in them, the many ways of having to learn how to be inside. This will in several ways inform the development of an artist’s practice, for the good or for the bad. Developing the doctoral research, The Artist Job Description has been an attempt at recognizing and dealing with, rather than avoiding, the tensions that exist in the relationship between artists and art institutions at a time when most art institutions themselves are under the pressure of austerity-politics.

Daniela Fantechi - Composing with Piezo

  • 1 July 2022, Orpheus Institute, Gent  
  • Supervisors: Wim Henderickx (Royal Conservatoire Antwerp), Erik Myin (University of Antwerp)


The thesis Composing with piezo concerns Daniela Fantechi's research project about the composition of instrumental music implemented with a specific use of piezoelectric microphones - low cost and low fidelity contact microphones. During her research, Daniela explored a peculiar use of this technology not only to disclose and amplify the instrumental sound but also to produce unusual sounds, through a reinterpretation of some instrumental gestures, such as glissando, tapping, scraping, etc, produced by playing with the microphone directly on the instrument. The introduction of piezoelectric microphones in her compositional work changed the relationships with the instrumental sound matter, bringing to question different aspects of the compositional approach. The whole research process has consequently been supported by the search for frameworks, theories, and examples, to understand and bring focus to the evolving compositional practice.

The thesis starts by investigating the history of the contact microphone and the way it has become a cultural object, considering diverse artistic experiences in the time window from the '60s to the '80s, when contact microphones began to be a widespread technology. From then on, the use of contact microphones has become common in a huge and diverse range of artistic experiences, most of them related to sound art and experimental music. The second chapter addresses what kind of changes and interferences the introduction of piezoelectric microphones brings into the instrumental sound system, by observing the kind of impact the use of piezoelectric microphones on acoustic instruments has on the listening experience, here defined as a "stethoscopic form of listening". The role of the piezo within the instrumental system is then addressed from an ecological perspective, taking into account the complexity of the feedback network between the instrument and the performer, the alteration of the usual perceptual habits, and the possibility of building new instrumental systems. The third chapter highlights some relevant concepts that have emerged from the practice and have become operational within the development of the research. The fourth chapter is dedicated to the main artistic outputs of the research. For each work, the technical setup, the context for which the piece has been written, and the compositional practice are explained.

Sarah Vanhee - Bodies of Knowlegde, how to claim public space as a platform for the exchange of non-dominant or suppressed knowledge

  • 24 September 2022
  • Supervisors: Willem de Wolf (Royal Conservatoire Antwerp), Pascal Gielen (University of Antwerp)


This artistic doctoral project- ‘bodies of knowledge- how to claim public space as a platform for the exchange of non-dominant or suppressed knowledge’(2018-2022) - includes the research on embodied knowledge by non-dominant voices, as well as the performative action of claiming public space for the exchange of that knowledge. Initial research questions were: How can public space be activated, via artistic intervention, for the transmission of non-dominant knowledge? How to create a ‘safe space’ within public space for the exchange of different forms of suppressed knowledge, between diverse members of civil society? What are artistic and political strategies to reverse existing knowledge/power relations within the public domain? Which forms of performative knowledge transmission can contribute to a more just, equal, emancipated civil society?

The artist understands education as art and knowledge transmission as a performative act. Drawing upon methodologies developed in previous works, she formalizes and ritualizes a place for oral knowledge exchange, together with different collaborators and co-creators, within different frames and formats.

Vivi Touloumidi - Pharmakos. Adornment as a social tool

  • 8 December 2022
  • Supervisors: Roel Arkesteijn (Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp), Pascal Gielen (University of Antwerp)


In ancient Greece, “Pharmakon”, was a chosen individual, who was selected through common consensus by its community. The person was either sacrificed as a means of purification for the city, or it was ostracized away from the region. Its exile was perceived as a societal catharsis. It relates to the historical ritual of the ‘scapegoat’, which has come to mean any group or individual that innocently bears the blame for others in times of social conflict and crisis. The term derives from the Greek φάρμακον (pharmakon), which can act both as the remedy and the poison.

The PhD research and accompanying exhibition, 'Pharmakos', at M HKA museum (9.12.22-8.1.23) investigate this societal phenomenon through the lenses of adornment. The starting point is the archival research conducted by the artist, mostly at the Bundesarchiv in Berlin. She looked at WWII administration letters, where Nazi bureaucrats discussed the development of wearable signs used on human bodies in order to systematize their (id)entities in forced-labor camps. The display on these badges conditioned diverse bodies according to the value system and hierarchical logic of the regime and its allies. The color-coded signs determined the unwelcome in society. Or even distinguished the welcome.

While acknowledging similar locations of thought emerging globally today that attack self-determination, once again, Vivi Touloumidi investigates adornment as an active agent to address social discomfort, repression, and marginalization in the public realm. Her work appropriates signs of stigmatization employed during WWII and proposes wearable pieces that speak of resilience to support a practice of creative resistance. These statement-pieces are made for the emancipation of the female body and the social body. Adornment is seen as an instrument of empowerment, articulating processes of becoming and existing otherwise.

Defended PhD projects 2021

Ali Moayed Baharlou - Parallel narratives

​different elements and forms of representations and their influence on the audiences’ perception 

  • 19 February 2021 
  • Supervisors: Dr. Philippe Meers (UAntwerpen), Dr. Tom De Smedt (Sint Lucas Antwerpen)


Parallel narratives, different elements and forms of representations and their influence on the audiences’ perception researches parallel narratives in film and how choice can lead to different destinies for the protagonist. The questions raised are how the audiences perceive these topics in parallel narratives and how filmmakers can change or manipulate the perception of choices, multiple paths and free will by diverse narrative elements, devices and different forms of representations.

Peter Lemmens - Exit strategies and a stand alone complex

  • 28 April 2021
  • Supervisors: Pascal Gielen (UAntwerp), Johan Pas (Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp)


This research aims to include a set of intangible aspects of artistic production and distribution and deploy these as critical and aesthetic moments. Borrowing from Fan Fiction, as a divergent field that relies on self-organization, I wanted to look at an artwork’s operational levels for its social, economical, political and artistic capacity. On this intersection, I question how to organize oneself as an artist as I look for unsound methods and indirect approaches. To be indirectly involved as in Fan Fiction, to be engaged alongside something else is an entry point disguised as an exit. My artworks are demarcations not only of what needs to be done differently, but also of what can be done simultaneously. In this way, I like to step away from binary thinking into the ambiguous, the superimposed and the paradoxical. I adopt a strategy of simultaneity that looks for small diversionary tactics as a permanent, fragile mode of production and distribution. The research looks for its necessity, not in depicting models for linear problem-solving within a work, but in creating interfering moments of paradoxical thinking beyond the work. In this way, I look at how to create slow, indirect narratives of involvement. Through the lens of distribution I expand the question of “what is produced” with “how it’s produced”. 
The digital publication 'exit strategies and a stand alone complex’ can be downloaded at​

Mashid Mohadjerin - Freedom is not Free

  • 20 May 2021
  • Supervisors: Roschanack Shaery-Yazdi (UAntwerp), Johan Pas (Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp)


Across the Middle East and the rest of the world, historically and today, women have been essential to achieving political change. Without their participation, many revolutions would have failed. My PhD project revolves around the importance of women and the photographic representation and challenges thereof within the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. It culminates in a personal journey to my native Iran in search of my roots and my own story of a revolution.Inspired by the Arab Uprisings and the overwhelming presence of women within the protests, this research project investigates the influence of representation and photographic images within the context of revolutions and the way it is used on both sides of the political spectrum. I question existing (mis)representations of Muslim, Arab and Middle Eastern women and my aim is to create an alternative representation based on their and my own internal gaze. Aware of the existing conventions within my practice, which is documentary and portraiture photography, I attempt to depict the struggle and environment of iconic female figures through a multidimensional approach in which I base my image making on intimate conversations.Through archival images and texts, a historical dimension is added in the form of collages. The conversations with activists and critical reflections influence my selection and sequencing process and help me paint a more complex and nuanced narrative. The final result is a personal kaleidoscopic account of women and resistance in the Middle East, North Africa and Iran that interweaves the journalistic and the artistic.

Levente Kende - Endlich etwas wirklich neues

  • 13 June 2021
  • Supervisors: Henk de Smaele (UAntwerp), Stephan Weytjens (Royal Conservatoire Antwerp)


Endlich etwas wirklich neues… (Ferruccio Busoni about Béla Bartók’s 14 Bagatellen / 1908) versus Darf man solch ein Ding schreiben oder anhören? (Ferenc Liszt about his Csárdás macabre / 1882) 

Comparative research of (r)evolutionary innovations in the late piano works (1860-1886) by Ferenc Liszt and the early piano works (1908-1912) of Béla Bartók by Levente Kende 

Although Liszt composed 'provocative' programme music with modernist elements from the very beginning - such as Les Morts, Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, Sonata, Faust-Symphonie - it is particularly remarkable that after 1860, he suddenly composed piano pieces - such as Trois Odes funèbres: Les Morts - La Notte - Le triomphe funèbre de Tasso, Années de Pèlerinage III., Nuages gris, Mosonyi's Grabgeleit - composes pieces that completely and remarkably deviate from his usual composition style. These works show a stylistic mixture of late-Romantic, impressionistic and expressionistic elements. Around 1860, an era began in which 'death and dance' was a regularly recurring theme in Liszt's works: his death poetry written in 'a compositional fever'. These late pieces (1860-1886) are expressionist, partly a-tonal, and were only played by Liszt and his pupils. The climax came in 1881-1882 with 'Csárdás macabre', the most remarkable of the very daring series of compositions, in which he increasingly threw himself into chromatic dissonances; a piece with protracted, droning and frightening empty fifths, chromatically moving between 'possible and impossible keys'. Liszt used a laconic question as a subtitle: "Darf man solch ein Ding schreiben oder hören?". 

As a stylistic predecessor of Bartók and 20th-century music, Liszt's Csárdás macabre is a fully-fledged composition that evolves from late-Romanticism to a polytonal pre-expressionism and opens a path to the atonal expressionism of Bartók's 14 Bagatelles. - In Liszt's oeuvre, and in the general stylistic evolution of the 19th century, this masterpiece for piano shows just as groundbreaking inventiveness as 26 years later Bartók's 14 Bagatelles. Between 1908-1912 Bartók composed an impressive series of piano works including the 14 Bagatelles and Allegro barbaro. With the 14 Bagatelles, a new era and a new "modern" style has dawned for the piano. - About this is the famous statement of Busoni: "Endlich etwas wirklich neues". Bartók wrote "The Bagatelles open up a new keyboard style in my career as a composer which most of my later piano works - with smaller or larger adaptations - consistently follow". During this study is also examined to what extent Liszt's late works not only form a (r)evolutionary break with high Romanticism, but are also an avant-garde basis for Bartók's style and compositional technique, and by extension for 20th century composers such as Debussy, Reger, Busoni, Schoenberg, Prokofiev, Rachmaninov, Messiaen, Kurtág and others, through which the expansion of tonal-functional music and also new musical forms could arise. The focus is on the Liszt-Bartók equation: what in the end led both composers in a similar way to realize this break with early modernity from their both late-Romantic, eclectic idiom. 

A deeper investigation analyses which leading passions and mental factors inspired Liszt in 1860 and Bartók in 1908 and how this is reflected in their respective compositions. This research tries to find an answer to the question why Liszt from 1860 onwards and Bartók from 1908 onwards essentially deviate from their composing techniques used for this purpose and realize an "avant-garde" (r)evolution in Europe and in Hungarian music both in the stylistic and compositional field. Essential quotations are mainly from Liszt's and Bartók's personal letters in a diary-like chronological form. But also from authentic and historical documents, first editions, press comments in historical journals. This makes it clearer how special living conditions and essential events have influenced both their thoughts and emotional world and therefore their musical stylistic evolution, their compositional techniques. In this way, Liszt's late and Bartók's early compositions are situated, correctly dated, inspiration models investigated, placed in historical context with the ultimate aim of answering the question "which late Liszt compositions were known to Bartók and have (substantially) influenced him". 

 Bartók's collaboration with Breitkopf & Härtel (1911-1913) for the publication of Liszt Complete Werken - Bartók's introduction to Liszt's Hungarian related compositions - is discussed in detail. Special attention is paid to Bartók's revision of Liszt's Csárdás macabre. The guesses concerning the right date of composing Bartók's most iconic work, Allegro barbaro, are now better situated so that this work now gets a correct re-dating. This is based on an extremely complete chronology of his work in 1910-19013. It is also highly probable that Liszt's Csárdás macabre was the model for Bartók's Allegro Barbaro.

Athar Jaber - Per Forza di Levare

  • 29 June 2021
  • Supervisors: Gert Verschraegen (UAntwerp), Ria De Boodt (Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp)


The practice of sculpture, and of stone carving in specific, is related to violence on many levels. First, there is the evident, all to visible violence of the carving act. Secondly, sculptures and monuments play a representative role in service of authorities that govern through policies of systemic violence. And thirdly, stone, the very material with which many sculptures are made of, carries a symbolic value that can be associated to oppressive strategies of structural violence. 

In this practice-based PhD research in the Arts, Athar Jaber fuses critical thinking on the topic of violence with his sculptural practice. He elaborates on above mentioned aspects with the intention to address pressing socio-political issues that afflict our contemporary society and the human condition in general. 

Furthermore, the research intends to bring attention to the latent semiotic potentiality of stone to stimulate a more conscious use of it in contemporary art practices.

Liza Van der Stock - Close Encounters. Developing a Method for the Creation of Dialogue through Photography

  • 28 September 2021
  • Supervisors: Paolo S.H. Favero (University of Antwerp) and Kristof Timmerman (Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp)


My PhD in the Arts focuses on the multiple ways in which photography, as a visual form and a communication practice, can help crossing bridges, creating dialogue across communities and individuals that are conventionally kept apart from each other.

I spent most of my PhD duration with members of transgender communities in Mumbai: the so-called "hijras", an often derogatory Hindi term used to depict eunuchs, intersex, and transgender people. In India, Hijras are simultaneously objects of reverence and disgust, attraction and repulsion.

The photographic work on which my PhD builds is a combination of documentary techniques and creative participatory practices. Its core ambition - which is also at the centre of the final (at the moment virtual) exhibition - is to offer unique insights into the lives of transgender women who are often the object of mediatic attention but seldom the protagonists of intimate exchanges and reciprocal dialogues. The photographic material that makes up the core of my work offers both playful and staged performances enacted for the camera and glimpses into banal moments of everyday life among individuals who occupy an ambiguous place in their society.

The creative participatory practices were a combination of workshops and exhibitions. The workshops aimed to translate the techniques I used to create rapport with the people I photographed into collaborative workshops between students and transgender women from the same community, people living in close proximity to each other but without any rapport. To this aim, workshop participants discussed and decorated the photographs. The prints they worked with showed the transgender women in daily situations with friends and family, celebrating festivals or going out. By inviting the participant to engage with the materials creatively, the focus shifted instantly to situations and experiences they had in common. Everyone shared experiences, and inspiring discussions arose.

The most valuable insight from my PhD is the appreciation of photography's power to bring people together and inspire dialogue. Over the past three years, I witnessed this firsthand, and I am committed to using photography precisely for that in the future.

Defended PhD projects 2020

Ludivine Lechat - 'Digital Nature for healthcare'

Research on visual art & healthcare to reduce stress in children

  • 19 June 2020
  • Supervisors UAntwerpen: Koen Norga and Monica Dhar 
  • Supervisor Sint Lucas Antwerpen: Tom De Smedt

Julia Miller - A Case of Recorders: 

Recorder Use in Spanish Churches and Cathedrals in the Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Centuries

  • 14 October 2020
  • Supervisor UAntwerpen: Bruno Blondé 
  • Supervisor KCA: Eugeen Schreurs 
  • Supervisor KULeuven: David Burn


This PhD project researches the use of recorders in performing sacred music in Spanish cathedrals and churches during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. As well, it examines the interaction of the historical findings with artistic questions arising in twenty-first-century performance of this sacred music repertoire.

When today's musicians seek to perform sacred Renaissance works in an historically informed manner, they are confronted with an array of questions arising from original music sources which did not generally specify the use of instruments or the manner of arranging the music for performance. Paradoxically, while numerous sets of recorders were purchased by ecclesiastic institutions during the period studied, most contemporary sacred music did not specifically call for their use. As well, surviving sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century documentation is highly fragmentary regarding the participatory role of recorders in sacred repertoire of this period.

At the same time, scholarly research and writing had not addressed this issue. Sacred music of this era offers the modern musician a large and rich potential repertoire of supreme quality and beauty. Therefore, in seeking an historically informed basis for performance, this doctoral project asks if recorders were used in such works in Spanish ecclesiastic institutions during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, and, if so, how.

Defended PhD projects 2019

Chin Cheng Lin - A study of movement in marimba playing

  • 6 March 2019
  • Supervisor UAntwerpen: Jozef Colpaert
  • Supervisors RCA : Ludwig Albert and Eugeen Schreurs


This interdisciplinary artistic research concerns three aspects of applied Tai Chi movements, educational performing technique and artistic inspiration in marimba playing: investigation of musician’s movements and defining characteristics of marimba playing, development of online instructions with applied Tai Chi approach in marimba playing and evaluation of this approach in marimba education, and application of Tai Chi in musical compositions and discovering the connections between marimba and Tai Chi. 

The study examined randomized trials studying the influence of Tai Chi movements on marimba playing and measured two controlled groups, the Tai Chi intervention and the control group, by using 3D motion capture and real-time audio recording. 

The research showed that the playing of the marimba became noticeably better. It had a favorable influence on the control of breathing, the feeling of gravity, by the application of Tai Chi movements in the upper and lower body. More research is needed into the physical analysis and the educational method for performing the technique.

Boy Vereecken - Signature Strengths

  • 3 May 2019
  • Supervisor UAntwerpen: Prof. dr. Luc Pauwels 
  • Supervisor Sint Lucas Antwerpen: Michel Van Beirendonck


Everything starts with an allegorical skit about the ‘1900’ Art Nouveau style;

‘… Loos began his battle with Art Nouveau a decade before “Ornament and Crime.” A pointed attack comes in 1900, in the form of an allegorical skit about “a poor little rich man” who commissions an Art Nouveau designer to put “Art in each and every thing:” Each room formed a symphony of colours, complete in itself. Walls, wall coverings, furniture, and materials were made to harmonise in the most artful ways. Each household item its own specific place and was integrated with the others in the most wonderful combinations. The architect has forgotten nothing, absolutely nothing. Cigar ashtrays, cutlery, light switches – everything, everything was made by him. … This Gesamtkunstwerk does more than combine architecture, art, and craft; it commingles subject and object: “the individuality of the owner was expressed in every ornament, every form, every nail.” For the Art Nouveau designer this is perfection: “You are complete!” he exults to the owner. But the owner is not so sure: this completion “taxed [his] brain.” Rather than a sanctuary from modern stress, his Art Nouveau interior is another expression of it: “ The happy man suddenly felt deeply, deeply unhappy . . . He was precluded from all future living and striving, developing and desiring. He thought, this is what it means to learn to go about life with one’s own corps. Yes indeed. He is finished. He is complete!” … For the Art Nouveau designer this completion reunites art and life, and all signs of death are banished. For Loos, on the other hand, this triumphant overcoming of limits is a catastrophic loss of the same – the loss of the objective constraints required to define any “future living and striving, developing and desiring.” Far from a transcendence of death, this loss of finitude is a death-in life, as figured in the ultimate trope of in distinction, living “with one’s own corpse.”’

Hal Foster, Design and Crime (And Other Diatribes), Radical Thinkers, Verso Books 2002, pp. 13-5.

Boy Vereecken is an Art Director and Editorial Designer based in Brussels. After graduating from LUCA School of Arts in Ghent (M.A.) and the Werkplaats Typografie (M.A.) in Arnhem, he started his practice in Brussels. From 2012 till 2019 he held the position of Art Director at the Kunsthalle Wien, a position that was rewarded with the German Design Award in 2014. Recent projects include the Art Direction for the Tai Kwun Contemporary’s Hong Kong Art Book Fair and the Belgian Pavilion for the Venice Biennial 2019. In 2016 published Signature Strengths and in 2019 Herewith the Clues, both dealing around notions of publishing history. 

Geert Goiris - World Whitout Us

  • 9 May 2019
  • Supervisor UAntwerpen: Luc Pauwels 
  • Supervisor Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp: Johan Pas


World Without Us is a practice based Phd in visual art.Rather than stemming from a defined hypothesis or research question, it should be understood as a visualization experiment anticipating a world without humans. 

These excercises in imagination take shape in three interconnected presentations: two consecutive exhibitions and a publication.The exhibitions wants to pronounce the perceptional shift caused by current anxieties about the future of our planet.Fundamental changes in our ecosystem and the rise of artificial intelligences are modifying the world as we know it. The future of humankind will be a very different one. How does this affect our psychological state of mind, our imagined futures  and premonitions? In this ‘age of uncertainty’ the individual is overpowered by alarmist, conflicting information. Are we suffering from epochalism, the belief that our current era is unique in human history because it represents a disruptive break with the past? Or are we actually at a tipping point between self-preservation and self-destruction? Some of these images foreshadow what is left when humans have vacated the scene.Still and moving photographic images are on view: framed prints, monumental wallpaper prints, analogue slide projections and a video installation.The images are exhibited in a scenography designed in close collaboration with architect Kris Kimpe.  The book accentuates the spatial character of my recent work by presenting a number of installation views of the exhibitions in Antwerp and Bologna. Next to this documentation, a sequence of photographs and an extensive interview with Steven Humblet is presented in the book to further investigate the narrative potential of still images in distinctive spaces and temporalities: the exhibition space, the book space and in time-based media such as video-installations and analogue slide projections.During this Phd research I continued to develop a practice where fragmentation and different modes of narrativity are activated to evoke a possible, but unwanted future.

World without UsExhibition De Lange Zaal - Royal Academy for Fine Arts Antwerpen November 15th – December 20th 2018

Terraforming FantasiesExhibition Palazzo De’ Toschi – Bologna January 29th- February 28th 2019

World Without Us, Monographic PublicationRoma Publications, AmsterdamRelease date: May 9th 2019​

Lucas Vandervost - Tintin's Heel

  • 8 December 2019
  • Supervisor UAntwerpen: Kurt Vanhoutte  
  • Supervisor Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp: Bert Danckaert

Wim Wauman - Making Waves. A Play with Arts and Crafts

20 December 2019

  • Supervisor UAntwerpen: Gert Verschraegen 
  • Supervisor Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp: Ria De Boodt

Defended PhD projects 2018

Matthias Heyman - Revolutionizing the Jazz Bass: The Life and Music of Jimmie Blanton

  • 23 March 2018
  • Supervisor UAntwerp: Alexander Dhoest 
  • Supervisor RCA: Eugeen Schreurs


This research project offers a comprehensive study of the life, music, and legacy of jazz bass player James 'Jimmie' Blanton, Jr. (1918–1942). Best known for his tenure with Duke Ellington and His Orchestra between 1939 and 1941, Blanton is widely regarded as one of the key figures in the development of jazz bass playing. From 1946 on, an iconic narrative came into being that established him as an artistic hero in the pantheon of jazz (bass) history. In most literature, such icons are treated in generalizing, uncritical manners, resulting in a flawed, limited understanding of Blanton. Previous studies have primarily focused on his recorded solos from 1940, and rarely compare his work to that of his fellow bass players. This research is the first to consider Blanton's complete recorded body of work taken from his entire five-year career, including a large number of broadcasts and live versions. Furthermore, considerable attention is dedicated to his accompaniments, and his work is properly contextualized with a selection of that of his peers.Through a combination of biography and musical analyses, I reevaluate the importance this bassist holds in the history of jazz, adding nuance to his iconic status. This is achieved through an interdisciplinary methodology, building upon such diverse methods as archival research, reception study, music analysis, visual analysis, and historically informed performance practice. As such, this research, the first one in Belgium to focus on jazz, offers new insights into the historical development of jazz bass playing up to the 1940s, into the social and musical milieus Blanton belonged to, and into the role Ellington played in Blanton's development as a performer. Furthermore, a number of technical matters are addressed, in particular his performance posture and the impact recording technology had on his reception.Overall, I argue that Blanton did indeed play a transformative role in the development of string bass playing in jazz, yet should also be considered as part of a continuum of bass players that each in their own way contributed to this evolution. While Blanton's approach laid the foundation for how the majority of future bassist soloed and accompanied, he himself relied in part on the groundworks established by other bassists such as Wellman Braud and Walter Page, his own musical influences such as tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins and pianist Art Tatum, and Ellington's earlier experiments in writing for the string bass.

Karen Vermeren - Fault Lines. 

In Search of New Artistic Representations of the Geological Landscape.

  • 12 April 2018
  • Supervisor UAntwerp: Prof. dr. Ivan Nijs 
  • Supervisor Sint Lucas Antwerp: dr. Sofie Verdoodt

Haseeb Ahmed - The Wind Egg

  • 3 October 2018
  • Supervisor UAntwerp: Prof. Staf Van Tendeloo 
  • Supervisor Sint Lucas Antwerp: Werner Van dermeersch


Haseeb Ahmed’s art practice integrates methodologies from the hard sciences in search of a techno-poetics. His exhibition at M HKA, as part of his public defence unfolds his ongoing Wind Egg experiment.

The concept of ‘wind eggs’ postulates that animals and people can be fertilised by the wind – a belief held for millennia by ancient Egyptian, Arab, Indian, European and Chinese cultures. Ahmed has worked to realise this idea with state-of-the-art wind tunnel technology at the von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics in Belgium.

In the process of personifying the wind he blends art and aeronautics, myth and technology, reflecting the human capacity to project empathetic sensibilities onto nonhuman things. A project that moves from antiquity to astrobiology, the exhibition will function as a test-site for imagining the possibilities for humans to reproduce without men and with the wind.

Ahmed received his Masters from the MIT Program in Art, Culture, and Technology and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He was previously also a resident at the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht. His work has been exhibited internationally including at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Gothenburg International Biennial of Contemporary Art, and the Museum Barengasse Zurich. Haseeb Ahmed is based in Brussels.

On Ying Adilia Yip - Inventing New Marimba Performance from the African Balafon Music Practice

  • 31 October 2018
  • Supervisor UAntwerp: Henk de Smaele 
  • Supervisor RCA: Kathleen Coessens


The aim of this practice-based project is to search for new performance perspectives for the marimba (invented in the 1910s) by inquiring into the West African music tradition—the balafon of the Bobo and Bamana peoples living in Mali and Burkina Faso. Through a triangulation of research methodology—participant-observation, literature and artistic practice—I have gained insights into the artistic experience of stepping into the 'unknown' balafon world.

The written result is a discussion of how I have overcome the obstacles of learning, performing and listening to balafon music, and how these experiences have renewed and enriched my original artistic practice and ideas. Due to the music’s oral tradition, the balafon polyrhythm and melodic materials are embodied in forms of bimanual coordination patterns rather than symbolic representation. Music-making is largely informed by the performer's motoric sensory, and body movement is given a crucial role in music communication and sensory perception.

The second purpose of this research is, therefore, to apply these balafon practices to Western performance. This yields as artistic outcome—five commissioned compositions for the marimba and a concert program 'In the Heat of the Moment'.

Defended PhD projects 2017

Rudi Knoops - Cylindrical Anamorphosis.

Thaumaturgical Origins and Contemporary Workings

Joint PhD KULeuven - UAntwerp

  • 16 February 2017
  • Supervisor KUL: Willem Hesling
  • Supervisor UAntwerp: Kurt Vanhoutte
  • Supervisor LUCA: Bart Geerts


The approach in both my arts practice and my PhD research is inspired by media archaeology: look in the rear-view mirror, gauge the affordances of an older and maybe analogue media technology, and explore how it can re-inject curiosity and wonder into our relationship with the techno aesthetics of contemporary society.Cylindrical anamorphosis is one such seemingly obsolete visual media technology. It has its origins in a seventeenth century Baroque context of artificial magic: a distorted image can be observed in its reconstituted form through reflection in a cylindrical mirror. The analogue cylindrical mirror has the strange pre-digital processual power to generate images based on the position of the observer. In our media-saturated world where digital processual images are becoming standard, cylindrical anamorphosis uses its own analogue processual power and re-injects its wild analogue magic back into the twenty-first century digital media apparatus. However, by using moving images that are digitally manipulated, cylindrical anamorphosis is contaminated by the present, and becomes a hybrid contemporary version of artificial magic.The appropriation of cylindrical anamorphosis is the central research topic in my practice-based PhD. A series of appropriations enables—or even demands—cross-links to other art disciplines such as music and dance, and a media archaeology inspired methodology of short-circuiting past and present can fashion new and imaginary media forms that may provide new insights into how we engage with media, and how media define us as human beings.

Jan Schacher, Music and the Body – Movement and Gestures in Composition and Performance for Computer Music and Interactive Media

Els Vanden Meersch, Mastering the Curtains

Wesley Meuris,Exhibiting Knowledge

Erik Hagoort,Ik weet niet wat jij gaat zeggen

Defended PhD projects 2016

Karin Hanssen, The borrowed gaze

Charlotte Lybeer, Lifestyle Supermarket

Steve Van den Bosch, Het kunstwerk als productief verdwijnpunt

Frederik De Bleser, De impact van generatieve software op grafisch ontwerp

Ludwig Albert, Movin’ grips: body controlled marimba sound production

Defended PhD projects 2015

Lieven Segers, The joke is on me

Alexandra Verschueren, Building Garments: Researching fashion design through architecture

Defended PhD projects 2014

Nico Dockx, The New Conversations

Annelies Focquaert, Jacques-Nicolas Lemmens: leven en werk van een Belgisch organist, gezien vanuit de 19e-eeuwse orgelpraktijk

Defended PhD projects 2012

Tom De Smedt, Modeling Creativity: Case Studies in Python

Hans Theys, Het kijkbeeld

Stefan Van Puymbroeck, Maddalena


Defended PhD projects 2010

Spank Moons, In Questa Tomba Oscura: Pixelation as a strategy of (dis)appearance

Bruno Van Dijck, Topografische resonanties

Defended PhD projects 2009

Yves Senden, Muzikale interpretatie vanuit het pragmaticisme van Peirce

Ewald Demeyere, A Contextual, Text-Critical Analysis of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Art of Fugue

Defended PhD projects 2008

Dirk Van der Eecken, De kunst van het onzichtbare

Pat Harris, Reduction within Figurative Painting