The doctorate is a graduate degree conferred by a doctoral school—in this case CY Cergy Paris University Graduate School of Humanities, Creation, and Heritage. Candidates must possess a master’s degree or equivalent master’s-level credential. After preparing and successfully defending a dissertation, candidates are awarded the doctoral degree.

The graduate school houses the humanities and social sciences components of CY Cergy Paris University and four higher schools dedicated to the fields of creation and heritage: the École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Versailles (ENSAV), the École Nationale Supérieure de Paysage de Versailles (ENSP), the Institut National du Patrimoine (INP), and ENSAPC. These institutions aim to set standards in the fields of creation and heritage at the master’s and doctoral levels through innovative methods and practice-led research. The joint graduate school receives support from the Fondation des Sciences du Patrimoine (Foundation for Heritage Preservation Sciences), the French Ministry of Culture, and the French national center for scientific research (CNRS).

Practice-led research places creators (artists, architects, landscapers, restorers, conservators, and authors) and their practice at the heart of a methodological process. Doing so produces knowledge that can then be reinvested in practice. The research approach flows from the project (artistic, architectural, or other), becoming a space for reflection, experimentation, and production that enriches practical work, just as the latter can enrich the research process. Another of its ambitions is to conceive new forms of diffusion and promotion, forms suggested by the very nature of the research project. Artists, particularly, tend to believe that research must follow no a priori form but rather be an integral part of their work process. Because practice-led research casts a wide net, aiming for the broadest possible understanding of the mechanisms or phenomena under study (without ever purporting to claim exhaustivity), it draws on contributions from many disciplines.

The practice-led doctorate may be earned in one of five mentions: literary creation; architecture; landscape design; heritage preservation and restoration, heritage studies; and arts. Within the graduate school consortium, ENSAPC is responsible for the mention in arts. Candidates’ research is overseen jointly by an accredited research director at the CY Cergy Paris University Graduate School and by a member of the ENSAPC faculty who is a recognized practitioner in the candidate’s field. Five doctoral funding contracts are allocated each year to candidates selected from the various mentions.

The mention in “arts” and candidates pursuing a practice-led doctorate at ENSAPC 

Melding the practice of thought with that of art, research in art shapes and informs each step in the creative process (from conception to production, and then from distribution to critical reception). This process is propelled by reflexively alternating one’s gaze between experimentation and critical distance. Laying new ground and deploying the media and terminology needed to chart that ground across disciplinary lines, research in art, by its forms and substance, injects minority perspectives into dominant narratives, often with considerable friction.

Doctoral candidates at ENSAPC : 

Raphaël Faon, “The Spectre of Images: Artistic Practice as Hauntology”

Raphaël Faon’s thesis deals with the transfiguration of nonartistic images through practices based on Derrida’s concept of hauntology. The approach takes into consideration how images are ranked in a social hierarchy and which phenomena outside the image invoke those hierarchies. In this project of deconstructing visual frameworks, Faon infiltrates the archives of the contemporary world, questioning them and giving them new meaning by revealing their political ambiguity.

Under the supervision of Jean-François Puff, CY Cergy Paris Université et Yann Beauvais, filmmaker; enrolled in 2018.

Louise Hervé, “Reconstitutions: Embodying Historical Knowledge in the Performance Space”

Performance has a recent history in the 20th and 21st centuries, as well as a much longer history that enables us to ponder a variety of forms both within and beyond the boundaries of the history of art. Taking as points of departure questions of oral tradition and the corporality of language, the research challenge is to study and test forms that bring about the incarnation of historical documents. Taking a cross-disciplinary approach to the central notion of “reconstitution,” Louise Hervé works from and experiments with the practice of reconstitution in contemporary art, where performances are laboratories and spaces for the sharing of research.

Under the supervision of Chantal Lapeyre, CY Cergy Paris University, and Chloé Dechery, Université Paris 8; enrolled in 2019.

Joan Ayrton, “’The cycle of anxieties’: Geology and psychedelia—hypotheses on a state of present-day awareness”

The doctoral project emerges from two observations relating to what one might call the modern “psyche.” First, the observation over the past several years of an infiltration of geology into contemporary minds, language, and practices. And second, alongside the prevailing geologic and the forms that it generates, the observation over the past two or three years of the emergence of what could be a new psychedelic sensibility in the work of very young artists. A historical investigation into the sources of these two phenomena yielded the hypothesis of a “cycle of anxieties”, through one of whose episodes we may now be passing. The previous one was in the 1960s; the one before that, at the turn of the 20th century. The research takes three distinct forms: the making of a film in Japan, a curatorial project, and studio work combining formal practice and writing.

Under the supervision of Jean-François Puff, CY Cergy Paris University, and Vincent Gérard, ENSAPC; enrolled in 2020.

Nicola Lo Calzo, “Photographing memories of slavery: Toward an ethic and aesthetic of emancipation”

Nicola Lo Calzo’s dissertation project bears on new uses of photography to explore and to deepen the history of slavery and resistance to it, particularly memories held by communities of Afro-descendants. The research will question the place and the role that photography can play – through its relations with human sciences such as anthropology, the social history of art, and literature – as a two-edged instrument of investigation and restitution of these heritages. As a queer artist, Lo Calzo will also raise the central question of colonial and post-colonial representations that arises when one attempts to document memories of slavery embodied in subservient individuals.

Under the supervision of Sylvie Brodziak, CY Cergy Paris University, Laurella Rinçon, Mémorial ACTe (or Caribbean Centre of Expressions and Memory of the Slave Trade and Slavery), and Corinne Diserens, ENSAPC; enrolled in 2020.

Akam Zaatari, Father and son

The research project « Father and son » looks at the practices of excavating and collecting objects produced in past times as an extension of art practices. It is centered on archeological missions that took place in Sidon in the mid-nineteenth century and that separated two sarcophagi belonging to a father and a son; kings Eshmouazar II (now in Paris) and Tabnit (now in Istanbul). Had the two sarcophagi been excavated after 1943, they would have been at the National Museum of Beirut now. But because they were excavated before imperial laws were implemented, the first one ended up in Paris and the second one in Istanbul. The project imagines reuniting, even if symbolically or even virtually, the two sarcophagi in a “project”. Instead of calling for their restitution, the project explores alternatives to restitution through an artistic project. This will happen first through 3D scanning later printing and hopefully reaching to their display together to bring up their provenance and tell the stories of their separation.

Under the supervision of François Pernot, CY Cergy Paris Université and Bénédicte Savoy, in cotutelle with the Technische Universität Berlin, and Alejandra Riera, ENSAPC, enrolled in 2020.


Louis Henderson, “The Infinite Rehearsal: Collectivity as Anti-Colonial Cinema” 

This practice-based research seeks to find new methods of artistic collaboration between artists from Europe and the Caribbean. Focusing on cinema and theatre the research will develop ways to enquire into questions about colonial history, the afterlife of slavery, identity, race, representation, ethics, debt and reparations, for example, that could move beyond the problematic restrictions that certain modes of identity policing may cause to arrest the artistic process. Rather than deciding to stop working on these questions because of ethical problems that may arise from an implicit parasitic relation of Europe to the Caribbean, I endeavour to constantly rethink my position in relation to the subject matter and people I work with. As such this research aims to develop an aesthetics based on an ethics of making films with communities rather than about communities, and in doing so it will contribute important knowledge to future cinematic practices that challenge the ethnographic. This is a desire to create a true anti-colonial, anti-racist, and anti-capitalist cinema, that expresses its political positioning not only through the stories it tells but through the methods it approaches in order to make and tell these stories. Engaging with the theoretical, theatrical and poetic work of Édouard Glissant, Frankétienne and Wilson Harris, I aim to show how each of these three writers has approached “spiral retelling” as a literary technique that can create new critical approaches to questions of identity and colonial history. This will be brought into connection with film collectives that make politically engaged, anti-colonial cinema, such as; Karrabing Film Collective, The Otolith Group, Black Audio Film Collective and the Victor Jara Collective.

Under the supervision of Julie Amiot-Guillouet, CY Cergy Paris Université, and Marcella Lista, chief curator of the New Media Collection, Centre Pompidou, enrolled in 2021.


Folakunle Oshun, A curatorial and artistic approach on the architectural evolution of post-independence repurposed state buildings as contemporary art spaces across West Africa.” 

A particular characteristic of the West-African sub-region lies not only in close cultural relationships, cutting across countries and ethnicities, but also in a shared postcolonial timeline of the parallel emergence of West African states as independent and sovereign entities. This doctoral research critically analyses these parallel histories in relation to the evolution of these architectural expressions of sovereignty from their original construction as national edifices to their widespread adaptation into contemporary art spaces. The similarities and differences between national contexts across West Africa in relation to these architectural and institutional histories equally hold important keys to understanding lines of interconnection within a  territory drawn up by colonial powers. This timely research brings to light specificities in aesthetic heritage and contemporary practice in the sub-region, highlighting specific homegrown solutions and adaptations in relation to the contemporary art ecosystem. The thesis also investigates the role of a cross-section of artists who have made critical interventions in these architectural spaces in order to reconstruct and reimagine their contextual validity. Examples of reuse of heritage buildings for contemporary art in France, the United Kingdom, and Germany will shed a complimentary light.

Under the supervision of Cécile Doustaly, CY Cergy Paris Université, and N’goné Fall, architect and curator, enrolled in 2021.


Nataliya Ilchuk, “A Seismography of Tensions in the Current Geopolitical Context of Ukraine and its Soviet History: Regimes of Censorship and Self-Censorship, Individual and Collective Identities in Contemporary Film and Art Practices and Productions”

My doctoral project focuses on the links between totalitarian politics and the perception of reality produced by the mass media. The aim is to understand the perpetuation of manipulative methods that existed during the periods of dictatorship and repression in the 20th century, and that continue today, in particular by looking at the ways in which authoritarianism is exercised on today’s artists, marked by (self-) censorship. Indeed, it seems urgent to designate and study – through the eyes of cinematographic art -, on the one hand, the contemporary mechanisms of control as used by the governments that suppressed freedom in the twentieth century in “closed” countries, such as the USSR, and now in Putinist Russia; and, on the other hand, the domination of social networks and digital tools on our lives, which, if they are different from it, also extend some of their features. I will be particularly interested in the mechanisms that allow us to see and study, at close quarters, how the psychology of individuals is affected in the construction of their relationships, how it is influenced by the torments of consumption and by social networks that blur and displace perceptions. The aim is to identify certain parallels between the methods of manipulating public opinion during the era of totalitarism and their equivalent in today’s “insta-reality”, through the current formation of the Ukrainian “identity” and that of my own individual “identity”. Through my artistic filmic tools of narration, I will highlight the relationship between dysfunctional family and artistic vocation, in the light of the relationship between dysfunctional state and lived experience, while questioning how limitations affect creativity.

Under the supervision of Luciana Radut-Gaghi (HDR lecturer, CY Cergy Paris Université), Claire Roudenko-Bertin, artist (ENSAPC), Yann Beauvais, artist. Enrolled in 2022.


Daniel Jablonski, “‘ID Please’: True Stories, False Documents”

This project starts with a suspicion about my family narratives. Recent discoveries have led me to suspect that, on both sides of my family, someone may have committed, at different times and in different contexts, the same crime: falsifying their papers in order to obtain a new identity. Rather than a simple quest for my origins, it is about questioning the complex, shifting – even performative – relationships that are played out between identities and identifiers. For this name and this nationality that I fully live as mine today, and which were ratified by the authorities at my birth, were precisely generated by documentary fraud. Or, to put it another way, the “real” was produced by the “fake”. By taking my own papers, at once, as source material, as a working tool and as an object of analysis, I intend to produce an unprecedented body of artistic work capable of functioning as a true “case study” conducted in the first person. Anchored in research, my production is part of a contemporary “post-medium” art field marked by experimentation and hybridization of media, as well as by interdisciplinary approaches and methodologies; in particular, it places itself on the side of a narrative visual art that borrows strategies from contemporary literature. This work will be accompanied by an in-depth theoretical reflection on the hypothesis of a “documentary art” existing beyond the specificities of media and disciplines, able to restore to “factual representations” all their creative content. The analysis of notions such as “non-fiction”, “trace” and “self-narrative” will also prove to be essential in order to identify this bias towards reality, the starting point of many practices of the last twenty years that often blur the boundaries between literature, visual arts and performing arts.

Under the supervision of Chantal Lapeyre (HDR professor, CY Cergy Paris Université, UMR laboratory), Laura Huertas Millán, artist (ENSAPC) and Carla Zaccagnini, artist (The School of Conceptual and Contextual Practices, The Royal Danish Academy of Art, Copenhagen). Enrolled in 2022.



Applications are welcome from artists, creators, and authors active in the art world and holding a French 2-year master’s degree or the equivalent. Complete information is presented in the program description available for download below.

Applications may be submitted through the application platform from 2am on March 6, 2023, through 2am on April 18, 2023.

Questions? Contact Martina Olivero, director of studies and research:

2023 Practice-led doctorate application form

Rules for 2023 practice-led doctorate call for applications

Vademecum of practice-led research in the University Research School’s specialties Humanities, creation, heritage