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 direction of Sylvie Blocher and Geoffroy de Lagasnerie, professors at ENSAPC; 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 direction of Chantal Lapeyre, CY Cergy Paris University, and Chloé Dechery, Université Paris 8; enrolled in 2019.

Hugo L’ahelec, “Pieces: Exhibition as Rite, Work as Script, Visitor as Performer”

Hugo L’ahelec’s dissertation project interrogates artistic forms and visual approaches that make possible the creation of a script, as much as possible through volume and space, without recourse to text. In this way, he aims to experiment, using one medium in particular, ways of drawing the viewer into a narrative, an action, or a transformation. In the continuum of his reflections on death, absence, and the relations between rites and the performing arts, the artist situates his practice at a crossroads of aesthetic, literary, and anthropological experience.

Under the direction of Chantal Lapeyre, CY Cergy Paris University, and Pierre Ardouvin, professor at ENSAPC; 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 direction 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 direction 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 direction of François Pernot, CY Cergy Paris Université and Bénédicte Savoy, in cotutelle with the Technische Universität Berlin, and Alejandra Riera, ENSAPC, enrolled in 2020.


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.

Documents relevant to the call for applications are available here.

Applications may be submitted through the application platform from noon on March 15, 2021, through noon on April 22, 2021.

Questions? Contact Annabela Tournon Zubieta, director of studies and research:

2021 Practice-led doctorate application form

Rules for 2021 practice-led doctorate call for applications

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