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The invasive thauma as a trigger for social change.

PhD in the Arts 
RITCS School of Arts & VUB 

Through wonder we acquire knowledge, we read in Aristoteles Metaphysica A2. The same way we are puzzled by and inquire about automatic wonders (τῶν θαυμάτων ταὐτόματα), we wonder and therefore learn about the cause of all things. In this research the thauma automata is staged and explored in its capacity to make us wonder. Does this animated inanimate object have the power to move us in an intellectual, but also in an emotional and literal sense? Scope of the research is the impact of puppets, robots and automata on the unsuspecting spectator in the context of participative performance. Can these beings, that are active and passive, subject and object, everyone and no one at the same time, be used to visualize and make us reflect upon social mechanisms and our role within them? Does the thauma as a thing appeal to our intellectual understanding and at the same time, as a being, compel us to engage emotionally?

In addition, it is investigated whether the collective performance of thaumata also has a comforting and community-building potential.


The artistic cornerstone of this PhD is the creation of the hybrid documentary “Pharmakoi”.

In this film we follow the tragicomic journey of a scapegoat-puppet along 4 different communities worldwide. Although the scapegoat has a different face in every place, its fate is always the same. It is saddled with our burdens, monstricized and violently expelled. Its experiences are based on local scapegoat myths that are interpreted from a Girardian point of view. Retold from the perspective of the scapegoat itself, the myths are publicly performed by and for the inhabitants of 4 ‘islands’. The performance and spontaneous interactions offer player and spectator a new myth in which each determines his/her own role, as victim and perpetrator, but above all as human who seeks meaning and shelter in a society that frightens him/her.

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