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PhD defence Vivi Touloumidi

adornment as a social tool

conducted by Vivi Touloumidi between 2018 and 2022 at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp (AP Hogeschool) - within the research group Body and Material Reinvented - and the University of Antwerp (ARIA),

Promotors: Pascal Gielen (UAntwerp) and Roel Arkesteijn (Academy)

16:30 - 18:30

Jury: David Clarke, Petra Van Brabandt, Roschanack Shaery-Yazdi, Traganou Jilly, Marnix Beyen, Pascal Gielen and Roel Arkesteijn

Location: auditorium M HKA

→ To attend the PhD defence, please send an email to

18:30 drink

'Pharmakos. Adornment as a social tool'

Location: INBOX at M HKA


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.