No school is a school without an idea. Every school embodies an inheritance at least and at most is an invention rising out of its inheritance. By inheritance and invention, I mean the transmission and transformation of a creed, of a technique that animates the hand, of a thought about the consecration of knowledge as it individuates the self and enhances a community, a network, many communities and many networks. An ethics of knowledge is the foundation of any school in its essential definition as a gathering place, but the complexity of what that knowledge should be, how its production is configured and unfolds, who translates it across the bridges of generations and time, whether its structure is rigid or limpid in its willingness to change, whether it is resistant
to external mandates or longs for the imprimatur of an outside authority, and what status and success signify for its teachers and graduates—all of these define the place of gathering, its ethical complexion, its reasons for being, and what learning means there.
Art School (Propositions for the 21st Century) is an outgrowth of my deep curiosity about what a particular kind of school—an art school—might and will be in this new century. The climate and landscape of contemporary art haven’t been as eruptive as the great upheavals of the previous century—at least not yet. Of course, in the past twenty-five years, the inventory of cultural production has expanded far beyond anything before in the history of art. The topography of making has been flattened: no one discipline, style, genre, or artist dominates. But there has been one unstoppable influence, particularly after the 1960s: the juggernaut of Marcel Duchamp as the tutelary spirit hovering
above the notion of art as the outward sign of an idea manifested through any sensorial means, using any object from any precinct of production as its instrument, with its concept claiming priority over the making or appropriation of the optical thing, of the sign itself.