Very often, the academic turn seems to be a way to turn away from the academy: indeed, if the art field becomes an academic one, then what an academy has to offer can also be found elsewhere, at other institutions and self-organized initiatives constituting the field of expanded academia. The suggestion seems clear: we don’t need the academy.
Why should there be a doctorate in the arts, rather than nothing? Weren’t we happy without it? It is no secret that many people see neither the socio-economic necessity nor the artistic relevance of a doctorate in the arts. There is fierce opposition to it from people within higher arts education, universities, and the arts field—at least in so far as it still makes sense to draw a clear-cut distinction between higher arts education, universities, and the arts. Indeed, among many other things, the Bologna Process could be described as a deconstruction of the old demarcations between precisely these three sectors.
The time of academy-bashing is over. Indeed, the academy is back, almost. It’s absolutely fine to situate yourself outside the academy. But one shouldn’t hesitate to play a role within an academy, as many former outsiders today do quite successfully. It is my bet that the art academy is going to be the defining innovative institution within the art field in the next twenty years, much more so than museums, galleries, biennials, whatever.