The name of the New School reflects the understanding that the influence of human activity on the Earth's atmosphere and biological support systems in recent centuries has been so significant and abrupt as to constitute a new geological epoch, which geologists have called the Anthropocene.
This has been the concern for several decades of our collaborator, October Gallery, which is part of the Institute of Ecotechnics. The Institute thinks and acts on a planetary scale and has generated many spectacular ecological demonstration projects, such as Biosphere 2, the ocean-going RV Heraclitus, the rainforest enrichment venture of Las Casas de la Selva Patillas, and the Eden in Iraq water remediation garden.
The New School of the Anthropocene has designed a radical degree-level curriculum called the Imagination of Synthesis, an approach to pedagogy invented by the 20th century English poet-scholar, Eric Mottram. This fuses critical enquiry and creative practice as an approach to studying and assessment, whereby we might cultivate the forester-poet, the painter-activist, the urbanist-auteur, the gardener-intellectual . . .
The New School has woven this approach into the theme of The Three Ecologies, a 1989 book by the French theorist, Felix Guattari, which discusses the interconnected ecosystems of the mind, society and the natural world. The curriculum directly addresses the omission of Humanities disciplines in the consideration of social and ecological crises through re-examining the cultural narratives and metaphors that shape the human location on earth, with decolonisation etched into the deepest level of analysis.
This is not an art school as such, but its expansive curriculum restores the centrality of the arts to the enquiry into how we make sense of our internal and external worlds. Teaching has been designed to encourage learning through experimental thinking: the study of the imagination being the purpose of art, which might equip people to deal humanely with a complex and uncertain world.
As such the New School swerves away from the charge of higher education into training and skills: a means of limiting citizens by preparing them to operate fixed procedures within a social mechanism. The human imagination recognises no such constraints and we have no interest in nurturing an ‘office-ready’ workforce.
The New School’s curriculum instead reflects the understanding that to be educated is to inhabit a world that affords a variety of unpredictable responses. We recognise the need to create producers, not consumers, of meaning, and that collaborative community is a vital principle of learning.
We share the desire to assign value to intuition and the body in teaching and to open channels of communication between ‘vocational’ activity and intimate experience, and to refuse any professional abstractions of the word ‘academia’ from a community context. We believe in learning by doing and the importance – and pleasure! – of collaboration.
Say to them: “Man has survived hitherto because he was too ignorant to know how to realize his wishes. Now that he can realize them, he must either change them or perish.”
William Carlos Williams, Desert Music (1954)
It is quite wrong to make the distinction between the action on the psyche, the socius and the environment. Refusal to face up to the erosion of these three areas, as the media would have us do, verges on a strategic infantilization of opinion and a destructive neutralization of democracy.
Felix Guattari, The Three Ecologies (1989)