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e-flux conversations

ALPHABETIZATION, Part I: Protocol and Proficiency


To read is to resuscitate ideas buried in paper. Each word is an epitaph.

—Simón Rodríguez

I started learning to write and read at age six and received my first serious art education when I was 14. These periods mark two points in my biography at which my instincts for exploration were seriously curtailed. Instead of being guided in a search to name unnamed things, I was forced to learn the names of known things.

These memories truly trouble me—but that’s not all. They also make me wonder: Why were reading and writing taught separately from drawing and looking? Why was the first pair considered an obligation for everybody and the second reserved for a later vocational choice? Why was the system designed to formulate answers to other people’s questions rather than pose my own?

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