A pretty perilous and challenging exercise, especially for someone like me who indulges in thinking of himself, in a somewhat defensive and questionable way, I confess, as having no specific field or period of competence and evading any precise definition or classification in academic terms. As a matter of fact, I have been lucky enough to spend most of my life in an institution, the EHESS [École des hautes études en sciences sociales], which, in those days, having become an independent school, was open to people who refused to defer to the academic division of labor and which, under the rule of great personalities like Fernand Braudel and my friend Jacques Le Goff, would welcome young people with non-conformist backgrounds in order for them to develop their formation according to their own lines. To develop it—I wouldn't say to achieve it, for as far as I am concerned there seems to be no end to it: hence the challenge, which consists in having to look back at one's own intellectual past through the viewer and the lens of the present. Part of the picture, which happened to be of great consequence to me, was, and still is, a great freedom and encouragement to travel, lecture, teach, and study abroad, in my case especially in the States, where, for a long time, I felt much more at ease with authentic art historians and critics than I did in France, and developed some deep and enduring friendships with great individuals like Meyer Schapiro, Rosalind Krauss, Tony Vidler, Tim Clark, and Hank Millon, not to mention several artists and architects I will refer to later.
Travelling: I don't claim any originality when saying that I owe to my urge to travel a large part of my formation as an art historian. I remember with emotion looking with Meyer Schapiro through his travel notebooks. I keep boxes filled with my own.