Academy of Cultural Heritages ACU
Plan for establishing a new educational and cultural institute between Finland and Greece
The idea of ACU has emerged in the context of an interdisciplinary and international research project entitled Semiotics of Cultural Heritages; it has since 2013 organized symposia in Imatra (Finland), Rome, Sofia, Kaunas (Lithuania) and Istanbul, funded through the Wihuri Foundation in Finland and other state institutions in the afore-mentioned countries. Its goal is to investigate the preservation, renewal and animation of valuable cultural heritages by means of semiotics, a discipline which studies signs and communication. It now includes over 80 scholars from all over the world.
The term cultural heritage stems from this connection, but for the new Academy of Cultural Heritage, which will now be founded, it assumes a broader meaning. The purpose of the Academy is namely to foster particularly the roots of European culture, starting from its beginning, the Greek ‘miracle’, i.e. the birth of philosophical culture around Plato and Aristotle, and, as its continuation, the heritage of Hellenism in Rome – without excluding non-European traditions, manifest f.ex. in the Persian and Arabic influence upon European culture. From this starting point the Academy tries to keep alive central canonic issues of European culture in philosophy, arts and culture in general.
The activities of the academy will consist in organizing seminars and symposia, publishing treatises, a journal and a webpage, and arranging various artistic events and performances. One becomes a member by invitation. The academy is registered in Finland where it will have its main headquarter and office. Its main sites will be in Helsinki, and Greece, in a location to be announced shortly. In Greece particularly its central function is to revive the idea of a Platonic academy in the form of one-week seminars arranged on a Greek island twice a year; in addition, a similar event will be also held more regularly in Helsinki. This Platonic academy would offer an opportunity for top scholars of various fields and young students to meet each other in a productive and inspiring interaction, in the form of an open discussion and dialogue. The Academy is completely international and interdisciplinary by its nature.
Accordingly, the purpose of the Academy is educational, in this sense. However, the scholars who arrive at these sessions will also train each other, as was once the case in the legendary New School of Social Research in New York in the 1940s. A key point of the academy is that, as in the French Academy since 1635, all the lectures given by teachers will represent their most recent research. Thus, though the aim of the academy is to restore and return to the primal origins of European culture in Greece, on the other hand it approaches these canons in a fresh manner, as they speak to men and women in the 21st century.
The Academy thus has two aspects: old and new. Its goal is remembering, restoring and maintaining cultural phenomena, behaviours, texts and values which are endangered by the globalized commercial market civilization expanded all over the world. Yet, it is new in the way it realizes this goal, by animating these traditions through an intellectual experience and new teaching methods in its seminars. It thus aims to become a more efficient form of education than what is often offered in
more formalized institutional academic environments, particularly at a time when official policies are interested only in the direct utilization and profit to be made from science and art.
The academy has not risen from an empty vacuum but has grown from a large community of scholars around the semiotic movement, particularly those whose development I have been able to follow, first as a student of Claude Lévi-Strauss in Paris and then as the President and Vice-President of the IASS/AIS (1994-2014). The network of relevant scientists and gifted students all over the world thus already exists. Yet, the academy is definitely broader than semiotics, as all-encompassing as this new discipline may already seem to be.
Helsinki, April 2nd, 2016
Professor in Musicology, Chair, University of Helsinki
Honorary President of the IASS/AIS (International Association for Semiotic Studies)