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DEBAT 2011 - "Investing in Culture", by Paul Andreu, architect


"The only way to protect your own culture, is to accept to jeopardize it."

Investing in culture. Investing? Petit Robert*, help! And if it is not enough, a more comprehensive version, the cultural one. Well, it is the same. Nothing related to culture in the Robert dictionary when looking at the definition of Investing. So, what are the meanings? 

To endow someone solemnly with a power, a right, an authority, through the symbolic action of giving an attribute, a piece of clothing.  But that was before 1615, that is not topical anymore – but no regrets. The culture has already been too often disguised and rigged out in old-fashioned clothes. 

To take possession (of rights, an authority, a function ...). 1764, we’re getting closer, but honestly that isn’t right either. What rights, authority or function could our beloved culture  exercise, and how? A moral authority maybe... let’s run away! 

To surround with troops… encircle, besiege… block ... Although the given date is 1410, it seems dreadful but plausible for some to consider this meaning. The violent and retrograde people, crazy about all types of powers. But not us. 

To pour money (capitals) in a company ... Yes, maybe, at a pinch – on condition that we provide successive metaphors imbricated as Russian dolls, but what would remain in the end? At least not in an ignorant, contemptuous and trivial way, like so many architects do, who travesty the Chinese, the Indian or the Arabic culture to sell more... And they are by far not the only ones using the cultural capital in that way! 

Let's pass.

To give an emotional value to (something) ... Psychoanalysis. Get in (an activity, an object), speaking of a psychic energy (popular use). To be involved (in work). Here we go - perhaps. But we then have to cheat and modify the title. Not anymore “Investing in culture”, but rather getting involved in culture, yes, maybe. Just letting ourselves carried along by culture, without looking back, loving it, respecting it in its entirety as a mother, as the mother, and, without forgetting it or leaving it.

Thank you Robert.

Self-quotation is the height of pedantry, I know, but well… One day, in Beijing, in a large crowded room, I said that the only way to protect your own culture, is to accept to jeopardize it. This is in this idea that I keep investing myself. This is what I try to share wherever I go. 

* The Petit Robert is a famous shortened version of the French language Dictionary 

Paul Andreu - Forum d’Avignon 2011