Alliance Francaise’s new director, Pierre-Emmanuel Jacob, on opera and encouraging talent
For Pierre-Emmanuel Jacob, his new position as the director of Alliance Francaise (AF) is like a homecoming. Thirteen years ago, he had held the seat at the AF in Mumbai (1997-2001). “Of all the posts I’ve held, including Jakarta, Macau and Singapore, India has been the most interesting—as far as work is concerned, the people I’ve met, and the culturally-rich environment,” states the 45-year-old. It has only been two weeks, so Jacob is still finding his feet. “It’s been good so far. From basics like finding a flat to meeting with the staff and our collaborators, the days have been full,” says the man with the ready laugh, as he settles down to discuss what he wants to do in the city in the next four years.
Building an audience
Reminiscing about some big projects that he did in Mumbai—including a ‘Cartier-Bresson in India’ exhibition and a musical dialogue between Carnatic and Gregorian chants—Jacob says that it isn’t fair to recreate something here just because it was successful elsewhere. “You need to feel the pulse of the city first and I am still in the process of doing that,” he says.
But he is clear that increasing inter-cultural dialogue is his main aim. “While maintaining the centre as a place of exchanges, I also want it to be a platform for emerging artists. I have an open door (pointing to his office door), so anyone can walk in. While I may not be able to do every project, I will have an attentive ear for everyone,” says the Frenchman who has degrees in international relations and public international law. Jacob also wants to expose people to the new aesthetics that are trending now. “Many themes that are being explored abroad, like nudity, may be difficult to apprehend here. But I want to gather the tools—like workshops with contemporary artists and guided tours of exhibitions—to help introduce people to such concepts, while still being respectful of the culture,” he explains.
Also on the agenda: expansion plans of the AF building (with classrooms and more being added) and preparations to start an antenna institute in South Chennai. “I also want to tie up with galleries and bring down photography exhibitions—tapping the new generation of young talent—and maybe visual arts,” says Jacob, a trained opera singer who used to perform for charity in Mumbai, with the Stop-Gaps Cultural Academy. For now, he is working on the year’s programming—penning down Le Philharmonique de la Roquette (a movie-cum-concert) for October and 3 X Rien (a theatrical circus performance) for November—and getting ready to go out and meet people.
—Surya Praphulla Kumar
Pic: R Satish Babu