Having worked with the Goethe Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan for the past 29 years, the new director of the Chennai operations, Helmut Schippert, hopes to put his experience to use here, for the next six years. Before his posting in India, Schippert, 60, worked in places like Chile, Paris and France. “In this job, it is only the body that gets old, not the mind and soul,” he insists. Well versed in French, German, English and Spanish, Schippert is confident he will be able to interact in fluent Tamil in a few weeks, courtesy Tamil classes that he has taken up, along with his wife. “Here at the Institut we have a teacher who will be teaching us Tamil,” he reveals.
Besides retaining already existing campaigns, the new director has a list of new ideas. “I truly believe in artistic intervention in urban development. So in September, we will have a street art event which does not include just paintings but sculptures, graffiti, dance and music,” says Schippert, who aims to bring more focus on serious subjects like water and gender inequality. “In a country where water is considered holy, people don’t see the importance of preserving it. I wish to reflect upon these subjects both artistically and academically,” he says. A graduate of Heidelberg University in Germany, Schippert, also points out that with this year, 1,000 schools in India will have German on their curriculum.
Next up wil be Ruptures, in collaboration with Basement 21, by dancer Padmini Chettur. “This project is an artistic way of reflecting Goethe Institut, the people who work here, who come here to learn, the teachers, watchmen and everybody else. There will be artistic representation of even the building and social and environmental surroundings,” he says. Also, expect sound installations inside the Institut, another idea the director loves. “I would like to focus on German movies and bring some of the non-serious, blockbusters to the city and show them the other aspect of world cinema,” says Schippert who is a fan of our food too. “I love the word masala. Not just food wise but culturally as well.”
— Mrinalini Sundar