Interview with Jean Lambert-wild



How did this collaboration with Yann-Fañch Kemener start?

I’ve wanted to work with Yann-Fañch Kemener for a very long time. I first heard 

him sing in 2005, in a chapel in Morbihan. At the time, I was with members of the indigenous nation Xavante. They were staying with me after we had performed Mue, at the Avignon Festival. I still remember this concert as an unforgettable event. 

Since then, a series of opportunities arose, and because I am sensitive to what all these signs were building, I thought now was a good time to meet him. And so it happened naturally, like an evidence. 

Why did you decide to collaborate on this specific project: is this because now is the right time? 

If it’s not the right time, then things cannot happen. It is the right time, and more 

specifically, it is the right project. It is very important for Yann-Fañch Kemener and for me that we assert a certain poetic idea that we both have of the world, in spite of our aesthetic and experiential differences. I think him and I have in common that we love the mysteries of the world. He sings them, I try to tell them.  

You speak about transmission, the idea that Yann-Fañch Kemener’s voice comes from an extinct world…

I wouldn’t say that world is “extinct”; rather, I’d say that his voice comes from a 

subterranean world. A world that still exists, but that we can’t hear anymore, with 

which we no longer communicate. Perhaps we don’t want to find entry points into this subterranean world at the moment. What Yann-Fañch Kemener sings about is more than Breton folklore: his singing speaks about a state of the world, a relation to the world, the fact that humans call each other and summon the mysteries of the earth. He sings about the fact that we exchange something with one another and share it as part of a community. What Yann-Fañch Kemener sings about is not extinct. The murmur of subterranean realms are hard to hear from the noisy world of the surface, but these subterranean realms are full of light! And there is gold.  

What triggered your interest in voice, in the oral dimension of poetry? And why did you decide to work with Yann-Fañch Kemener’s “voice of gold”?

Our emotions are more than sensations. They are a part of our relationship with matter, with the elements, with fever, with the sting that a word can be. When a voice alights on one’s skin, there is physical contact: it’s like a caress. What is fascinating about Yann-Fañch Kemener’s voice is that it has such tactile dimension. When he speaks, we hear in his vibrato men, women, children, all long gone… We feel depths hollowed out in the earth by several generations, like an immense well that, perhaps, connects him to the centre of the earth. He didn’t dig up this well: he only inherited it. But he has known how to stay at the entrance of the well, and connect it with the wells we all have inside ourselves, from which our voice emanates. There are mysterious forces present in Yann-Fañch Kemener’s voice, that everyone can feel. Those forces still exist, and still have an impact. They only need to be awakened to also awake in us.

Could Yann-Fañch Kemener’s presence trigger a state of contemplation?

I wouldn’t speak of contemplation, rather, I would say that it could electrify us. There are a lot of things, in one’s life, that are ordinary, but occasionally, electricity runs through us and we awaken for an instant before we sink into yet another ordinary dimension. Most of the time, we are distraught, and there are many things we pass without seeing, we are lost in our own wandering... However, there are moments of grace, of joy, that make it possible to be present. The power of Yann-Fañch Kemener is that he is there. When he sings, he is there, and we are all there with him: at that moment, we exist. To be present in the world is not a state of contemplation; it is a state of electrification, because this state of being-there can happen with fury.

Why did you decide to place this man, alone, atop a column? What, in this vertical dimension, attracts you?

This man is alone because solitude is a mundane state that we all share. For me, it’s not a negative state. Everyone is alone, every man and every woman. Solitude is what allows us to grow, to be elevated. We are alone to face our own interrogations, and our ability to confront this is what shapes our ability to share those interrogations, and to live in society. Of course, for some, solitude can be painful, but there are types of solitude that are simply states of perception that shouldn’t be avoided. From a theatrical point of view, the column will give verticality to speech. It will harden, tighten and elevate the words. Sometimes, we need stakes to allow great encounters: the column is such a stake… The column is also what connects the man to the well. What will provoke the encounter isn’t the column itself; rather, it will be the way the man atop the column stands.

I suppose you thought about the anchorites?

I did indeed think of the figure of the anchorite: Saint-Simeon, and the mystical joys that stylites have experienced… They are attuned and receptive to astonishing forms of solitude. I like anchorites. They are people I’ve always liked to rub shoulders with in my dreams. 

You evoked the idea of alloys, of alchemy: between poem and song, between flesh and mineral. These are meaningful words when thinking that Yann-Fañch Kemener is nicknamed “the golden voice of Brittany”. Could you tell me more about this quest, which is maybe utopic?

From the moment utopia starts being effective, it isn’t utopia anymore. Utopia is a 

will. Now that we are in the “doing”, we are already asserting something. We are asserting that amazing friendships are possible, and that from such friendships a new way to be awake will appear. Because this is what we are looking for, always. People crave many things. Amongst others, they crave to know how they can “be there”. 

Interview conducted by Eugénie Pastor