Stéphane Duval: The whole of your works seems to be governed by the Royal Art. You have already explained some of your texts to me in the eyes of alchemy.

ETANT DONNÉS: First of all, it might be necessary to clarify our relation to alchemy. Let us consider the terms of your question: you say it seems to you that our works are
governed by the Royal Art ; now, the verb "govern" that you use, implies that we are expected to apply some outer knowlegde to our art and to submit our art to the law of some knowledge, or philosophy, and to transfuse, in some sort of way, an acquisition into what proves to be mainly a discovery process, a real night-fishing process, and to do it, necessarily, in a rational way. It is not the case.
Any poem, any work of art that exists, say, truly, is a transfiguration from a material being into a spiritual being. The flesh becomes light and this light contains the flesh. It reveals ít.
Let us say that this light, as the essence of the flesh, flesh of the flesh, is also an essence of matter, a matter of matter.
A work of art as an essence, an inhabited matter, contains, embraces, sets all knowledge ablaze. It is a diamond sparkling with fire, it is a tree, an infinity of leaves in the wind that several onlookers should be able to describe differently, depending on their respective positions, yet never altogether integrated.
To the spirit of matter corresponds the matter of spirit. This is Christ walking on the water, a mirror on a mirror, light on light !
It is simply natural to be able to study, to decipher our works in their relations to alchemy, as the contents always express the form of the container, as the container always imprints its form on the contents. The poet relieves the word of its multiple meanings, what is subtle of what is thick, to reveal its truth, its being (the being of the word is the being of the poet).
Isn't it both the end and the means of the Royal Art ?
Isn't this word itself, new and eternal, subtantial, a philosopher's stone, transforming any being on contact with it ? Doesn't this word originate in the space of Love? Doesn't it return matter to spirit and spirit to matter ? Doesn't it reconcile what seemed to be separated ? Doesn't it unite the opposites? Doesn't it even annihilate that notion of opposites ?
There is no alchemy but operative alchemy.
The alchemical stance consists in borrowing God's eyes to behold His creation, the matter of the World, and seeing it as the emanation of His Spirit.
It is going the Amen 's way.
Change life ! as Rimbaud used to put it.
Strictly symbolical art is no art.

Precisely, some people believe some links could be found between Rimbaud and alchemy...

So much has been discussed and written, even at more length, on "the symbolical key to his works in the eyes of alchemy", but one must not forget Rimbaud was a poet ! Not an alchemist coding his texts so as to transmit their esoteric meaning only to the initiated few. Rimbaud's thought is a wild thought, that is a conscious thought.
Alchemy is creation seen in the mirror of Mercury. Searching for one' s eyes and finding God' s eyes there instead.
Is the vine thesky of the ear ?
Or is the ear the sky of the vine? It is the same with man and his creator, with matter and spirit.

Here it comes again.
What ? Eternity.
I t is the sea gone
With the sun.

Arthur Rimbaud

Yes, going the Amen's way is to tend to infinite thinness. The poet speaks what he does not know. He is the Insane (Platon, post-Socratic philosopher, and as such one of the first inconsequent thinkers, had banished them from his city.) He speaks the nonsense.
Sense can only cling to nonsense, to give it its meaning.
It is the case with symbolical analysis applied to a work of art. The meaning is always a symbol form grafted on a word, on an act elevated to truth.
The word is irremediably to be found beyond. To use a metaphor, let us compare the word to a dark room (camera obscura), the sense being the outer light entering through the window, and revealing the walls, the decor. This light does not originate in the room itself, it is a projection, unveiling one aspect of the room.


So the meaning you think you can detect in a work is only an emanation of yourself. You think you recognise some symbols, some archetypes, whereas those are nothing but the projected image of your own mental structures.
The vibratory capacity of a work, what we can its reserve of love, can not be reduced to what we think can be detected in it. For the artist as well as for the spectator, art can operate as a revelation, a revelation of oneself.

"To what extent is the artist nothing
but a preliminary degree ?
The World as a work of art bringing Itself forth... "

Nietzsche. The Will to Power

What do those grapes you squeeze in your hands, for instance during the performance in Geneva, refer to ? A Dionysiac celebration ?

A night diadem
Of violets, wheat, crimson grapes
Form the year of the clairvoyant

Georg Trakl

It is a commencement, a baptism... both a dionysiac and christian baptism, the grape as fue and spirit. We keep our eyes closed until we receive the sacred juice of the grape onto our eyelids, then we can see...
The foundations of our acts in our plays, and of our theatre, are magical, and so are their purposes.
We refer to natural magic, in the sense Novalis used the word when he said: "A charming girl is a magician, more real than she is believed to be... any spiritual contact resembles that of the magic wand" or "Love is the principle that makes magic possible. Love acts magically. "
Our conception of magic lies in his two words: "spiritual contact". Mind acts directly, physically, on rnatter.
The opposite is algo possible. The view of a beloved body can suddenIy upset our whole spiritual conception of the world...
How is that possible ? I cannot see, I cannot feel, some materialists, indeed even some idealists will argue... It is because the body is the curvature of spirit. What we do say is that the body is spirit, that spirit does not inhabit the body any more than the body inhabits spirit, that one was not created from the other, but that they both participate in the other through related spiration, that there is no body, there is no spirit, but a Whole, which is the One.
Let us quote Jesus' words in the Acts of Thomas:
If the flesh came to existence
through the spirit,
it is a wonder,
but if the spirit carne to existence
through the body,
it is a wonder of wonder.
But I do wonder about this.
How can this Being that Is
Inhabit that nothingness ?

Beyond this alchemical consonance some commentators have thought could be detected, what prompted you to borrow your stage name from Marcel Duchamp's work Etant Donnés ?

is I am, I give. I give what I am.
Apart from its ontological meaning, its useful sense is that of an exhibition. It does not mean anything in itself, apart from introducing a series of facts, of acts, it is a way of both staying free from a name and being totally and consciously determined by its real sense (that is to say by its profound meaning, often darkened by common sense).
Isn't it also the characteristic of proper nouns, (which we have not chosen) ?
Men usually realise around mid-life that the real meaning of their name has secretly governed most of their destiny...
Of course, ETANT DONNÉS is a reference to Marcel Duchamp's ultimate work too: Etant donnés ;
1: La chute d'eau, 2: Le gaz d'éclairage
, elaborated in the last 25 years of his life. This work is the key to all his previous works, it sheds its victorious light, carried like a flaming torch by a naked woman's arm, the transcendent meaning that the artist himself wanted to give to his whole work. It is a real spiritual requiem.
Love and death, everything is there and beyond.
We are algo interested in its alchemical meaning. Most of the time Duchamp is considered to be an artist of "modernity", but his work actually feeds on esoteric thought. It is the desire to develop a physical and lyrical continuation from Marcel Duchamp's plastic work.
Being in action. Being in a time and a space.
An inverted shade, bright and three-dimensional, such as is Etant donnés compared to the Grand Verre.
Besides, during our shows, the audience find themselves in the same voyeuristic position as in front of Etant donnés by Marcel Duchamp. But what is in one case a physical wall separating the spectator from the work, becomes a light and sound energy barrier in our shows. The spectator must be lacerated, dismembered by the Furies. His body must join the dimensions of the world, not only be a centre any more, a breach through which the cascade of Love will rush.

In his introductory taxi to your collection L'Autre Rive/Le Sens Positif, quite rightly entitled "Le Peep-Show Alchimique", Vittore Baroni has established a relation between Duchamp's nearly incestuous love for his sister and what seems to drive you.
Are you aware that the spectator might be troubled to sea two men, two naked brothers, staging themselves in a cosmic ballet, sometimes close to Antonin Artaud's Thèâtre de la Cruauté.
Isn't there something ambiguous in that sense?

The obscure is the secret abode of the clear.
Martin Heidegger

No ambiguity at all ! But there again, we cannot control such interpretations. In that case, the spectator only projects his own phantasmagoria onta our theatre that is meant to measure up with the sacred mysteries or the Spanish auto sacramental, a metaphysical drama cruelly embodying the duel of primary causes on stage, in a redeeming perspective, which physically, under an effect of communicating vessels, operates then like a real black hole for psychology.
In the image of a collision of atoms, we strive, through the violent shock between two men's bodies, two identical charges, to create a release of energy, or rather point out its place of emergence, the loving eye of truth.
Making the spectre af Beauty, life, visible in the present moment !
Between us and the audience, in a heart-to-heart relationship, this wave that originates between our two hearts face to face, will go and resonate in theirs.
What is at stake here is love, something that takes place between hearts, beyond sexes.
Before filling up a cup with new wine, the cuip has to be emptied of the old wine it contains.
ETANT DONNÉS means to imprint, not to express.
Expression is not even the foam of the wave, it is the superlative, the field of the sayable.
The unsayable is the absolute word, the Logos.
The unsayable though it cannot be said, can be formulated, generated in form, made visible in its presence, its absolute materiality.
Yet visible only through the heart's eye. A black object that can be perceived, that can be felt like an evidence, like a stone in the mouth, but which stops it from being said. Unsayable, innnitely weighty... like the morning dew that vanishes as it becomes visible.. .
So close
And hard to grasp, the god
But in the places of peril grows
What saves too.


The love you refer to is no "vulgar" love.
It manifests itself beyond good and evil, conditioning and individuality.

Blessed are they that have not seen,
and yet have believed.

John 20.29

Love is never "vulgar".
It is or it is not and no qualifier or superlative can be related to it.
There is no spiritual love and there is no physica llove.
There is love.
It is the matter of the World
and the spirit of the World.



Let us wipe out that duality between matter and spirit, in favour of what is both matter and spirit, of what physically constitutes the ultimate substance of the Whole, of what is both the Being and its envelope, the multiple and the unique, of what we shall call the third state of matter-spirit, the loving Third State.
You who hunt for the sky and find the blood, listen materially with the ear and the mind ! Everything is love.

I shall not speak, I shall think nothing:
But infinite love will rise into my soul,
And I shall go away far away, like a Bohemian,
Throughout Nature, - hapy as with a woman.

Arthur Rimbaud