Interview on trance and performance art

Lujane Pagganwala is a BA student of Fine Art at The International School (TIS) in Pakistan whose thesis research is investigating the role of consciousness in performance art. For the sake of her dissertation, she held an interview with Jatun Risba about trance and performance art.

– Could you explain performance art in your own terms and what it is to you (through your experiences as well)? 
Performance Art is an artistic practice where the actions of an individual or a group at a particular place and in a particular time constitute the artwork. The word “performance” has been used as an umbrella term for all sorts of (creative) practices, where corporeality is involved. The widespread, cross-disciplinary use of the term ‘performance’ has frequently generated confusion or resulted in a great amount of mediocre works of dubious artistic value. In part, this happens because the vocabulary with which we attribute meaning and value to performance art is still not articulated and sophisticated enough.

We are lacking a techne (the knowledge of principles) of performance art. That is why many performance artists, including me, are drifted towards the fields of theatre and spirituality. Theatre anthropology: the study of the performer’s pre-expressive scenic behaviour in different traditions, provides concrete tools and principles about how to achieve a dilated body or how to master the performer’s presence. Spiritual practices like meditation, the cultivation of kindness or fasting, offer ways to go beyond the mundane and enter into the zone of transcendental experiences and deep connectedness. I believe that the care of self, based on a rigorous spiritual and physical training, is a pre-requisite for meaningful performance art work.

photo by Bernd Uhlig 9th ISTA, International School of Theatre Anthropology, Umeå (Sweden) 1995 I Made Djimat

The public unfolding of the thinking-body in a challenging situation and in a trance-state of consciousness, constitutes the central pillar of my performance art. I have been using the Latin term “actio” instead of “performance” when describing my work since summer 2018 as the latest has become too general and misleading in and outside the field of art. I am using the word actio to denote a process or act with civil or spiritual implications.

– What charges you to perform?
I do performance-based work because of the drive to share insights, embodied experiences and meanings with others, and by doing so, help to create a more resilient, loving and inclusive world. In my art practice I create uncommon encounters, performative events and sensuous situations as I believe in the power of lived experience. My aim is to create spaces of communion with unknown others and the more-than-human world, where life-enriching behaviours can be expressed and practised.

– Are your performances really personal to you?
No, never. First of all, I see the entire idea of personality as a discursive construct of (post)modern times. The conception of individuals as distinct, autonomous subjects is part of the ideology of consumerism and has served to legitimate and fuel capitalism, globalization and technocentrism. The personality-based perspective has detached us from both nature and community, where the major resources are available to anyone, usually free of charge.

KnowThyself, art intervention by Jatun Risba in the EU parliament in Strasbourg

In addition to that, having a woman body and being an economically precarious individual, other mechanisms have to be considered when addressing privateness. There is a tendency to trivialise and reposition the actions and words of underprivileged individuals and social groups into the domestic/private sphere. This manoeuvre discredits their civil and political impact and massage the status quo of political and economic impairment. Every time the work of marginalized people is described as ‘personal’, the truth about who our ancestors were and who we are gets neglected.

About my art, the less of myself is present (the more dilated my consciousness), the better the work. My art practice is all about self-witdrawal. It is an exercise in overcoming the selfish ego-centeredness and finding the courage and humility of being interconnected with the lives of the human and more than human around us. I cannot escape from my history and ancestors, but trance (an exploded state of consciousness) enables me to make a step further and reach a zone where I can touch the perspective of eternity – sub specie aeternitatis.

– While you are performing do you feel like you trance out?
Being in trance is not something that “strikes me”, that occurs unexpectedly. For me, entering in the state of trance or hyper-awareness is a precondition for art and a sort of ethical obligation. It allows me to tap into the collective, where thought and time are suspended. The trance state I am speaking about and practising is a controlled one.

Maya Deren, Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti, 1985, film still. Courtesy the artist.

Often people have the idea that trance is one thing and that every kind of trance will produce the same kinds of effects, and that’s just simply not true. To clarify my words, I can introduce the horse metaphor used by indigenous, shamanistic societies in regards to spirit possession. The spirit is said to mount the host (who is likened to a horse or some other beast of burden). The horse can take possession and control of the host and carry her on a wild ride. In this case we are dealing with “primitive trance” and the expression “trance out” makes me think of this quality of trance.

However, with training, the host is able to take the reins of her life into her hand. In this case I talk about “controlled trance”. You surrender yourself completely to the unpredictability of the trance experience but maintain a watchful eye on the process. This means that you are hyper-present, both internally and externally, which is a different process than “spacing out”.

– Do you think other performance artists experience this too? (if yes, why?)
Many artists, not only performance art practitioners, experience or aim to experience an exploded state of consciousness while doing art. I can support this statement by quoting the British painter Alan Davie who said that one should empty oneself and let the painting made itself at the right moment, and that an image ‘must happen in spite of me rather than because of me’. To me his words describe the ultimate feeling of being in the flow and such transportation is possible only when experiencing trance.

Alan Davie. Photo: Lukas Gimpel

The visual artist Matt Mullican, who regularly does performances in a hypnotic-trance state, offers another valuable account on the issue. “I’m drawing pictures and I’m writing words but clearly I’m accessing the trance state here, because it’s just crazy what’s coming up. (…) A writer, a composer, a painter, a dancer, an actor – they all do this. (…) in a way they are putting themselves in an alternative state of mind just through the concentration of working. But everybody does this (…) when talking on the phone, driving a car (…) when you are multi-tasking. When your brain is doing lots of things at once, how can you carry on all those parallel activities?”. (Matt Mullican: That Person’s Workbook, 2007, pg. 738)

I am tempted to say that the idea of art itself grew out of a transcendental experience. Famous performance artists who work with trance are Ron Athey, Marina Abramović, Martin O’Brien, Lone Twin … All physically demanding practices bring you into a “survivalist trance” as trance is a natural mechanism of the thinking-body to cope with extreme fatigue. Repetitive movements, words and sounds produce a narrowing of attention that also leads to trance.

Performance by Martin O’Brien, Taste of Flesh / Bite Me I’m Yours, 2015

– What do you think is the link between performance art and experiencing such transportation?
There is no direct link between performance art and trance. I think that all (art) activities can transmute into a trance-like experience under certain circumstances. It depends on the use of your body-mind as well as on your motivation and preparation (training). In my opinion art shall recuperate its ancestral role as a spiritual agency – an agnostic one – and by doing so, offer and hold a space for transcendental experiences of the self.

– Do you think science could explain this phenomenon?
Science can surely provide an insight about the changes in the electrical oscillations that occur in the brain during trance. A good amount of research has been done on this matter in the last decades. Dr. Richard Davidson is the neuroscientist who started studying the effects of meditation on the body-mind with Buddhist monks who are long-term meditation practitioners. Through his researches he learned things about neuroplasticity, which were very new at the time for the entire field of neuroscience. To give another, less known example of scientific studies on trance, the anthropologist Dr. Felicitas Goodman conducted laboratory tests with EEG in the 1990’s that captured relevant differences in the electric activity of the brain between meditative and ecstatic trance states of consciousness.

Richard Davidson, Photo by Jeff Miller, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Nevertheless, we are still far from understanding the effects of trance on our thinking-bodies and maybe we will never be able to fully comprehend them scientifically. The methodology of science has to become less dogmatic to begin with. Only then, I think, science will manage to embrace trance and other subtle phenomena on a deeper and vaster scale.



Jatun Risba’s actio ‘Fortune’ enriches the gaming exhibition ICE London 2019. The work raises the question: “Can we devise and play games where all are winners?”


EXCEL LONDON, UK, – February 5,6 & 7, 2019 –

At the exhibition ICE London 2019, the world’s largest gathering of Gaming professionals, Jatun Risba will hunt and share a fortune with a durational art piece that stops time.

The artist Jatun Risba will perform ‘Fortune’ every day starting 11:00 and continuing until the public closure of the show (at 18:00 on Tue/Wed and at 16:00 on Thu). The total duration of the work, divided into the three days of gaming exhibition, will amount to 19 hours of performance.

Jatun Risba will wear a gold full-body catsuit and will carry a black travel case in the hands. The costume and the physical actions will capture visitors’ attention. After identifying “the right spot”, Jatun Risba will collapse onto the floor, open the travel case over the head and wash the face off under a stream of casino chips. The artist will then remain lying still on the floor, immobile, like a showpiece for the rest of day.


In the work ‘Fortune’ Jatun Risba ponders – : “What is a fortune? Your thinking-body is gold, yet you take it for granted or overidentify with it. Attachment to external goods causes a loss of sight and balance. How can you cultivate a fortune within? What is the path to your treasure house of infinity?”

The work stages an opposition between the material appeal of (shiny, vertical and tactile) casino currency and the detached anonymity of money. Both currencies have no intrinsic value in themselves, yet have a tremendous impact on our lives. The actio ‘Fortune’ explores how we can embody, create and share a fortune in healthy and responsible ways?



Jatun Risba is a London based Slovenian artist who has extensively exhibited, lectured and performed internationally: in Slovenia, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Spain, USA, Mexico; ‘Fortune’ is the first work presented in United Kingdom. Jatun Risba uses the pronoun “ki” which acknowledges and honours the beingness of all (living) matter. More information about Risba’s work can be found at



Telephone/WhatsApp: +386-51-776-933 (Jatun Risba)
Email Address:

Looking Back to See the Future

Activities in UK

In November 2018 Jatun Risba moved to London and started a self-directed research residency at Live Arts Development Agency – LADA about the use, role and technique of Trance in Contemporary Live Arts, as well as a Diploma course in hypnotherapy with Dr. John Butler at the HTI. Hypnotherapy Training International.

Activities in Italy

In February 2019 the work Not an Adolescent Girl will be part of the art exhibition Stand for Girls, curated by Elisabetta Longari, at Fabbrica del Vapore, Milano. In July and August 2019, Risba will be an Artist in Residence at the STEAM Atelier in Lecce for a field research about taranta and the production of a new performance-based intermedia work ‘Heallo’. Jatun Risba was invited to participate at the Artperformingfestival, curated by Gianni Nappa, that will be held at PAN Palazzo delle Arti Napoli between the 20th of July and the 2nd of August 2019.

Activities in France

Jatun will return to Strasbourg, France in March to give a performative lecture at the University of Fine Arts about trance and to lead a workshop of Interesse dance.

Activities in Slovenia

In November 2019, the work ‘Heallo’ will be launched at the 20th edition of the Festival of Contemporary Art Practices PIXXELPOINT 2019, curated by Peter Purg, in Nova Gorica.



The text “Performerka kot umetnica sebstva” (Rethinking the performer as an Artist of Self) by Jatun Risba was included in the MA thesis in Acting “Performans in Umetnost Sebstva (Počivaj v miru)” by Žan Perko (Supervisor: Branko Šturbej) at the Academy for Theatre, Radio, Film, TV (AGRFT) in Ljubljana.

Read an extract from the text below or find the full article at 



Jatun Risba deluje kot sodobna umetnica in raziskovalka spremenjenih ravni zavesti. Je učenka Eugenia Barbe in dobra poznavalka tretjega gledališča. Umetnosti sebstva (Arts of Self) so iniciativa, ki namerava prevetriti dispozitiv sodobne umetnosti ter v njem in zunaj njega ustvariti nov, »tretji« prostor, za razvoj in organizacijo umetnic sebstva. Umetnosti sebstva v kulturni prostor vnašajo večjo mero kompleksnosti in etične odgovornosti, za dobrobit in ko-evolucijo (coevolution) vseh bitij. Na moj poziv je pripravila strnjen opis korpusa umetnosti sebstva z refleksijo o priložnostih, ki jih omenjena metodologija prinaša (tudi) na področje uprizoritvenih umetnosti. Besedilo datira v leto 2018. Zapisani izrazi v slovnični obliki ženskega spola veljajo za vse spole.

Umetnice sebstva so posameznice, ki jih ni strah biti Nihče; 

Umetnice sebstva so po-sam-eznice, ki so na svoji poti samospoznavanja in osamosvajanja, voljne živeti ‘brez’ (pričakovanj, prisile, mask …), ‘onkraj’ (dobrega in zla, identitetnih fanatizmov, dualizma …), ‘zunaj’ (družbenih konvencij, meja razuma, con udobja … ), ‘znotraj’ (konflikta, paradoksa, liminalnega …) in ‘na robu'(dovoljenega, sprejemljivega, poznanega …);

ki ljubijo čas, ko vdihnejo in potihnejo v svoje razmišljujoče telo (embodied mind) – takrat ga sprostijo (release) ter se mu prepustijo (letting-go); ko dopustijo, da slednje neustrašno spregovori: v gibu, v glasu, v besedi, s prezenco … ker je ONO na delu; medtem racijo (korteks) nedejavno, a čuječno, bdi.

ONO = sebstvo; predindividualno razmišljujoče telo v stanju prevzetosti (persuasione).

Neoperativno stanje zavesti umetnice sebstva je plod nevsakdanje (izredne) kvalitete občutja.  Pretok zavesti variira glede na stopnjo človekove pripravljenosti. Umetnica sebstva, ki deluje kot performerka, senzibilne dražljaje (impulze) interne in eksterne narave sprotno prevaja v vidno in čutno materijo. Vsebina in oblika prevoda (aktualizacija impulza) sta rezultat združitve umetnice sebstva (njene materialne in duhovne kulture,  osebne zgodovine in biološke sestave) s snovnostjo specifičnih, tukaj-zdaj okoliščin.

Training with Žan Perko (left) and Jatun Risba at AGRFT, Ljubljana

O pripravništvu umetnic sebstva

V vajeniški fazi se opisani proces prevajanja (resoniranja) impulzov izreka v nebrzdani opitosti (divji, neukročeni trans). Izvajalka se prepušča sproščanju energijskih zamotkov: telesnih, čustvenih, mentalnih … Na ta način razkriva in transformira svoja skladišča emocij in preživetih travm ter ustvarja prostor za nove vsebine in bolj sintropično urejeno konfiguracijo organizma. Spremenjeno stanje zavesti oziroma trans deluje kot katalizator visokofrekvenčnih energij, ki podpirajo zdravljenje in osvobajanje.  Z uporabo transa umetnica sebstva spontano in samostojno ozavešča, preobrača in nevtralizira svojo patološko (nasilno) obliko biti.

Začetni trening umetnosti sebstva temelji na vajah v umiranju ega (transcendentiranje iluzornih podob samega sebe) skozi gib, glas, misli in zaznavanje. Razmišljujoče telo umetnice sebstva je potrebno pripraviti in privaditi na sprejemanje bolj kompleksnih in bolj subtilnih kvalitet bivanja. Učenje umetnosti sebstva poteka preko treningov in dela na sebi. Oboje zahteva pripravljenost soočanja s samim s seboj (svojimi miselnimi, vedenjskimi, čustvenimi vzorci in telesnimi blokadami). Z redno kultivacijo sebstva, se sposobnost prevajanja (artikuliranja) impulzov v čutno prepoznavne oblike (o)krepi. Ko vajenka »udomači« stanje transa do te mere, da začne z njim zavestno upravljati, se njena faza pripravništva zaključi. Umetnica sebstva lahko zatem samostojno raziskuje in uporablja potencialnost te oblike življenja in pripadajočega umetniškega (performativnega) jezika.

Tekom prakse umetnica sebstva ozavesti lego svojih vrelcev življenjske energij (chi) in udomači njihovo delovanje. Umetnost sebstva je oblika življenja, ki je usmerjena k razkrivanju resnice (alétheia). Razlika med vajenko in mojstrico umetnosti sebstva se kaže v kvaliteti doživljanja »onega«: stanja pred-individualnosti oziroma sebstva.  Gre za ravni človeške zavesti, ki jih na Zahodu najpogosteje označujemo kot ‘spremenjena stanja zavesti’ (ASC: altered states of consciousness). Na Vzhodu je tradicija (materialna kultura) uporabe in raziskovanja meditativnih stanj človeške zavesti bogatejša. Budizem pozna kar osem različnih stanj oziroma oblik meditativne zavesti (rupajhana). V Hinduizmu je najvišje stanje meditativne zavesti  doseženo ob spoju sebstva z vseprisotno Enostjo (atman).

Vsakdo je umetnica sebstva, potencialno. Da bi človek svojo prirojeno potencialnost (dynamis) udejanjil (energheia), potrebuje pot (tao). Trening umetnosti sebstva nudi različne poti k tej izredni,  celostni kvaliteti in obliki življenja.



Not an Adolescent Girl

Vivid eyes in a place


                          wide open …


A new Arts of Self work by Jatun Risba that nurtures and nourishes the spirits of oppressed adolescent girls beyond past and present. The first presentation of the project will occur at LaDIY*fest in Strasbourg, France as follows:


+ PRESENTATION (art installation)  When :  30th of August from 7 pm  Where : 1 rue Mercière

+ WORKSHOP  When : 31st of August  from 6 pm > 7.30 pm Where : 1 rue Mercière

+ PERFORMANCE (live actio) When : 1st of September from 7pm Where : 10 amant-e-s d’Or


The aim of the workshop is to collectively address the demons of adolescence − powers, energies, social constructs and behavioral patterns − we were subjected to in our puberty. After an open dialogue about our teenage experiences, the participants will go through the process of Feeding your demons, developed by Lama Tsultrim Allione, in order to embody, feed and free the manifested energies.


The live actio will be streamed on the project’s fb page. Like the page to easily follow the updates of the project. 

MRI MS is landing in Salento

Recently, Jatun Risba spent 4 days in Salento, the “heel” of the Italian “boot”,  for a quick survey of the territory and its majestic material culture. Her first encounter with this land, its ancient folk traditions and its open, hospitable inhabitants, was extremely inspiring and rewarding. From September 2018 on, she will undertake an Artist in Residence program at STEAM Atelier in Lecce that will be divided into slots spread over a minimum of 12 months.The residency will allow Jatun to continue the field research about traditional possession rituals and passage rites, a study she had started in Ethiopia back in 2015, as well as to create and present new developments of her life-long Intermedia Art project MRI MS. My Resting In Myself Sane.

Before each new Art event, an open steam lab (promoted by STEAM Atelier & Fab Lab Lecce Knos) will be held, during which the basis of the technological know-how employed in the project will be openly shared and collectivized with the local community. This is how people attending the workshops will immediately become an active part of the project and its organization in a decentralized modality of work.

Salento is the land of the Taranta, the Dance of the Spider, an ancient dancing healing ritual. During her recent short stay in Apulia, Jatun spent almost two full days in Galatina, the birthplace of the phenomenon of Tarantism. To get an idea of what tarantism was about, here is the documentary La taranta produced by Gianfranco Mingozzi:

The recordings from the docu-film were made inside the Chapel of St Paul in Galatina, the place where the first manifestationts of taranta occurred. The narrative of taranta tells us that it is only San Paolo (the Saint depicted on the altar in the photo bellow), who can release the “tarantata” from the malady caused by the spider bite and it is to San Paolo that the victim appeals for release during her ritual dancing.

However, the material culture of our time offers us a much different milieu in which to operate and the remedies for establishing an empowering life within a healthy community, should differ drastically from the ones used in pre-industrial agricultural societies. But how and what for?

Like the Fb pages STEAM Atelier and MRI MS. My Resting In Myself Sane in order to be informed about the future steps of this inspiring journey.  “Ahi!”

Fresh beginnings and My Resting In Myself Sane

In December 2017, the long-term art project MRI MS (2015-) has reached a turning point. With the work MRI MS_Vanitas. Life in motion the deconstruction of the author’s self was considered completed. After that, the project’s name MRI MS is being spelled-out  “My Resting In Myself Sane”.

Photos of MRI MS_Vanitas by Miha Godec.

Jaz kot prevara (The I as scam)

If you are familiar with Slovene language, you can take a read of the article Jaz kot prevara (The I as scam) written by Blaž Lukan about Jatun Risba’s performance Exercises in Dying . The piece was published in Revija Dialogi (3/4, 2017):