Organs Without Bodies: A Conversation With Jaša

Jaša with Etan Nechin. All photos by Rosa Lux.
Two people are sitting at the Pioneer Works art space, facing each other in front of two conjoined pianos. Above them, like a beacon, a mysterious elixir is floating in the air.
And then, there is a text:
“Inside this room, there is another room about it to take its shape…”
- Crystal C, 2014
CRYSTAL C, Pioneer Works Center for Art and Innovation, New York, 2014
Crystal C is the recent show of Slovenian installation and performance artist Jaša, a leader figure in the Ljubljana contemporary art scene and he has recently joined the Artist Pension Trust. He works in Ljubljana, Venice and now in New York with his second New York show in less than two years.
Sitting in vast space, now silent after a long day’s work, sharing a beer, the duet begins.
”The first thing I thought about is a boy sitting on a branch and cutting it. But he sits on the wrong side. He’s happy about his progress, but he falls in the end.”
Jaša explains that he intentionally plans traps for himself so he won’t be able to conclude. After the traps have been activated, he begins a new journey to redefine himself.
That’s why he doesn’t believe in “style” as a compass to guide his art; what seems to guide him is the search for an elusive truth.
 “Truth is ever in the making, ever evolving. There are elements that feel true.”
Even though he deals with magical elements, there is no magic to his work. No mystique. He treats his art as science. Empirical experiments based on his predecessors, a collection of smaller findings that can become bigger revelations. His work is alchemy, just like the Crystal-C, the mysterious elixir that “alchemizes both chemical and personal connections into new aesthetic relationships.”
Jaša is not a magician. He is, if you will, the mad scientist turned alchemist, concocting powerful potions in his laboratory.
“I hide myself in the projects. It’s not about the creator, but what can be seen.”
The performance allows him to disappear as an artist into the work, just like a scientist who tries to eliminate his influence on the data, but deep down knows that his presence shifts the compass towards him.
“Black pool of my consciousness (remember to look into it thoroughly). White clouds of my dreams.”
- Crystal C, 2014
“Churches used to scare me. The architecture that makes you feel miniscule, not only in the eyes of god, but in the eyes of fellow man. But then I realized that it was built with certain intention. So I started to research the intentions behind what’s being seen.”
Both in his writing and aesthetics, there is an attempt to look behind the curtain, to expose the inner workings of things that are normally hidden for our gaze – exemplified by a dialogue between unknown and undefined characters or a tree hung with its roots exposed.
CRYSTAL C, Pioneer Works Center for Art and Innovation, New York, 2014
His works do not reflect reality he says; it is reality in itself. However the mirror that reflects his reality, is made out of many shards, some reflecting outwards, and some reflecting back into other pieces. In that sense, being in his the spaces he creates is a kaleidoscopic experience – the normal objects of the world are morphed into fractured elements causing a blissful and rousing disorientation but every now and again we can see a whole object, an object that is completely new.
The experience of the final object is that of emotion distilled into material, into a space.
The spaces in which we reside, love, die or “throw dishes at each other” were created by someone else, thus there are limitations that are not only brought on by the architecture, but by the architect’s emotional space, as well as our own. Architecture is the limitation of thought as movements are the limitations of the body.
When he comes into a space, he acknowledges the limitations and the mistakes, and aims to work with those confinements to create a space that is completely his own. That is why he does not create works in spaces; he creates spaces from his own work.
In this, the search for the “elixir” is the attempt to overcome these limitations, to shatter architectural limitation and to manipulate brain synapses not in order to reveal cyphered truths, but a unique space, “a portrait, seen by my eyes, of a certain era, the exact emotion I would like to convey.”
Within these walls in which we enter, we enter a play already in a second act, and we are participants, even if unaware.
 ACT 3
“Here I can lie down as a giant, among cousins and brothers. As we drew swords I accidentally cut somebody’s head off.”
- Crystal C, 2014
CRYSTAL C, Pioneer Works Center for Art and Innovation, New York, 2014
There is a sense of mythology; romantic stories that tell basic human stories, and “become monumental and richer as time goes by.” He likes big stories because he argues that “we love to feel monumental.” But his mythology is never concluded, the moral of the stories are never set, the endings stay open-ended to allow new ideas, sublime inspiration, because when mythology is set, the gates of Olympus are closed.
The characters in his mythologies consist of objects and humans. Although there is a seemingly precarious nature to the way they are assembled, they are directed by him to trigger very specific emotions and sensations.
The litmus test is the public’s reactions as they go through the space. He observes his work from a bird’s eye view, or from the DJ booth, observing people as they move and interact with elements of the installation. He seemingly controls every aspect of that interaction, because art for him can be about “smearing your disorientation in a certain space.” But he constantly manipulates the objects, the music, and the lights, to perfect the formula, to distil his ideas, in order to create a true exultation of spirit.
“Caught in the mist of creation, I levitate in my thoughts. I'm borrowing joys and fears from the mornings we were unable to see the trembling picture in front of our eyes.”
-Crystal C, 2014
Texts, music and collaborations are crucial to guide the fragmented narratives in Jaša’s work. For instance, instead of using a formed write-up, which explains his point of view and situates his work within the confinements of art criticism and history, Jaša utilizes the manifesto as another space to expand on his ideas, creating variations on themes touched on in his visual work. Here, again, Jaša is manipulating space; seeing the page as another object which he shapes as he pleases. By involving a writing partner, a female, Jaša blurs the line of ownership, since we never identify the speaker, its gender or its point of view. The mirror works again, this time in a refractive manner, creating an optical illusion of textual form, but leaving it adrift on the page.
CRYSTAL C, Pioneer Works Center for Art and Innovation, New York, 2014
Musical collaborations are another way of creating a debate about ownership. Jaša’s purpose is not to be a “bad boy,” but to create things with a direct, methodical intent. That’s why he’s comfortable in creating an orbit of collaborators around him, because in the end he is the one who pulls the strings. Like a master of illusions, his biggest trick is to convince us that he’s not there.
But he is there – in the music, in his texts, the objects, the characters and in the viewer.
“The Tree”
In the center of Pioneer Works, a tree is hung by its branches. “Guardians” come by every 20-minutes and spray its roots with a cool mist of water.
CRYSTAL C, Pioneer Works Center for Art and Innovation, New York, 2014
This seemingly trivial, almost hidden action can be seen as the distillation of Jaša’s philosophy. As he describes it, art is about “living it. Again, this is not a reflection of reality, but reality in itself.”
It’s about rigorous discipline, the idea of waking up and doing, with thought, with crystalized intention. It’s about a picture appearing in the middle of the night, then molding it into reality the next morning. It’s spirit turned to matter, a tautological ongoing experiment, a recurring variation on limitation of process. But there is an exit, not a romantic, escapist, fantasy, but a calculated formula that aims to set him free.
“They think it is some kind of a wall, a barrier I should push through. And you know what, I prefer throwing chunks of feathery clouds in their faces...
-Crystal C
And that is the crux of it – the undying yearning to break away, to take flight, let his ideas live, to change, but most importantly, to drift through different people, mediums and spaces.
Article written by Etan Nechin