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Katalin Ladik

From Unearthing The Music

Katalin Ladik 2015-09-26 Bw.jpg

Katalin Ladik (b. 1942) was an animated and sometimes controversial spirit in the neoavant-garde in Yugoslavia before the country’s collapse in 1992. Her output includes a novel, poetry, sound poems, graphic scores, performances and happenings. She has enjoyed close working relations with musicians, performing, for instance, with Dubravko Detoni and Milko Kelemen’s experimental music group ACEZANTEZ in the early 1970s. With his husband Ernő Király who was an experimental musician, they formed an artistic duo creating avant-garde pieces that had close ties to the local Balkan and Hungarian folk culture (about this collaboration please find an essay by Emese Kürti: Multi-etnicity and performative music. The collaboration between Katalin Ladik and Ernő Király at the blogsite of Unearthing the Music project). This collaboration survived even their marriage. Later in the decade, she had a role as a vocalist in a monumental performance of Kurt Schwitter’s ‘Ursonate’ (1979). Conducted in Belgrade by Oskar Danon, it involved four vocalists, four orchestras, banks of tympany augmented with tape music by Vladan Radovanović made from fragments of folk, electronic and pop music. Ladik is also a visual artist. A member of the Bosch + Bosch group in Novi Sad, she created collage graphic scores for what she called her phonopoetics in the early 1970s. Slicing material from glossy West German women’s magazines as well as other graphic materials including sewing patterns and stamps, Ladik produced powerful images for use in public performances, interpreting them in situ. As if employing the kinds of editing, pitch-stretching and duplicating techniques available in the studio, Ladik’s ‘natural’ voice seems strangely involuntary. Ladik was a celebrity in Yugoslavia. She performed naked, treating her body like as an instrument (running a primitive bow across her hair). When, in 1975, these performances attracted the attention of mass-market magazines, she was thrown out of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia for ‘immorality’. In the paradoxical fashion of Yugoslav socialism, she then becomes a star on state TV. Never a campaigning feminist, Ladik’s performances always put female subjectivity to the fore, often in uncompromising ways. In the past years, the attention of the art world toward the oeuvre of Katalin Ladik emerged exponentially, due to the rising interest for Eastern European neo-avantgarde and extraordinary artistic practices. In 2014, part of the rediscovery of her art, she was invited to participate at Documenta in Kassel, where she presented some of her phonic poems, objects and paintings. Since 2010s she had several group and solo shows in Hungary and abroad alike, and her pieces became part of the biggest art collections. Since the early 1990s Katalin Ladik has been living in Budapest.

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Glimpses from the history of the Eastern Bloc’s neo-avant-gardes: Katalin Ladik’s collage-portrait