Katalin Ladik

The Voice of a Woman

Venue: acb Gallery, acb NA
Date: Apr 29 – Jun 02, 2016

A radical woman performer active in the Yugoslav as well as the Hungarian avant-garde, Katalin Ladik is perhaps the greatest rediscovery of recent years. Her visual and sound poetry, performances, and body art are based on the intermedial reinterpretation of body and language, sound and visuality. A retrospective selection of Katalin Ladik’s art is now presented by acb Gallery in two venues.

Katalin Ladik started her career as a poet and through the publication of her poetry in the second half of the sixties, she got in touch with the circle around Új Symposion, the only Hungarian language avant-garde journal of Vojvodina. Serving as a space for avant-garde discourse, the intellectual environment of the journal had a catalytic role in the literary and artistic progress of the period.

From around 1960-62, the very beginning of Ladik’s career, a fundamental aspect of her poems was their chantability, and by the end of the sixties, phonic poetry and performance had unequivocally become her most important genres. Katalin Ladik was the first woman performer in Yugoslavia to use her own body in performances as an autonomous medium equivalent to text and sound. Her famous bagpipe performance in 1970 was not merely a major moment in Eastern European actionism and a scandalous event in the stiffening Yugoslav political atmosphere, but it also set irreversible processes in motion in the history of the emancipation of not just the Yugoslav, but, as relations between the two scenes had intensified, also the Hungarian avant-garde.

From the seventies, a central element in Katalin Ladik’s performances was the reflection on the woman’s role. Sometimes almost completely naked, other times concealed by costumes, masks and props, her body and the ritual series of actions carried out by it, or the elements referring to sewing and tailoring in her collages used as scores for her vocal performances, all questioned several aspects of the traditional female roles constructed by the male-dominated society. Ladik’s feminist approach enriched the avant-garde discourse with a radically new position not only in Yugoslavia, but – owing to her regular performances and the unofficial network of avant-garde art – in Hungary as well.

The exhibition The Voice of a Woman presents a selection of the still active artist’s creative period spanning from the late sixties until the mid-eighties. Disjointed yet not disassociated, the two exhibitions in the spaces of the acb Gallery and the NA Gallery focus on different media in Katalin Ladik’s art. The exhibition in acb Gallery introduces Ladik’s emblematic performances and body art pieces primarily in the form of photographic documents, from her early surrealistic-erotic performances through the Poemim series to her also poetically inclined Mandora performance from 1985. NA Gallery presents a representative selection of the music scores, her typical intermedial genre which is a hybrid of actionism and music, as well as her reinterpreted collages referring back to the classical avant-garde. The two spaces are linked by an experimental film made by Katalin Ladik and Bogdanka Poznanovic in 1980, a motivic summary of the unified conception of sound poetry and visual art.

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