Katalin Ladik

© Sina Lynn Sachse


Katalin Ladik was born in 1942 in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia. Growing up in a multiethnic, multilingual and multicultural environment, her creative imagination in literature (poetry and fiction writing), in fine arts (visual works, visual scores), in sound poetry, in radio plays and in performances has been fuelled by the diverse cultural landscape and many-faceted folk tradition. She has seventeen published books of poetry in Hungarian and twelve poetry books of her have been translated into various languages. Her visual poetry collage series can be found in Museum of Modern Art New York; Tate Gallery, London; Kontakt Collection of Erste Group, Vienna; MACBA, Barcelona; Museum Sztuki, Lodz; Ludwig Museum, Budapest; Verbund Collection, Vienna; Contemporary Collection of Hungarian National Gallery; acb Gallery in Budapest. She was discovered and recognized internationally at the International Festival of Sound Poetry in Amsterdam, 1977; Centre Pompidou, Paris, 1980; International Sound Poetry Festival, New York City and Baltimore, 1980; documenta 14 Kassel, Athens (2017).

Katalin Ladik: drei eier
By Florian Neuner

Katalin Ladik has been performing her sound poetry on stage for decades and is a performer displaying a great use of voice and body. Her first book of poems, Ballada az ezüstbicikliről (Ballad of the Silver Bicycle), published in 1969, included a record. This was an attempt to develop a kind of “meta-language” to convey its poetic message, because the Hungarian minority in Yugoslavia at the time had little hope of finding translators. Based on graphic scores or conventional poems (on paper), Ladik gives brilliant speaking concerts in which improvisation also finds its space. Thus it is an unusual step for her to deliver a piece from her hand, as it were, and to notate or score it for performers. The piece drei eier (three eggs) consists of three sections in which the greatly reduced linguistic material is drawn from one each of the three languages German, Serbian, and Hungarian, featuring short words, syllables, and exclamations that are constantly repeated.

Excerpt from the score drei eier by Katalin Ladik

Ladik, who also performs as an actress, directs this speech opera and encourages the ensemble to engage in theatrical gestures to an unusual extent (and beyond what is noted in the score) – something that proves a balancing act for non-actors. In her accompanying text she writes that she conceived the three speaking voices as “characters”: The female voice is “curious, enthusiastic, sensitive, and extroverted,” the high male voice she imagines as that of an “understanding and just” teacher or judge who cannot always control “his strong emotions,” whereas the deep male voice stands for sarcasm and irony. The egg is of course symbolically charged, and for Ladik represents a “humorous metaphor.” With respect to the artist active across media, Marta Dziewańska writes: “Movement is the basis of Katalin Ladik’s work. All of the artist’s works are in motion, in flux, in change; imitation, representation and narratives are completely absent. Even the direction of the movement remains open (every specification would be the equivalent of a fetter), and it changes dynamically and conquers everything on its way.” In her “drei eier” piece, she successfully transfers this energy to the sprechbohrer ensemble.