»Poetry is a universal language that transcends the boundaries of mediums«

Interview with Katalin Ladik

1 July, 2024 | Lisa Nolte

Portrait von Katalin Ladik
©Éva Szombat

In her works, Katalin Ladik explores language through visual and vocal expression, movement and gestures. As one of the few female protagonists of the artistic avant-garde in the former Yugoslavia of the 1960s/70s, she established herself as a pioneer of acoustic poetry with her radical approach. In its 2024 edition the Heroines of Sound Festival puts a spotlight on her work. field notes editor Lisa Nolte exchanged emails with Katalin Ladik about her working methods and her view on the role of poetry today.

When crossing the bridge to the city center of Swansea the visitor will be welcomed by a gigantic billboard that reads: »More Poetry Is Needed.« (1) Recently there have been a remarkable number of exhibitions showcasing your work extensively. Could this need for poetry, for a critical art that finds ways of expression beyond slogans, be a reason for this? Would you subscribe to the claim »More Poetry Is Needed.«?

Obviously, I agree that more poetry is needed. Poetry has a unique way of capturing and conveying reality, going beyond slogans and superficial expressions. However, I find that the increased demand for poetry has found new publishing forms on the internet and in »live« poetry evenings, such as »slam poetry«. The latter has been hugely popular for decades. In recent years, there has indeed been increased interest in my work, which may be due to people's growing desire for deeper, more thoughtful artistic expressions.

In your works you utilise the entire spectrum of media: you create installations and video works; you use collage techniques, photos or metals to create images that you call visual poetry and then employ as graphic scores for your vocal performances. Would you say that poetry is still the focal point of your art?

For me, poetry is the most authentic and perfect form of expression. In all my works, I strive to convey this authenticity and diversity, whether it be linear (i.e., written) poetry, visual art, sound poetry, or performance. Poetry is a universal language that transcends the boundaries of mediums and speaks directly to the human soul and the subconscious.

You have repeatedly worked in collectives, such as the music ensemble Spiritus Noister or the artist group Bosch+Bosch. At the Heroines of Sound Festival, you will also be presenting works that were created in collaboration with other artists: The video work »O-pus«, which you developed together with Attila Csernik and Imre Póth in 1972, and the performance »Desire for Entanglement«, which you will premiere together with the singer Natalia Pschenitschnikova. What is it that appeals to you about collaborative creation processes? What did this process with Natalia Pschenitschnikova look like and how did the collaboration between the two of you come to be?

The most exciting aspect of collective creative processes is that different perspectives and experiences meet, enriching the creation. In my collaboration with Natalia Pschenitschnikova, we mutually inspired each other and created a work that reflects both of our artistic worlds. During the collaboration, we engaged in an open dialogue, which allowed our individual ideas to be realized in our joint creation.

In your new performance »Membrane Universe« your own life experiences play an important role. At the same time, you will be performing at the festival along with vocal artists of other generations such as Ira Hadžić and Swantje Lichtenstein, and you work as a teacher yourself. How do you assess the impact and significance of working with such direct media as voice and body today? Have the possibilities of such a way of working changed compared to when »O-pus« was created, for example?

Sound and the body have always been direct and powerful mediums for me in artistic expression. Over the years, with technological advancement, new possibilities have opened up, but the essence has not changed: my poems, my voice, and my body remain fundamental tools in conveying emotions and thoughts. Since »O-pus«, my working methods have become more refined and sophisticated, but my fundamental goal remains unchanged: to be authentic, to create a deep and honest connection with my readers and audience.

One of Heroines of Sound's credos is: »Feminist, diverse, and interdisciplinary, the festival supports the presence of women and non-binary – FLINTA* in the art and music worlds, and makes the connections between different genres tangible.« How do you position your work in this context?

In my poetry and performances, I have always strived to break through traditional genre and gender boundaries. I believe that art can play a strong role in promoting social change, thus I am glad to present my work within a genre and generation spanning festival. Moreover Heroines of Sound supports this diversity and inclusivity in the world. My art is also based on these themes and values, and I hope that I can contribute to greater visibility and recognition for women and non-binary artists in society.

(1) »More Poetry Is Needed« is a work by Jeremy Deller that was created in 2014 to mark the 100th birthday of the Swansea-born writer Dylan Thomas.

  • Interview
  • Interview
  • Katalin Ladek
  • Heroines of Sound

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