Katalin Ladik comes from the multi-ethnic and multilingual Vojvodina region of the former Yugoslavia (now Serbia). During the Yugoslav Wars, she emigrated to Hungary. Since 1992, she has divided her time between Novi Sad (Serbia), Budapest (Hungary), and the island of Hvar (Croatia). In her work, using her body and voice as both instrument and medium, K. Ladik often reflects on her position as a Hungarian minority in Yugoslavia and a woman in a patriarchal society.
K. Ladik studied economics and was working as a bank assistant when she debuted as an artist with the publication of surreal, erotic poems in the avant-garde magazine Új Symposion [New symposium] in 1962. Considering herself primarily a poet, she constantly pushes the boundaries of poetry by seeking new bodily and vocal forms of expression. While working at Radio Novi Sad as a voice actress (1963-1977), K. Ladik developed a fascination for the recording studio equipment, especially the printed circuit boards. She transformed these into objects and used them as musical scores, for example in Genesis (1975/2016). Similarly, her multimedia performance Alice Kódországban [Alice in codeland, 2012-2017] was inspired by barcodes and QR codes and the secret, mystical information hidden inside their abstract forms.
Before joining the company of the newly founded Novi Sad Theatre in 1976 (remaining until 1992), she performed independently, creating her own live events. Blurring the boundaries between theatre and performance art, her sound poems feature her body, gestures, mimicry, and voice as metalanguage. She experiments with human vocalisations, including screaming, growling, chirping, intoning, and whispering. Movement and transformation are fundamental in her art: transitions from human to animal, as in her performance Tranzit Zoon [Transit area, 2015]; from life to death, as in Nagytakarítás [Spring cleaning, 2010-2018]; and from gendered to androgynous, as in Mandora (1983-1985). Another recurring motif in her works is the ritual of birth, as in Sámánének [Shaman poem, 1970], in which she appeared half-naked, performing a fertility ritual with a traditional Hungarian bagpipe. While provocative nakedness was a medium of subversion for her, she also worked with humour and the grotesque via pseudo-nudity in Blackshave Poem (1978-1979), a kind of anti-striptease performance in which black garments stood in for her naked body.
Sewing machines, scissors, and sewing patterns have always been both feminine and feminist metaphors for K. Ladik. Sewing pattern collages and sewn textiles made starting in the mid-seventies address relationships between visuality, sound, and the female body. She presented and performed with a 60-metre-long textile work, Gyere velem a Mitológiába [Follow me into mythology, 2017] at documenta 14 in Athens. Her recent work includes 3D collages for two series, Jakob and Dervish (both 2019), ‘sound-movements’ in which the body responds to sound and choreographs movement.
K. Ladik has received numerous awards, most notably the LennonOno Grant for Peace (2016). Her works can be found at the Tate Modern in London, MoMA in New York, MACBA in Barcelona and Ludwig Museum Budapest, among others.