The Ludwig Forum Aachen is pleased to present Ooooooooo-pus, the first major survey exhibition of Katalin Ladik (b. 1942 in Novi Sad) in Europe. Drawing on the artist’s lifelong interest in language, sound, and corporeality, the exhibition provides a first comprehensive overview of her works from the late 1960s to the present. With her radical approach to (sound) poetry and performance, Ladik established herself over the course of the 1960s and 1970s as one of the few female protagonists of the artistic avant-garde in former Yugoslavia. The multilingual and multiethnic context of her birthplace, Novi Sad (now Serbia), shapes her approach to language and poetry to this day. Her interest in the dissolution of language into individual phonemes and the sound resulting from that constitute the connecting element binding together the artist’s multifaceted collages, textile works, photographs, performances, and objects by means of the extraordinary range of her voice.
Katalin Ladik first developed a keen interest in language as an object in the course of the 1960s, and began in particular to place an emphasis on her poems’ visual and phonetic dimensions. Following the tradition of concrete poetry, she experimented with the visual appearance of individual words, letters, and punctuation marks to investigate the visual and sound qualities of language. These works at the beginning of the exhibition are presented alongside thirty collaged paper works, her so-called visual poems from the 1970s. These are image and text collages made of found materials such as newspaper clippings, sewing patterns, and music papers that also served the artist as musical scores that she performed with her voice. The titles of this ongoing series refer to Ladik’s essential themes that run through her artistic work through the present day: YU HYMN (1975), Polish Folk Song (1978) and Chanson en Rouge [Song in Red] (1974) signal, for example, her interest in examining folklore and national identity in conjunction with music and musical genres, while the use of knitting and sewing patterns in March of the Partizan Woman (1979) or Die Frauen [The Women] (1978) reveal Ladik’s critical examination of the representation of women and female roles that are handed down – aspects that also apply in her later works time and again.
Another focus of the exhibition is on the artist’s collaborative works and scores, such as, for instance, the transdisciplinary experimental film O-pus (1972), made in collaboration with the artists Attila Csernik and Imre Póth. Starting with the letter and phoneme “O,” which serves as the film’s main motif, the artists explore the relationship between visual effects and their reflections in sound. Photographs and ephemera for conceptual works such as Change Art (1975) attest in addition to Ladik’s growing interest in participatory practices and happenings. As part of the influential Bosch+Bosch artist group (1969-1976), which she belonged to from 1973, she played an important role within the “New Art Practice” (1966–1978) – an artistic movement that originated in a network of interconnected art initiatives in Yugoslavia, and was characterized by a broad conceptual approach that often materialized as collective actions.
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In Ooooooooo-pus, the scorings of Katalin Ladik’s visual poetry in the form of collages, photographs, objects, and textile works combine to form a self-contained soundscape, sustained by the artist’s voice. The title of the exhibition draws on the vinyl written score Ooooooooo-pus (2023), which was created for the exhibition and will be activated by the artist over the course of it.