This exhibition of Katalin Ladik, the exceptional, yet, overlooked artist, whose significance we only began to appreciate in the past few years, is focused on her poetic experiments, on the intersection of the voice, the body, meaning and record. The Screaming Hole is based on works in which Ladik confronts the paradox of the voice as the intersection of language and the body, belonging to neither, yet, serving as the site of their encounter.
It is no coincidence that poetry marked the very beginnings of Katalin Ladik’s versatile artistic trajectory; in terms of the taxonomy of artistic fields, she might be described as a poet, visual artist, actress. Slovene philosopher Mladen Dolar underlines poetry as precisely the field in which the causality of the voice and meaning – in which the voice ought to represent the means and meaning the end – crumbles. Namely, the poetic effect relies precisely on the excess of the voice over meaning, that is, the voice whose meaning exceeds the intended meaning. Katalin Ladik radically explores this dimension of the “emancipation of the bearer” in her work, in both possible incarnations: as visual poetry, in which text in its formality prevails over meaning, and as phonic poetry, in which the voice is radically opposed to the procedure of signification. Yet the tension between the voice, which is now the bearer of expression that exceeds meaning, and meaning, which makes this expression possible to begin with, is now in the centre of attention, for “the meaning of the voice” can only be established with the signifier as a boundary that must be transcended.
With respect to the body, the voice assumes the same relation of (non)belonging, which establishes the next important field of Katalin Ladik’s poetic experiments. The voice derives from the body, yet, it immediately separates from it; it is always, as Dolar states, an effect emancipated from its cause, so that between its source and its audible effect there is always a caesura, which seems insurmountable. Eventually, this non-coincidence manifests itself in acousmatism, the impossibility of pinning the voice to its source. The source can be traced to the oral cavity, for its actual origin in the assumed interior is not accessible to us. The Screaming Hole (and here the title chose itself, so to speak) denotes the spot where our gaze stops, which is magnificently demonstrated in the photo performance Poemim, in which the glass barrier represents the last line of defence against the threatening gap. What we see is a peculiar alphabet of a sculptured face, the silent visualisation of the voice that has remained trapped behind the glass barrier. In general, Katalin Ladik seems to bring to its climax Žižek’s thesis that each emission of sound is accompanied by a “minimum of ventriloquism”, for the unbridled archaic powers of her phonic performances can hardly be related to their source, the slender poet in front of us; rather, they seem to be mediated by a certain inner Other.
Precisely the problem of capturing this broken causality, which ties the voice to language on the one hand and to the body on the other hand, is key to Katalin Ladik. Her scores, collages and poems are actual attempts to confront this excessive meaning, on which poetry and singing are based, yet, without locking it into a code which, despite being different from the linguistic code, is still something that can be generalised and repeated, which takes away the power of the excessive effect. This precisely is what Katalin Ladik is trying to avoid by constantly inventing new scripts, visualisations, which by no means strive for universalisation, for the validity of their code is fragile: their “execution” is case-sensitive; it can change depending on the circumstances of the execution. Therefore, the emphasis is on maintaining the asemantic use of the voice sculpting the body and extending it through space, and at the same time on the constant preservation of a certain incompletion, on a constant fluctuation between visually, sonically or bodily grounded artistic practice. The works are not exhausted in one medium; rather, they always point to their other media potential: collages are not just visual poetry, but rather scores for an acoustic event; and phonopoetry does not just contain the typical ritual and archaic sounds, rather, it flows into action in which the body directly becomes an instrument.
The Screaming Hole depicts the space of impossible relations, the interrupted junctions of the interior and the exterior, the subject and the Other, the body and language. Katalin Ladik’s poetic experiment persists in this tension and refuses to cast it in a definite form, a different, more complex language; rather, it follows it in its fluid passage through a range of unstable scripts.
Curated by: Vladimir Vidmar
14th December, at 6 pm: Guided tour of the show
Acknowledgments: Emese Kürti, acb Gallery
photo © Dejan Habicht