Lora Sana: I Was There and Not There by Carola Dertnig presents the fictive figure of Lora Sana, age 62, “the lost female Viennese Actionist.” Conceived especially for presentation in the galleries at CCS Bard, Lora Sana: I Was There and Not There consists of a commissioned performance by Dertnig on March 8, 2009 and a gallery-based installation.
Lora Sana is the result of Carola Dertnig’s longstanding interest in Viennese Actionism and the ways in which the female participants in this movement have been historically marginalized as passive “models” instead of active collaborators. Spanning the years 1962-1968, Actionism was a provocative performance movement with roots in postwar gestural abstraction (Action Painting) that sought to transgress the conservative Viennese social climate by using the body as material in violent, explicit, sometimes sexual Aktions. It followed the activities of the literary avant-garde Wiener Gruppe, a group of 1950s poets who tackled subjects such as the trauma of war and psychosexual oppression. Despite their willingness to subvert social taboos, however, the male Actionists (Günther Brus, Otto Muehl, Hermann Nitsch and Rudolf Schwarzkogler) reaped the credit as the canonized leaders of this art-historical movement, while the work of the women involved remained under-privileged.
After conducting interviews in 2005 with several female participants from this movement, Dertnig created the fictional artist “Lora Sana.” Based on these interviews and appropriated photographic and filmic documents related to Actionism, Lora Sana exists as a type of filter through which Dertnig enacts a feminist performative rewriting of art history. Lora Sana, as both “author” and subject of these textual, photographic and performance works, blurs the line between fact and fiction and challenges the processes of linear history writing.