March 8, 2009 - April 5, 2009
CCS Bard Galleries

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.


Rhythmically interspersing spoken-word performance and projected images, Dertnig’s performance will work to destabilize historical memory regarding Actionism.  The stage, constructed on-site, will stand as a mnemonic placeholder of the performance afterward, remaining in the space for the exhibition’s duration.  Dertnig’s performance contains three short “movements” related to the research on this ongoing project:

Lora Sana presents original and fictional documents related to Actionism. Dertnig performs a dialogue between interviewer (herself) and interviewee (Lora Sana), while images of Actionist performances are juxtaposed with “overdrawn” images from the Lora Sana series.

Dancereports, Happenings, Performances and Other Things moves into a meditation on Dertnig’s recent work on minimalist dance and alternative performance movements from the 1960s, where women played a role quite different from the victimization of Actionism.  Here, Dertnig enacts a spoken-word performance from an interview with the dancer Simone Forti.  Similar in tone and style to the rhythmical experiments of the Wiener Gruppe poets, Forti’s words describes a work performed in the Judson Dance Theatre in 1960s.  This New York-based dance troupe, led by both male and female artists including Forti, Trisha Brown and Yvonne Rainer, deconstructed the spectacularized hierarchy between performer and audience by performing everyday movements.  This democratic movement experiment provided a springboard for feminist action.

A Performance juxtaposes a series of collages created by Dertnig with photographic images, watercolor drawings, and stage plans from significant historic 1960s and 1970s performances.  This movement transitions into a dialogue about the performative nature of documentation and historical memory.


A selection of Dertnig’s “overdrawn” C-print photographs have been reproduced for this installation.  In these photographs, Dertnig scribbles over black-and-white photographic images of Actionist performances, leaving only the female figures (often blurred, cropped or in the deep background) visible.  Through this formal flattening, the figure of Lora Sana emerges.

The photographs are accompanied by a large vinyl wall text.  This highly personal text, written in the voice of Lora Sana, is composed from fractured interview statements from female participants’ feelings of marginalization, subsequent objectification and the commodification of Actionism as a movement.

Dertnig’s works are accompanied by two vitrines containing thematic and monographic books on Actionism from the collection of the Center for Curatorial Studies Library.  This installation provides context to the scribbed-over counter-narrative represented in Lora Sana’s overdrawn photographs and text.


The Performance is the Performance, The Document is the Document: A Conversation with Carola Dertnig

Monday, March 9, 2009
In conjunction with her installation and performance Lora Sana: I Was There and Not ThereCarola Dertnig will speak with curator Wendy Vogel about this work in relation to other projects. Her interest in performance history and its documentation, collective and individual feminist action, and intervention in the processes of history writing will be discussed.  This talk is co-sponsored by CCS Bard and the Art History Department at Bard College.

Time: 5:15 pm
Location: Olin, Room 102


Carola Dertnig (born Innsbruck, Austria, lives and works in Vienna) is a Professor of Performance Art at the University of Fine Arts, Vienna and was recently invited as a visiting professor to CalArts in Los Angeles.  Dertnig participated in the 1997 Whitney Independent Study Program.  Her work has appeared in exhibitions at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Artists Space, MUMOK (Vienna) and the Secession in Vienna, among other venues.

Lora Sana: I Was There and Not There is curated by Wendy Vogel as part of the requirements for the master of arts degree in curatorial studies.

Student curated exhibitions at CCS Bard are made possible with support from the Rebecca and Martin Eisenberg Student Exhibition Fund; Mitzi and Warren Eisenberg; and the Patrons, Supporters, and Friends of the Center for Curatorial Studies. Special thanks to the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.


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