Carol Sawyer – The Natalie Brettschneider Archive – 2017 ~18


Carol Sawyer is a Vancouver-based artist whose interdisciplinary practice encompasses photography, video, installation, performance and improvised music. Sawyer’s work is often concerned with memory, the construction of history, and the ways in which fact and fiction are sometimes entwined. In this solo exhibition Sawyer presents The Natalie Brettschneider Archive (1998–), a significant and ongoing project that centres on the life and practice of Natalie Brettschneider, a fictional artist conceived by Sawyer.

Brettschneider’s rich persona has grown out of Sawyer’s interest in the interdisciplinary performers who took part in Dada and Surrealist cabarets in Paris and Zurich. Through her research Sawyer found evidence of a number of female musicians, singers, dancers, actors, puppeteers and poets active in these circles, but was frustrated by how little had been written about them. In response she began building The Natalie Brettschneider Archive, assembling photographs and other documents that trace the life and practice of this imagined, genre-blurring artist and her relationships with actual historical figures in Canada and Europe.

For Sawyer, this research has taught her that all history is to some extent a portrait of its author(s). The Natalie Brettschneider Archive illuminates what often gets left out of these stories, and the ways in which photographs are used to support cultural assumptions about gender, age, authorship and art making.

Her hope is that this exhibition will encourage the viewer to be curious about not only Brettschneider, but all of the other female artists who have slipped through the gaps of history, only to languish in obscurity, gain notoriety as models or muses of more famous male artists, or perhaps be “rediscovered.”