Natalie Brettschneider

The Natalie Brettschneider Archive is an ongoing series of photographs, texts, music recitals, and two films, that together reconstruct the life and work of a genre-blurring historical performance artist. Brettschneider is fictional, but her story is laced with references to real people and places. The archive starts with her childhood in British Columbia, continues through her participation in the Parisian avant-garde between the wars, and includes evidence of her eccentric music and art making practice in large and small communities across Canada after she returns from Europe in the late 1930’s.

This project is a feminist critique of art historical narrative conventions: it aims to illuminate what 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. Brettschneider is a stand-in for all of the 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, like Claude Cahun, be “rediscovered”. The archive disrupts photographic hierarchies by mixing snapshots and studio portraits, tiny fragments and advertising paste-ups, fine art and fashion. It is stylistically eclectic, provocative and funny.

This project is on view until February 4, 2018 at the Vancouver Art Gallery as part of Carol Sawyer: The Natalie Brettschneider Archive.

Carol Sawyer, pianist Lisa Cay Miller, harpist Elisa Thorn, and percussionist Katie Rife will present music informed by the repertoire of Natalie Brettschneider at the Vancouver Art Gallery on January 23, 2018.

Associated Videos, Press, and Interviews

Carol Sawyer and Evann Siebens collaborated to create the 16mm film The Rehearsal, starring Natalie Brettschneider. This work premiered in 2016 at the Carleton University Art Gallery and has been included in subsequent exhibitions.

Carol Sawyer and Victoria artist Harold Hejazi created the super 8 mm film fr@Zu8Kuj, c. 1981. This work premiered in 2017 at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Read Carol Sawyer’s article about the project in Canadian Art.

Listen to the Vancouver Art Gallery’s App, which shares additional research and stories from The Natalie Brettschneider Archive.

Read Robin Laurence’s review of the Vancouver Art Gallery show in the Georgia Straight.

Watch Ben Dextraze’s film about the Natalie Brettschneider Archive.

Watch the Vancouver Art Gallery’s interview with Carol Sawyer.

Exhibition History

Solo Exhibitions:

2019 (upcoming). Carol Sawyer: The Natalie Brettschneider Archive. Windsor Art Gallery, Windsor ON. Curated by Jaclyn Meloche.
2017/2018. Carol Sawyer: The Natalie Brettschneider Archive. Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver BC. Curated by Bruce Grenville.
2016. The Natalie Brettschneider Archive. Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Victoria BC. Curated by Michelle Jacques.
The Natalie Brettschneider Archive. Carleton University Art Gallery, Ottawa ON. Curated by Heather Anderson.
2011. Some Documents from the Life of Natalie Brettschneider. Republic Gallery, Vancouver.
2009. Natalie Brettschneider in BC. Kelowna Art Gallery, Kelowna BC. Curated by Liz Wylie. (Brochure)

Group Exhibitions:

2015. Views from the Southbank I: Histories, Memories, Myths. Surrey Art Gallery. Surrey BC. Curated by Jordan Strom.
2012. Scenes of Selves, Occasions for Ruses. Surrey Art Gallery. Surrey BC. Curated by Jordan Strom.
2010. Truth or Fiction? Kamloops Art Gallery. Kamloops BC. Curated by Annette Hurtig
2001-5 Facing History. Presentation House Gallery, North Vancouver BC, toured to Canadian Cultural Centre, Paris, and Centre d’Art Contemporain d’Herouville St. Clair, Basse Normandie, France. Curated by Karen Love. (Two separate catalogues for North Vancouver and Paris shows.)


2016 Natalie Brettschneider: Repertoire Collaboration with pianist Lisa Cay Miller. Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Victoria BC.
Music inspired by Natalie Brettschneider and her contemporaries Collaboration with Jordan Zalis (voice), Tariq Amery (bass flute), Nicolas Fobes (harpsichord), Agnes Malkinson (cello), Reiko Lokker (violin). Carleton University Art Gallery, Ottawa ON.
2010 Selected Works of Natalie Brettschneider. with pianist Dale Rasmussen, Evening Soiree, Kamloops Art Gallery, Kamloops BC.
2009 The repertoire of Natalie Brettschneider. Performance with pianist Neville Bowman, GO Party, Kelowna Art Gallery, Kelowna BC.
2004 Newly rediscovered repertoire of Natalie Brettschneider. Performance with violinist Régis Huby. Canadian Cultural Centre, Paris.
2002 Natalie Brettschneider: a Portrait. With pianist Patrick Dubois. Presentation House Gallery, North Vancouver, BC.
1998 Newly Discovered Works by Brettschneider and Piscator. Collaboration with Andreas Kahre, “Re-inventing the Diva Festival”, Western Front, Vancouver BC. Curated by Lori Weidenhammer. (Catalogue)