fr@Zu8Kuj, Carol Sawyer: The Natalie Brettschneider Archive, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC (art film)
Exhibition:  October 28, 2017 – February 4, 2018

fr@Zu8Kuj, c. 1981 is a Super 8mm film created by Carol Sawyer and Harold Hejazi in response to Sawyer’s ongoing project The Natalie Brettschneider Archive.

This newly discovered home movie captures a collaboration between the then ten-year old Herman Rupert and the 85-year-old Natalie Brettschneider. The two were neighbours and spent considerable time together while Rupert’s mother was undergoing treatment for a serious illness.

This film premiered in the exhibition Carol Sawyer: The Natalie Brettschneider Archive at the Vancouver Art Gallery on Friday October 27, 2017.

About The Natalie Brettschneider Archive:

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…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” [1].

In this film Carol Sawyer performs the character Natalie Brettschneider and I assume the role of Herman Rupert at age ten. The ideas for the puppeteer character Herman Rupert were generated in collaboration with the artist Carol Sawyer in the fall of 2016 for the purposes of animating her exhibition Carol Sawyer: The Natalie Brettschneider Archive at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (AGGV) (Oct 1 2016–Jan 8 2017).

During the initial exhibition at the AGGV, I animated the exhibit and carried out a variety of puppetry workshops and involvements outside the gallery under the name Herman Rupert. Sawyer was grateful for my passionate and creative response to her show, and by the end of the AGGV exhibition, she invited me to collaborate on a piece with her utilizing Herman Rupert. The performative film titled fr@Zu8Kuj, was the result of this collaboration, and centered around a fictional shared history between Rupert’s and Brettschneider’s:

Rupert came into the care of Brettschneider temporarily while his mother Faye Rupert underwent treatment for heart disease. During this period, from the age eight to ten, the two spent their days together exploring the arts without restraint nor regard for convention.

The experimental home video making with puppets and other media featured in fr@Zu8Kuj represent just one of their daily activities. By making art and performance accessible and uninhibited, Brettschneider instilled in Rupert an understanding of art as boundless and free of generic limitations.

The creation of the film brought the animator’s story to life and legitimized my own AGGV animation when it debuted at the Vancouver Art Gallery’s iteration of the The Natalie Brettschneider Archive in October 2017. Rupert represents the full realization of my performance work as an exhibition animator; the character of Rupert was fully integrated into the exhibition’s collection and mythology, and into my own life. After the creation of fr@Zu8Kuj in the spring of 2017 I continued to utilize shadow puppetry in a variety of performative contexts. Thus, my animator performance work, which some may pass off as educational activity, generated fine art material as a result of my own performance pedagogy.

In the spirit of The Natalie Brettschneider Archive’s critique of art historical narrative conventions, this video piece represents for me the omission of educational activities from fine art lineages and the trend in art galleries for educators to be excluded from curatorial processes. It celebrates the artist and educator as one performative entity.