Something Other than its Own Mass is a multichannel video installation by Los Angeles-based artist and filmmaker Alex Kershaw that gives life to a simple paradox - hunters love what they kill. Through the lives of six principal characters from the Northeastern United States, the work teases out the unlikely ways that hunters engage with nature. In pacts oscillating between trust and domination, hunting cultivates empathetic and animist engagements via process of seduction, where the hunters’ libidinal energies are displaced onto the animal. This project connects with Kershaw’s previous work that involves long-term fieldwork engagements with small communities of practitioners, whose strong connections with nature are uncanny. Also, this work is thematically connected through the softening of boundaries - between the living/dead, human/non-human, and organic/inorganic - where what we think of as alive becomes thing-like, and where specters of the past animate the present.
Formally, this film project integrates observational documentary with highly staged performances that cast the film’s subjects as “actors.” These fictional choreographed scenes take their cues from each hunter’s practice by drawing on allegorical devices that adapt their existing practices of decoy, camouflage, and mimesis. Something Other than its Own Mass does not take an anti-hunting or prohunting stance where subjects are stereotyped as occupying one side of the debate over guns, or conservation, or animal rights. Instead, this heated culture war is experienced via the conflicting perspectives of its female and male characters, ranging in age from 5 to 71, whose religious beliefs, ethics, and views on food production question whether their devotion to the art of killing is sustainable.
Originally from Sydney, Australia, Alex Kershaw is a visual artist and scholar. His practice and
research connect film and photography with other fields invested in the polemics of intersubjective
and multi-species encounters, such as ethnography, material culture, and performance studies. After
completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales, Art and Design in 2000,
Kershaw began his career as a photographer. His work was shown at the Australian Centre for
Photography, Heide Museum of Modern Art, The National Portrait Gallery, and featured in Anne
Marsh’s survey book on contemporary Australian photography since 1980. In 2007, he returned to
academia to complete a Master of Fine Arts degree. There Kershaw developed his practice through
long-term, fieldwork-based research projects resulting in large scale, collaborative video/sound
installations. In 2009, a survey of Kershaw’s video work was held at London’s Beaconsfield Gallery
and The Phi Ta Khon Project was selected for the Oberhausen International Short Film Festival in
Germany. Screenings and exhibitions of his work were also held at venues including Tokyo
Wondersite, Japan, Jeu de Paume, France, Matucana 100, Chile, and The Art Gallery of New South
Wales, Sydney, Australia.
In 2012, after finishing a residency at the International Studio and Curatorial Program in New York
City, Kershaw began his PhD in the Visual Arts Department at the University of California, San Diego. Through his written dissertation, Camera Cults: Technosocial Theatres of the Photographic Event, and service as a member of the editorial collective, FIELD: A Journal of Socially Engaged Art, he has been working towards contributing to the field of photographic theory and socially engaged art.