Traces of Life / How to Kill (Hunt)

© 2021 Christian Kopp

2-Channel Video Installation




Kunstverein Grafschaft Bentheim


video, 5 min, dry ice, conserved parts of a black grouse, reading lamp, bark, finnish hunting clothes, fur mask, balaclava, gloves, boots on mannequin, reworked screenshots from the video, digital print on baryte, 42 x 18 cm, digital print on mesh fabric, 260 x 160 cm

Is there still a separation between nature and culture?

© 2023, the studio sunshine

About the purpose of killing

In this suite of works, Dräxler approaches the arctic landscape as a cultural phenomenon and considers the ways in which a greater force holds the power to structure its outcomes: to decide who or what can live, and by extension, what must perish in order to maintain its planned or so-called natural order. Hunting is one of the earliest practices to distinguish humans from animals, both in respect of the elaborate tools developed for the sole purpose of killing other beings, and the complexity of man’s strategies used in the hunt. In contrast to animals, human’s notions of spirituality, habitus, the tendency to glorify violence, and the desire to reinforce our own dominance over the natural world play a role.

© 2023, the studio sunshine
© 2023, the studio sunshine
© 2023, the studio sunshine

The artist as hunting goddess

Following experienced hunter Matti Keränen through the snowy landscape of Lapland as he makes his way across its vast expanse on cross-country skis, the film tracks his movements much like a hunter stalks its prey. The artist describes this as a filmic act of empathy with the performative aspects of hunting: the silence of tracking, the acceleration of the hunter’s breath when he sights his target, the concentration needed to aim, the emptiness after the shot. Dräxler’s role in the film is that of an oracle – a guide to the game – who like Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt, determines its fate. Through this influence over the success or failure of the hunt, the artist positions herself in relation to the work of sociologist and philosopher Bruno Latour. His thesis is that the separation of nature and culture, as well as that between people and things, is non-existent. In Latour’s view, the introduction of this distinction characterizes modernity; however, it also creates an asymmetry between technology and society.

© 2023, the studio sunshine
© 2023, the studio sunshine

Media controlling the production of landscape

Such asymmetry can be felt throughout the exhibition. Not only has the nature/culture divide lef tsubliminal traces in the film’s scenes of snow-covered forests, but filming itself took place near Posio, about an hour and a half away from the Russian border, at the end of January 2022 – only weeks before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The work was partially shot with a drone, scanning the landscape from above in similar fashion to a military reconnaissance mission, in turn reinforcing the eerie foreshadowing of the shoot’s location. In its installation at Kunstverein Grafschaft Bentheim, Dräxler has created animmersive environment using artificial ground fog, which swirls around the projected film images and encompasses the viewer. In this way, the artist replicates a common feature of the Finnish landscape – imitating nature at will. The spaces of the Kunstverein are thus transformed into an interface of nature and culture, through which the artist points to the powerful ways that media imagery controls the production of landscape.

© 2023, the studio sunshine
© 2023, the studio sunshine

Merging Camouflage

Also on display is the work "Wounds of Berlin" (2019), shown in a separate room as a digital print, its composition already having appeared in the film. A photomontage, it depicts a camouflage pattern from the upholstery of a Berlin subway seat as it merges with that of Finnish hunting and military equipment.In this work, human design becomes the link between the wilderness of Finland and Berlin’s urban jungle. That such connections are possible is, in Bruno Latour's sense, a productive approach to the limiting duality set up by modernity and its corresponding prohibition on alternative modes of thought. Like the hunter following the forest’s paths, the connection creates a way through – and opens up space for a network of interwoven relationships that shift between social life and the natural world.

- Muriel Meyer, director of Kunstverein Grafschaft Bentheim
film credits:

Director: Veronika Dräxler
Hunter: Matti Keränen
Camera: Juha Niemelä
Editing: Amelié Richter
Colourgrading: An Laphan
Sounddesign: Sascha Blank
Production: Patrick Alan Banfield
Assistence: Becky Hastings
Taxidermy: Sarah Kaufhold
Mentoring: Anna Anders
Funding: Bayerisches Staatsministerium für Wissenschaft und Kunst

List of works in the installation:

Traces of Life / How to Kill, 2022, video, 5 min, 2-channel video installation. Performance Uniform, 2022, Finnish hunting clothes, fur mask, balaclava, gloves, boots on mannequin. Chimera (Mutation), 2022, conserved parts of a black grouse, reading lamp, bark Memory of Etching (1 – 3), reworked screenshots from the video, digital print on baryte, 42 x 18 cm. Pattern Interface, 2022, digital print on mesh fabric, 260 x 160 cm.

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