An open access publication of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences
Spring 2023

The Morphology of War I

Svitlana Biedarieva
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Svitlana Biedarieva is an award-winning art historian, artist, and curator. She has a PhD in History of Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art at the University of London. She is the editor of the book Contemporary Ukrainian and Baltic Art: Political and Social Perspectives, 1991–2021 (ibidem Press, 2021) and the co-editor of At the Front Line, Ukrainian Art, 2013–2019 (Editorial 17, 2020).

Black and white illustration depicting humanoid figures holding automatic weapons. The figures are based on drawings of bestiaries first dating from 1000 AD.

The Morphology of War was conceived in 2017 as a project of large-scale digital murals. It focuses on the idea that each society gives birth to its own monsters. In a time of war and under the influence of propaganda, they procreate. Friends change their form and become enemies–unfamiliar, grotesque, and potentially dangerous. They experience severe morphological changes. This project reflects the ugliness of Russian military aggression and the initial hybrid warfare that distorted the image and the content. It is also an exploration of how deeply destructive instincts are rooted in visual culture, using images from medieval bestiaries and beyond. The continuous line of monsters is reminiscent of the symbolism of the danse macabre taken by Ingmar Bergman for the conclusion of his film The Seventh Seal.