CHICAGO – “Five Elements of War” is an exhibit of five extraordinary installations by Daria Marchenko and Daniel Green, two contemporary artists from Ukraine who expressed their opposition to the military aggression in the Donbas region of Ukraine on the border with Russia through their artistic creativity.
The exhibit opened on August 18 in Chicago at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art and will be on display until September 18. Motria Melnyk, president of the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, welcomed several hundred guests, including Bishop Benedict Aleksiychuk of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, the consuls of Barbados, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Italy, Mexico, Consul General of Ukraine Larysa Gerasko and many aficionados of the art community of Chicago, as well as art lovers of the Ukrainian American community.
It is an important exhibit both for its message and its uniqueness. The artists follow the rich history of protest art and create emotionally charged works about the causes, turmoil and consequences of war. In order to bridge the divide between the viewer and the reality of the invasion, the artists incorporate bullets, shell casings, documents and shrapnel from the frontlines of war-torn eastern Ukraine.
The installation is multisensory and is meant to elicit a visceral reaction in the viewer. Each of the five works speaks to a different aspect of the war. The five works displayed are “The Heart of War,” “The Flesh of War,” “Honor,” “The Brain of War,” which underscores the role of propaganda, and “The Face of War,” which depicts the face of Vladimir Putin – the prominent and familiar figure responsible for the conflict.
The portrait of the Russian president is at the center of the exhibition. It is made of shell casings and represents the changing aspects of the hybrid war that continues taking victims. Through the use of lights, the face of Mr. Putin changes and reveals his moods and strategies through his haunting eyes. The idea of Mr. Putin’s changing face is brilliantly conceived. It has a close-up element, raised in relief within the surface of the portrait that provides different ways of looking at Mr. Putin depending on the lighting.
The exhibit also includes “The Brain of War,” which is a representation of a large Russian grenade shaped like a huge vase filled with cameras and with a film reel that reminds the viewer of the production of fake news representing a media war that is exploding into the world community.
The “Flesh of War” consists of two giant female figures between two continents made of bullets and shelves with the connecting tissue of the two women, one looking at the viewer from the front, the other from the back, representing one giving, the other receiving. Women bear great suffering during war, as victims of violence and aggression, protectors of their homes and then as refugees with their families.
As Ms. Marchenko said during her interview on the program “Worldview” on public radio, “After people are killed, what is left are the bullets and the parts of weapons, that is why I chose bullets and debris of weapons to represent the lives of the individuals they killed.”
Both artists participated in the Maidan Revolution and saw many of their friends killed. Mr. Green stated during his radio interview that he wanted to do something to make a difference. “Art sometimes has more power than wars. Art has power to provoke long lasting changes,” he underscored.
The artists Ms. Marchenko and Mr. Green turned activism into their art work. They channeled their energy into creating a powerful exhibit that has sent a message throughout the world about the folly and deceit of war, about the true face of a dictator who uses military aggression, a hybrid war and the information war to invade another country, destabilize the world community and cause the deaths of thousands of innocent people.
The exhibit would not be possible without the support of Raymond Staples, investor and art collector, who recognized the talent of the artists and arranged for the exhibit. “The Face of War” was also exhibited in Washington at the Rayburn Foyer of the U.S. Congress and at the Capitol Hill Club. Over 4,000 publications and video reports in newspapers and news services around the world featured “The Face of War,” including The Wall Street Journal, the BBC, the Associated Press, NBC, ABC and the Guardian.
The success of the exhibit was due to the professionalism and dedication of a new team at the UIMA: curator Adrienne Kochman, operations and marketing manager Victoria Cooper and assistant curator Olivia Rozdolsky.
The Chicago sponsors of the exhibits are the Selfreliance Foundation of Selfreliance Ukrainian American Federal Credit Union and Heritage Foundation of First Security Bank. Their sponsorship is a major reason for the community’s continuous ability to present valuable programming.
In her closing remarks, Ms. Melnyk stated, “As you can see, Ukrainians are a tough people. Putin will never win with us. Slava Ukrayini” (Glory to Ukraine).
Marta Farion is vice-president of the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art.