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Raising the curtain…

The author of this article has been studying the evolution laws of systems in the field of art for over twenty years. This article proves that evolution of art as well as that of technical systems is based on the occurrence and resolution of contradictions.

Raising the curtain…

“Deliberate city”

Cities have never emerged “from nowhere”. First, a small settlement - village - appears. Then the settlement grows gradually turning into a city. Everyone chooses for himself where to build a house or a barn. That is why the centers of old cities are characterized by dispersed development - winding narrow streets going to different sides, a curved line of houses… Tallinn, Riga, and old Moscow are typical examples.

St. Petersburg seems to be the first city built deliberately as a city, on a free place. It was designed as a symbol of greatness of new Russia. It was designed to survive to the end of time.  Initially, it was not large. But Peter the Great was a forward-looking man. He understood that the city development would continue and the beautiful and well-designed center would be inevitably overgrown with other constructions every which way.

What was to be done to make St. Petersburg always look clearly designed, harmonious and modern?

Peter together with the specially invited architect Trezini found a solution. It was for the first time in the history of city building that the plan of the city to be built was designed prior to constructing any building. Further development was to proceed in severe conformity to the plan. St. Petersburg still preserves some features of that plan.

Attacking the problem at the grass-root


And now let us deviate from the topic for a while. In the previous article, we have made acquaintance with the notion of “ideal system”. This is the final point of the path, our range mark.  Under this aspect, TRIZ makes no distinction between different systems. Look, for example, at the ideal solution to the St. Petersburg development problem. Plans of cities had been made long before, but Peter the First and Trezini made that plan not after but before building the city. They did not introduce anything new into the system but used the already available resources.


This article will show which TRIZ laws are used to solve problems occurring in the sphere of art. Let us start not from the end of the solving process but from the beginning and consider the problem itself and the path which leads to its ideal solution.


One of the basic TRIZ notions is the contradiction. The contradiction is a situation when we need doing something but doing this would prevent doing something else, also very important. Ordinary solving methods are not suitable.


The contradiction is just what makes difficult problems difficult. 

Peter the First as a mirror of “TRIZ” revolution

From time immemorial, building a church was the only way of celebrating great events in Russia. Foundation of the new capital – St. Petersburg - was just such an event. At the same time, Peter wanted to stress the fact that power was temporal in Russia. Celebrating the foundation of St. Petersburg by erecting a secular building would have been impossible in Russia. Building a church would have meant recognition of superiority of church. To put it plainly, the building was to be church and it was to be secular so as to demonstrate the new place of church in Russia.

That is just a contradiction.

TRIZ has secrets – contradiction resolution principles. One of them - the simplest one – is “spatial separation”. If an object is unable to perform two incompatible requirements, let one requirement be performed by one of its parts and the other by another one.

This is just like Peter solved the new problem.

By order of Peter, the lower portion of the bell tower of St. Peter and Paul’s Cathedral was built in a church-like manner, while the traditional dome was replaced with an absolutely secular gold plated spire.

Peter is no more, but the contradictions persist, even in the attempts to immortalize the reformer tsar.

The famous “Bronze Horseman” by Falconet had to be the symbol of two Peter’s qualities – assuredness and impetuosity.  These two qualities, however, are incompatible in a sculpture. A sculpture must look immobile to express assuredness and it must look moving to represent impetuosity.

Falconet solved that problem by using the same principle of spatial separation. 

He sculpted the horse in motion while Peter himself immovably bestrides the horse, with his head high.

Is this situation only typical for Peter or Russia?

Well, let us transport ourselves to the other end of Europe – Italy.

The ancient hero Adonis was brought up by the goddesses Aphrodite and Persephone. When Adonis grew up, he became the lover of Aphrodite. Mortally jealous Artemis sent a wild boar to Adonis and the beast killed the young hero.

The Italian sculptor Giuseppe Mazzuoli decided to incarnate this legend in a sculpture. He encountered the following contradiction. A sculpture of dead Adonis would not allow expressing the idea of fight. A sculpture of Adonis fighting with a wild boar would not represent the death of the hero. That is, the sculpture had to represent dead Adonis to show the result of the fight and to image him alive to show the fight itself.

The sculptor solved the problem also by spatial separation. Adonis’s body continues fighting with the wild boar while his eyes are already closed, dead.

The sculpture is reposited in the Hermitage, so one can easily see that the solution is beautiful.

Enigma of ancient Syrian woman

Spatial separation is a simple principle. TRIZ also has subtler, tricky principles. One of them is “separation between the whole and the parts” or, as they say in TRIZ, between the system and its subsystems. If an object cannot fulfill two incompatible requirements, let one requirement be fulfilled by its parts and the other one be fulfilled by the object as a whole, just like in case of a fishing-net where each part is nothing, a hole, while the net as a whole is strong and capable of holding shoals of fish.  

In the Hermitage, there is a sculpture created by an unknown author of ancient Rome, which dates from the II century of our era. Its conventional name is “The Portrait of a Syrian Woman”. This is how this portrait is described in the book “The State Hermitage”. “This character is marvelously poetic, it combines sad dreaminess with subtle irony and something unuttered  … the look of the woman from under the lids of the large eyes seems to sweep past a spectator”.

How did the author achieve this effect?  Suppose, the Syrian woman looks away. Then the spectator could look at the portrait at another angle and meet her eyes.

The contradiction is obvious – the look must have a direction because it cannot be without a direction and it must not have direction so as not to be directed at a viewer under any conditions.

The author used the familiar principle. The woman’s eyes look in slightly different directions. Thus, each eye has a direction but the look as a whole does not, it is uncatchable.

Well, we have “stuck” on sculpture and architecture. And how does the land lie in other arts?


Dodon and Hamlet are twin-brothers


Here is an example from music.

The composer Rimsky-Korsakov from Saint-Petersburg was against monarchy all his life and thought that monarchy balked progress in Russian culture. This shows through in his opera “The Golden Cockerel” created in 1907. Satire starts from the very appearance of Tsar Dodon. But it was impossible to accompany the appearance of the tsar by grotesque music. His appearance was usually presented gravely. Starting with serious music would create a serious mood and the satirical tone of the opera would disappear.

It was necessary to preserve the gravity of the tsar entrance and, at the same time, to poke fun at him by means of music only. How could that be achieved? 

The same principle is used – the parts of the music accompanying the tsar entrance are serious while the music as a whole is grotesque. The first appearance of the tsar on the stage is accompanied by a rhythmical march consisting of literally several beats. The same march repeats during the entire stay of Dodon on the stage. When the march sounds for the first time, the tsar looks serious and dignified, but as it repeats again and again, the initially stately tsar becomes ridiculous in the eyes of the audience. 

As we have already touched royal families, let us recall a problem from quite a different art. The famous Soviet film-maker G.Kozintsev was shooting the film “Hamlet”. One of the sticking points for Kozintsev was the costume of the Prince of Denmark. Kozintsev wanted to image Hamlet as our contemporary. Not exteriorly, but spiritually. Therefore, he did not dress him in a sweater and jeans. However, the mediaeval clothes did not suit, either – it would have not allowed perceiving Hamlet as our contemporary. A contradiction arose – the costume of Hamlet had to be modern so that Hamlet himself could be perceived as a contemporary and it had to be mediaeval so that contemporaneity was not exterior only.

I think, the solution is already obvious. The artist Virsaladze, costume designer of the film, made the costume of Hamlet from mediaeval elements which in the aggregate formed quite a modern silhouette.

Now let us return to the example given at the beginning of our article, the plan of St. Petersburg. Each part of the city, each block or house can be built in compliance with one’s wish. But the city as a whole remains harmonious, just like it was conceived by Peter.


The principle is the same. 


Laocoon’s Odyssey

And now try your hand at a simple problem. To solve it, it is enough to use the simple principle which is already familiar to you. It is only necessary to distinctly formulate the contradiction after the pattern of the previous examples.


When the wise Odysseus with his friends built a huge wooden horse and placed it near the Troy gate, there was a man – the local priest Laocoon - who warned the Trojans against accepting the gift.  He reminded them of the Greeks’ cunning and almost persuaded them to refuse the horse. But at the Gods’ will the Greeks were destined to force Troy. Two giant sea serpents emerged from the sea and enveloped both Laocoon and his two sons and tore them to pieces.

This legend was described by Vergil, the poet of ancient Rome. About 50 B.C., the sculptors Athanadoros and his father Agesander worked on a sculpture based on this legend. They wanted to image the mortal agonies of Laocoon and his sons. In sculpture, this idea may be expressed by one method only – by showing the toughening of the muscles. To produce this effect, a body should be open. This, however, would prevent imaging the death grip of the snakes coiled tightly round the bodies.

What were the sculptors to do?

Yuliy Murashkovsky, TRIZ master, researcher, Education Technology Laboratory “Universal Solver”.

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