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The act of varying

By Boris Bernstein

The opposition of stability and change has extremely deep roots in the realm of art. In recent times, this controversy has tended to be resolved via frequent dramatic conflicts, rebellions by innovators, shocks and crises that have questioned time and again the very nature of art. But there is also a different, millennia-old, one could say, primeval, way of harmonizing contradictions. I mean variation.

It has been tested in all areas of human aesthetic activity: in folklore, where anything -- a song, a narrative, a dance, a fairy tale, a joke, a pattern or decorative motif -- exists only as the set of examples of its execution; in rituals and idols which represent the same god, but still differ from each other; in icons, which go back, without exception, to a single "true" template; in fact, in any theatrical production, any recital of the same piece of music. Maria Kazanskaya is guided by a sort of inversion of this principle in her series: each of them is, in effect, a sequence of variations of a single motif, so that repetition and change are combined.

The act of varying is a creative process, and the distribution of variations may be random; there are many factors at play. Our business as viewers is to detect logical lines in the mosaic of transformations by comparing works among themselves.