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Karolina Sussland Comes Up with a Mathematical Equation for Goodness

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I won't even pretend to understand exactly what artist Karolina Sussland is doing in "Goodness...in Progress," a one-day-only showing of Sussland's latest artistic foray mounted on Saturday at Figarelli Galleries Back Room in Scottsdale's Cattletrack artists' compound. In fact, I am so mathematically challenged that I usually start drooling and break out in hives just looking at numbers and equations. But somehow, Sussland's work in progress -- more performance art than object -- has managed to express my deepest inner feelings about math: it's ridiculously and unfathomably complex, but the numbers are really pretty to look at and if your data doesn't fit into the equation, throw it out.

In "Goodness...," Sussland filled the walls of a small room (which ended up being a confessional for both artist and viewers, who spilled their guts about their mathematical ignorance and/or confessed to their torrid love affair with numbers) with notes and calculations she made in her quest to quantify goodness. The way she explains it, "Goodness..." started out as a series of drawings and paintings that were supposed to analyze the specific consequences of certain actions, one of which was buying a candy bar. She was then going to measure the specific degree of goodness contained in that action.

In researching her chosen candy bar, she veered off course to explore the not-so-good fact that the wrapper of the candy bar was made of polypropylene, the same plastic used in illegal "string" breast implants in both the US and Europe. Suddenly, her search for a goodness formula morphed not just into a stream of consciousness, but into a raging river of info that exploded in all sorts of directions, some of which produced dead ends in the goodness department. Being ever so scientific and mathematically precise, Sussland grouped her results, which take the form of notes, drawings, paintings, photos, diagrams, maps and equations, into a "wall of information," a "wall of limbo" and a "wall of failure."

She's even produced a goofy, but impressive, diagram of her investigational activities, which include forays into odd subjects like Arabian oil sand deposits, zeolites, breast implants and Bertrand Russell. Finally, she figured out that 1 + 1 = 2 might work as the basis for her goodness formula. However, it becomes complicated by the definitions assigned to 1 and 2. Conclusion: goodness is complicated, though it's fun to try to quantify it scientifically and mess with other people's heads in the process.

"Goodness...in Progress" was presented by Ted Decker Catalyst Fund . Decker is one of the few brave souls underwriting various aspects of work by local Phoenix artists and he's managed to cherry pick from our current local crop. Instead of being tied to any one location, Decker is taking a rave-like approach and bouncing from space to space for each one of his presentations, which gives art lovers someplace new and different to experience with each show.

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