Posts Tagged ‘Loretta Lux

23
Feb
13

Review: ‘Confounding: Contemporary Photography’ at NGV International, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 5th October 2012 – 3rd March 2013

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Thinking contemporary photography

At its birth in the 19th century, photography was seen as the ultimate tool for the representation and classification of the visual world.1 Photography recorded reality; a photograph was seen as a visual and literal truth of something that existed in the world. It re-presented the world to the viewer, telling something of the world, reflecting the world. A photograph provided a freeze frame – the snap of the shutter – of one point in time and space. People were astounded that their likeness and that of the world around them could be captured for all to see.

Technological advancements in the early twentieth century, such as faster exposure times and more portable cameras, transformed the potential of the medium to not only show things that escaped the eye but new ways of seeing them as well.2 The photograph began to reveal the personal dimensions of reality. It began to explore the intangible spaces that define our physical and spiritual relationship with reality. “Photographers and artists attempted to depict via photographic means that which is not so easily photographed: dreams, ghosts, god, thought, time” (Jeffrey Fraenkel The Unphotographable Fraenkel Gallery Books 2013). With the advent of modernism, they sought to capture fragments, details and blurred boundaries of personal experience.3 The indexical link photograph and referent, between the camera, the object being photographed and the photograph itself was being stretched to breaking point.

Think of it like this. Think of a photograph of an apple that a camera has taken. There is a link between the photograph and its referent, the photograph of the apple and the object itself (in reality, in the lived world). As a viewer of the photograph of the apple we are secondary witness to the fact that, at some point in time, someone took a photograph of this apple in real life. We bear witness to the eyewitness. Now what if I rip up the photograph of the apple and reassemble it in a different order? Is this still not an apple, only my subjective interpretation of how I see an apple existing in the world? Is it no less valid than the “real” photograph of the apple? What kinds of visual “truth” can exist in images?

Presently, contemporary photography is able to reveal intangible, constructed vistas that live outside the realm of the scientific. A photograph becomes a perspective on the world, an orientation to the world based on human agency. An image-maker takes resources for meaning (a visual language, how the image is made and what it is about), undertakes a design process (the process of image-making), and in so doing re-images the world in a way that it has never quite been seen before.

These ideas are what a fascinating exhibition titled Confounding: Contemporary Photography, at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne investigates. In the confounding of contemporary photography we are no longer witnessing a lived reality but a break down of binaries such as sacred and profane, public and private, natural and artificial, real and dreamed environments as artists present their subjective visions of imagined, created worlds. Each image presents the viewer with a conundrum that investigates the relationship between photographs and the “real” world they supposedly record. How do these photographs make you feel about this constructed, confounding world? These fields of existence?

Thomas Demand’s Public Housing (2003, below) plays with the real and the fictional, presenting the viewer with an idealised vision of a public housing complex illustrated on a Singapore $10 note. Demand makes large models out of paper and cardboard in his studio and then photographs the result before destroying the basis of his performance, the model, leaving only the photograph as evidence of their existence, an existence that emanated from the imagination of the artist. This particular Demand is unusual in that it depicts the totality of an outdoor structure, for the artist usually focuses on details of buildings, plants and environments in mid to close up view. The flattened perspective, limited colour palette and absence of detail adds to the utopian nature of the work (almost like a photographic Jeffrey Smart), aping the aesthetic and social ideals of Le Courbusier. As John Meades notes, “From early in its history, photography was adopted by architects as a means of idealising their buildings. As beautiful and heroic, as tokens of their ingenuity and mankind’s progress, etc. This debased tradition continues to thrive. At its core lies the imperative to show the building out of context, as a monument, separate from streetscape, from awkward neighbours, from untidiness.”4

In Roger Ballen’s photograph Terminus (2004, below), one the more moody works in the exhibition, a heavy wooden board with a deflated leather bladder on top presses down on a human face. Although it is not a human face (it confounds!), it is the painted face of a mannequin which the viewer can only acknowledge after a jolt of recognition. There is a feeling of entombment, a palpable feeling of claustrophobia, as the meta/physical “weight” of the bladder (like the weight of a heavy meteorite) presses down on the half obscured, thin lipped, black eyed face. Similarly confounding are the two photographs by Eliza Hutchison called The ancestors (2004, below). Shot from the waist up, these photographs remind you of those old black and white Photo Booth snapshots that you used to get for passports (there are still two of those machines outside the Elizabeth Street entrance to Flinders Street railway station, standing there like forlorn sentinels of a by gone age), complete with nondescript curtain that you used to pull behind you. There is something “not quite right” about the people in the photographs but you can’t put your finger on it until the text panel, a little gleefully, informs you that the portraits had been shot upside down. Now you realise what is out of kilter: more cheek and jowl rather than cheek by jowl.

The exhibition makes a powerful point as Robert Nelson in his review of the exhibition in The Age newspaper observes: photography doesn’t necessarily have to be confounding to be art, to become enduring, it just has to have a decent idea behind it.

“I would say that being confounding is not a necessary property of art photography; and even when it’s present, it isn’t in itself a sufficient ingredient to guarantee enduringly valuable art. Photography doesn’t have to confound in order to be art, but it does have to have an idea in it. The idea is always the issue, whether it works by confounding us or not.”5

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The idea has always been the issue. Collectively, it is the ideas contained within the images in this exhibition that unsettle the relationship between the photograph and the world in the mind of the viewer, not their confounding. I don’t find any of these images contain much emotion (except possibly the Ballen) but the images are transformational because they fire up our imagination. Images speak not just of the world, but to the world; they challenge our beliefs, our politics and our daily practices. The camera’s single viewpoint, our single viewpoint, our field of existence has changed. People find themselves somehow, somewhere, not in a lived reality but in an imagined one.

Much is staged, scaled and variations in perspective are paramount. This affects the relationship between the viewer and the viewed for we can no longer take anything at face value. In a media saturated world full of images we begin to question every image that we see: has it been digitally manipulated, does it, did it actually exist in the world? These days “truth” in photography is an elusive notion and that might not be such a bad thing as people question the nature of images that surround them, their authenticity and their aura. In a media saturated world, in a world no longer of our making, seeing is no longer believing.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to the National Gallery of Victoria for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Thomas Demand German born 1964 'Public housing' 2003

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Thomas Demand German born 1964
Public housing
2003
type C photograph
100.1 x 157.0 cm (image and sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by the Bowness Family Fund for Contemporary Photography, 2010
© Thomas Demand/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Licensed by VISCOPY, Sydney

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Peter Peryer born New Zealand 1941 'Home' 1991

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Peter Peryer born New Zealand 1941
Home
1991
gelatin silver photograph
35.6 x 53.8 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1996
© Peter Peryer

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Loretta Lux 1969 Dresden, Saxony, Germany 'The drummer' 2004

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Loretta Lux 1969 Dresden, Saxony, Germany
The drummer
2004
Cibachrome photograph
45.0 x 37.7 cm (image) 56.0 x 49.0 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, NGV Foundation, 2006
© Loretta Lux/VG BILD-KUNST, Bonn. Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia

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“On 5 October, the National Gallery of Victoria will present Confounding: Contemporary Photography, an exploration of the uncanny worlds created by human imagination, dreams and memories.

Drawn from the NGV’s collection, the fourteen works on display transform the strange, uncomfortable and awkward into plausible realities. Visitors will discover the gaze of unnerving children in the hyper-real work of Loretta Lux; be jolted upon realising the hidden reality of Wang Qingsong’s monumental tableaux; and wonder at the strange beauty in the carefully constructed cardboard world of Thomas Demand.

Susan van Wyk, Curator, Photography, NGV, said: “Like the recollection of a dream, the photographs displayed in Confounding seem to make sense, but do not sit comfortably in the world. There are subtle, slightly sinister elements within the images that suggest a mystifying alternative reality… Through a selection of works by Australian and international artists, including two new acquisitions by Thomas Demand and Roger Ballen, Confounding explores the unexpected with images that bridge the divide between real and fictional.”

Confounding will present works by contemporary photographers including Roger Ballen, Pat Brassington, Thomas Demand, Eliza Hutchison, Rosemary Laing, Loretta Lux, Patricia Piccinini, Peter Peryer, Wang Qingsong and Ronnie van Hout.”

Press release from the National Gallery of Victoria website

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Roger Ballen. 'Terminus' 2004

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Roger Ballen American 1950-, worked in South Africa 1982-
Terminus
2004
Carbon print
45.2 x 44.9 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Bill Bowness through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gift’s Program, 2012
© courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney

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Patricia Piccinini. 'Protein lattice - subset blue, portrait' 1997

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Patricia Piccinini born Sierra Leone 1965, lived in Italy 1968-72, arrived Australia 1972
Protein lattice – subset blue, portrait
1997
from the Protein lattice series 1997
type C photograph
80.5 x 80.3 cm irreg. (image); 90.0 x 126.9 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of Optus Communications Pty Limited, Member, 1998
© Patricia Piccinini

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Ronnie van Hout born New Zealand 1962 'Mephitis' 1995

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Ronnie van Hout born New Zealand 1962
Mephitis
1995
Gelatin silver photograph
47.2 x 32.6 cm (image), 50.5 x 40.9 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1996
© Courtesy the artist and Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney

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Eliza Hutchison Australian born 1965 'The ancestors' 2004

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Eliza Hutchison Australian born 1965
The ancestors
2004
Light-jet print
95.4 x 72.9 cm (image), 105.4 x 82.9 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds arranged by Loti Smorgon for Contemporary Australian Photography, 2005
© Eliza Hutchison, courtesy Murray White Room

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Eliza Hutchison Australian born 1965 'The ancestors' 2004

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Eliza Hutchison Australian born 1965
The ancestors
2004
Light-jet print
95.3 x 73.0 cm (image),105.3 x 83.0 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds arranged by Loti Smorgon for Contemporary Australian Photography, 2005
© Eliza Hutchison, courtesy Murray White Room

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1. Anon. “Flatlands: photography and everyday space,” press release from the Art Gallery of New South Wales website posted on Art Blart [Online] Cited 19/02/2013

2. Ibid.,

3. Ibid.,

4. Meades, Jonathan. “Architects are the last people who should shape our cities,” on The Guardian website, Tuesday 18 September 2012 [Online] Cited 19/02/2013

5. “First, do all confounded photographic images qualify as art? Or does a photograph have to be founding in a special way? And second, can a photograph be art without being confounding?

Bundling these questions together, I would say that being confounding is not a necessary property of art photography; and even when it’s present, it isn’t in itself a sufficient ingredient to guarantee enduringly valuable art. Photography doesn’t have to confound in order to be art, but it does have to have an idea in it. The idea is always the issue, whether it works by confounding us or not.”

Nelson, Robert. “Getting the picture can be confounding,” in The Age newspaper, Wednesday January 2nd, 2013, p.11.

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NGV International
180 St Kilda Road

Opening hours
10am – 5pm. Closed Tuesdays

National Gallery of Victoria website

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01
Feb
12

Exhibition: ‘What’s in a face? aspects of portrait photography’ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 24th September 2011 – 5th February 2012

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Many thankx to the Art Gallery of New South Wales for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Glaister studio (Australia 1855-1870)
Untitled (portrait of a man and three girls)
1855-1870
ambrotype, colour dyes
6.5 x 9 cm sight; 9.3 x 11.9 cm case
Purchased 1989

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Destiny Deacon (Kuku / Erub, Australia 1957- )
Portrait: Janet Burchill & Jennifer McCamley, Artists
1998
colour bubble jet print from Polaroid photograph
57.9 x 71 cm
Purchased 1998
© Destiny Deacon. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

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Ilse Bing (United States of America, Germany 1899-1998)
Self portrait with Leica
1931 printed 1941
gelatin silver photograph
26.7 x 31.2 cm
Alistair McAlpine Photography Fund 2005
© Ilse Bing Estate. Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Robert Rooney (Australia 1937- )
Portrait of Maria Kozic and Philip Brophy II
1981
Cibachrome photograph 20.1 x 30 cm image/sheet
Purchased 1996
© Robert Rooney

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Loretta Lux (Germany 1969-)
The waiting girl
2006
Ilfochrome photograph
38 × 53 cm
Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Collection Benefactors’ Program 2007
© Loretta Lux/Bild-Kunst. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

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“Spanning over a century, What’s in a face? aspects of portrait photography is an exhibition of 45 photographs from the Art Gallery of NSW collection. The exhibition focuses on crucial points in the history of photographic depictions of the human face ranging from studio portraiture in the late 19th century to contemporary practices today.

Works by Australian photographers, such as Paul Foelsche, Olive Cotton, Max Dupain, Carol Jerrems, Destiny Deacon, Patrina Hicks, Darren Sylvester and others, are placed in an international context, represented by Man Ray, Edward Weston, Iwao Yamawaki, Nan Goldin, Ben Cauchi and Loretta Lux, amongst others.

All portraits reveal something of the sitter, the photographer and also of us as viewers, but none reveal a whole and complete being. This is part of the enduring fascination with the photographic portrait which purports to be an exact likeness but operates more accurately as a metaphor for the self and how that self might exist in the world at a particular point in time.

Judy Annear, senior curator photographs, Art Gallery of NSW

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Using photography to depict the face and figure was initially a time-consuming and expensive business. However, the drive to document all things in the world, and rapid technological advances, meant that by the 1880s most people, willing or not and regardless of the photographer’s or their own desires, were documented in some way.

Spurious 19th century ideas to do with what a face could represent exploded in the early 20th century when identity came to be seen as a psychological rather than social phenomenon. Theatricality and performing for the camera, which had existed in photography since its inception, also became much more evident in this period.

In the post-WWII era representations of the face and the body quickly acquired a political and socially aware edge. More recently the face has tended to stand less as an expression of personal experience and more a statement that may signify a set of ideas, whether about the individual, the group or the society at large. Many of these highly constructed images acknowledge and play upon the problematics of the photographic portrait.”

Text from the AGNSW website

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Darren Sylvester (Australia 1974-)
They return to you in song
2001
Lambda print
100.0 x 100.0cm image/sheet
Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Collection Benefactors’ Program 2002
© Darren Sylvester

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Hans Hasenpflug (Australia, Germany 1907-1977)
Untitled (head of a woman)
1940-1941
gelatin silver photograph
28.8 x 24.3cm image
Gift of Mr Christopher Hamilton, the artist’s son 1984

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Edward Weston (USA 1886-1956)
Guadalupe de Rivera, Mexico
1924, printed later
gelatin silver photograph
20.7 × 17.8 cm
Gift of Patsy W. Asch 2000
© Centre for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

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Max Dupain (Australia 1911-1992)
Untitled (self portrait)
1930s
Gelatin silver photograph
19.3 x 14 cm
Art Gallery of NSW Collection

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Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road, The Domain
Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

Opening hours:
Open every day 10am – 5pm
except Christmas Day and Good Friday

Art Gallery of New South Wales website

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07
Aug
10

Exhibition: ‘Present Tense: An Imagined Grammar of Portraiture in the New Media Age’ at The National Portrait Gallery, Canberra

Exhibition dates: 22nd May – 22nd August 2010

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Many thankx to David Edghill and the National Portrait Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Karen Sander
‘Herve Blechy 1:5’
2008
3D Bodyscans of the living person (3D coordinates and colour texture), MPT (Minitaturised Projection Technology), rapid prototyping, 3D Inkjet printer, plaster material, pigment
Courtesy of the artist, Berlin, and Galerie Nachst St. Stephan, Vienna, and Galerie Helga de Alvear, Madrid.

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Osang Gwon
‘Metabo’
2009
C-prints, mixed media
130.0 x 80.0 x 105.0 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Arario Gallery, Seoul

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Robert Lazzarini
‘Skull’
2000
resin, bone, pigment
35.0 x 8.0 x 20.0 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Deitch Projects

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Present Tense: An Imagined Grammar of Portraiture in the New Media Age is the principal exhibition in the National Portrait Gallery’s 2010 exhibition calendar. It will be displayed from 22 May to 22 August 2010. We are entering an exceptional time for portraiture and visual culture in general as the art world embraces the digital age. Traditional portraiture is responding to the application of new technologies and this imaging process is reshaping our interpretation and reading of the face.

Present Tense considers the alliance between portraiture and technology, showing how different ways of imaging in this contemporary, digital world reflect the way an individual is perceived and the various mechanisms of imaging that are used to manipulate that perception. The exhibition is comprised of works by Australian and international artists’ and includes examples of the informal and immediate images made on mobile phones, images recorded with sonograms that reveal faces that cannot be seen by the unaided eye, 2D and 3D portraits generated exclusively from binary code, as well as the more expected streaming digital works and manipulated photographs.

‘Some of the images in Present Tense are confronting and some are positively endearing’, said exhibition Curator Michael Desmond. ‘The exhibition surveys the possibilities of portraiture today, with the premise that the inhabitants’ of our digital society are pictured in a technological mirror’.

The use of digital technologies by artists is increasing, providing affordable alternatives to traditional media and offering a new tool set and the possibility of a new aesthetic. This is not to suggest that older media has been abandoned, or is associated only with conservative practice, rather that artists’ have greater choice in the materials that they use and the style that they wish to engage with. Chuck Close is one of artists’ in the exhibition who ignores the rising tide of digital imaging processes to favour old technology, creating powerful images with the archaic daguerreotype technique. Other artists’ in Present Tense include: Loretta Lux, Patrick Pound, Stelarc, Jonathon Nichols, Petrina Hicks, Ghostpatrol, Patricia Piccinini and more.

‘At one time, oil on canvas or bronze was the medium for portraits. The medium now is technology. In an inversion of one of Modernism’s classic aphorisms, digital technology allows function to follow form; the function of the portrait – to illustrate an individual’s character and physiognomy – is established by the stamp of the technology that created it’, said Michael Desmond.”

Press release from the National Portrait Gallery website

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Chuck Close
‘Self portrait daguerreotype’
2000
16.5 x 21.6 cm each
Courtesy of Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

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Patricia Piccinini
‘Psychogeography’
1996
From the series Psycho
type C colour photograph
120.0 x 247.0 cm
Courtesy of the Parliament House Art Collection, Department of Parliamentary Services, Canberra

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Stelarc
‘Stretched skin’
2009
type C photograph
120.0 x 180.0 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Scott Livesey Galleries

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National Portrait Gallery
King Edward Terrace
Parkes, Canberra

Opening hours:
Open daily 10 am to 5 pm

National Portrait Gallery website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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