Archive for September, 2011

Photography | Camera Works

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Photographs
Sotheby’s New York, USA. Sale October 5th, 2011
Exhibition opens 30th September

Maybe you can’t afford to buy but if you are interested in 19th, 20th and 21st century collectable photography, many of the biggest names are here and Sotheby’s exhibitions are open to the public. Let’s start with fashion – Avedon, Horst, Penn. Peter Beard is also represented by his enormous and beautiful illustrated work: Maureen Gallagher and Late-Night Feeder (see below). A rare print of Diane Arbus’s disturbing portrait Viva is going under the hammer. Ansel Adams prints for sale include, among others: Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, and a mural of Leaves, Mt. Rainier National Park. There are works by Edward Weston, Paul Strand, Edward Outerbridge and Imogen Cunningham. Prints of two well-known images – Spectacles and The First Round (see above) – by French modernist Pierre Dubreuil are also in the auction. From earlier times there’s a massive print of Alexander Gardner’s portrait of Abraham Lincoln. In addition to the prints, a complete collection of Alfred Stieglitz’s famed quarterly, Camera Work, is up for sale.

Top. Lot 110 Estimate $150/250,000
Pierre Dubreuil The First Round. Circa 1932

Above. Lot 170 Estimate $120/180,000
Peter Beard Maureen Gallagher and Late-Night Feeder, 2:00am. 1987

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Look out for The Blog’s posts on art, architecture, gardens, books, design
and anything else that interests me and I think might interest you

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Illustration | Wow!

Friday, September 23rd, 2011


Illustration Now! Volume 4

Julius Wiedemann. Taschen

Illustration goes in and of fashion. Its often the case in times of economic slump that it is abandoned in favour of photography: prospective clients, wrongfully, in my opinion, believing that it lacks impact. The examples above prove otherwise.

Brazilian-born Julius Wiedemann has been involved in much of publisher Taschen’s graphics-related output from advertising, packaging and branding to app and mobile case studies. Like these other books, the Illustration Now! series is well-produced and well-selected, demonstrating the great variety and strength of current illustration techniques, the world over. Hopefully, it will go a long way in helping to inspire advertising clients, art directors, editors and publishers to trust and recognise illustration’s unique communication qualities, and that the current econmic recession will prove to be an exception to the rule.

Illustrators, from top:
Roman Klonek
2010, The New Power Generation, Personal work
Alice Wellinger 2010, Medicine from the rainforest, Vital magazine
Gianluca Folì 2008, Bookcover, Ali Smith – La Prima Persona, Feltrinelli
Gabriel Moreno 2011, Illustration Now! Vol 4, Cover illustration

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Photography & Art | Munch in Heaven or Hell

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011


Munch\’s photography as continuous film
< Click to view

Edvard Munch, L’oeil Moderne
1900-1944
Centre Pompidou, Paris. September 21st, 2011 – January 9th, 2012

The exhibition which was first shown at Tate Modern in the spring opens today at the Centre Pompidou in Paris and will move on to the Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, in early 2012.
I am grateful to the Centre Georges Pompidou and the Munch Museum in Oslo for their help in providing this astonishingly well-put-together film of Edvard Munch’s photographic work.

Tell us what you think of it
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Culture | Postmodernism: The Wit & the Wisdom

Monday, September 19th, 2011





Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970-1990
V&A, London. 24th September, 2011 – January 15th, 2012

In 1976 filthy, gobbing punks tore apart the sequined and gold-laméd world that glam rock, with its massive, alienating concerts and over-produced double (and sometimes, triple) albums had become. Early manifestations of an infant philosophy can be just as ugly as those of a dying one.

Arguably – pop art may have got there considerably earlier – postmodernism first emerged in architectural theory at the end of the 1960s. Whereas modernism was concerned more with principles like certainty, authority, identity and unity, postmodernism is often associated with difference, plurality, textuality, scepticism and wit. Like The Sex Pistols‘ manager Malcolm McClaren, who liked to laugh and jeer and would just a few years later, put the boot into glam, American architect and theorist Robert Venturi was prepared to play dirty and liked to joke. Famously – or infamously, depending on one’s point of view – Venturi lampooned modernist god Ludwig Mies van der Rohe by substituting the latter’s dictum ‘Less is more’, with his own ‘Less is a bore’, at the same time rather snidely drawing attention to the fact that façadism played a not insignificant role in Miese’s buildings, just as it did in that of the Las Vegas strip which he considered to be more honest architecture. But Venturi was essentially a theorist and built little.

At first punk, as an anti-establishment movement within pop and as an idealism, was contained and concentrated within only a few major cities – London and Manchester in the UK, New York in the USA but its out with the old, in with the new attitude insinuated itself throughout the creative world. As the 70s became the 80s and punk splintered, New Romantic became the dominant music and fashion trend. Vivienne Westwood – Malcolm McClaren’s partner in crime – who had created much of what became the punk dress code, became established as a leading UK fashion designer, subverting established ideas of beauty and elegance. Milan and Paris, had caught the punk bug a little later. It was these two mainland European cities respectively, that would engender the postmoderist Memphis Group, established in 1981, headed-up by architects Ettore Sotsass and Matteo Thun, and Philippe Starck. The world of fashion was just waking up to enfant terrible, Jean-Paul Gaultier’s, iconoclastic designs, which, though beautifully tailored, drew heavily on street style for inspiration. Mother superior of the postmodern, Madonna, would later wear the infamous cone bra Gaultier designed for her 1990 Blond Ambition Tour. Both Westwood and Gaultier went on to produce haute couture.

Sotsass, in calling the work of Memphis ‘The New International Style’, disagreed with the conformist approach of modernist design and challenged the idea that products had to follow conventional shapes, colours, textures and patterns. Fashion designer, Karl Lagerfeld was to become a collector of the group’s work which was colourful, brash and loud, and took inspiration from Art Deco, Pop Art and kitsch, subverting established perceptions of taste. Also in the 80s, Alberto Alessi, head of the long-established eponymous Italian, quality home product design company, commissioned German postmodernist architect Richard Sapper – who had worked for a time with Gio Ponti – to design a kettle and later cutlery, that were a far cry from the modernist principle: form follows function. Sapper was the first of many architects and designers, including Spaniard Javier Mariscal – who had been invited to take part in the first Memphis exhibition – to work for Alessi. Extremely prolific, Starck, who went on to become probably the world’s best-known product designer of the late 20th century, designed his classic Juicy Salif Lemon Juicer for Alessi, who has described the role of his company as ‘attempting to create new objects, introducing a touch of transcendency, helping us decipher our own modernity’.

French graphic designer, illustrator, photographer and advertising director, Jean-Paul Goude (Born, 1940) now perhaps best-know for his campaign work for Chanel Egoïste and Chanel Coco, who had worked at Esquire magazine in New York in the early 70s and developed an interest in black street-style, began working with singer Grace Jones on her image, outfits, stage shows and videos, transforming her into the ultimate postmodern diva. Goude’s climax came when he was asked to design the French Bicentennial July 14th parade on the Champs Elysées in 1989. Author’s note: Having had the good fortune to be invited to this by Goude, I  can only describe it as one of the most spectacular events I have ever attended. Annie Lennox of The Eurythmics, changing her look and style, dramatically for each new tour, as did Madonna, was the third queen of the postmodern music world. Divos included, The Human League’s, Phil Oakey, the band Duran Duran and of course the two great glam innovators who, stand the test of time, continued to make interesting music throughout the 80s and 90s: David Bowie and Bryan Ferry.

At least one of those who were to become know as postmodernists was already advanced in years. Not wishing to be left out of the party started by Venturi, conscious of the inevitable change that was coming, Philip Johnson, 74 in 1980, a great supporter of van der Rohe, and whose work echoed the master’s, completed New York’s AT&T Building – now The Sony Building – crowned with a Georgian pediment in 1984 that instantly became a postmodernist icon. Himself 55 in 1980, Venturi had only a few private houses and a lack-lustre addition to the Allen Art Museum in Oberlin, Ohio, finished 1976, to his name. Like a too-late Pop Art piece that didn’t quite come off, The Sainsbury Wing, an extension to the The National Gallery in London by Robert Venturi and his wife and associate, Denise Scott Brown, opened in 1991. Desperately iconoclastic: an odd montage of classicism, modernism and brutalism; it isn’t funny at all. Just around the corner and taking up a prominent position overlooking the Thames, Terry Farrell’s oversized, cartoon-like Charing Cross Station, opened the previous year and a little way up-river, known within the intelligence community as Legoland or Babylon-on-Thames, Farrell’s SIS Building, headquarters of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service was finished in 1994. His latest creation however – just opened, the Kingkey Finance Tower, the tallest tower ever built by a British architect, in Shenzen, southern China – from a distance showing clear signs of lessons learned from uncompromising modernist and survivor, Norman Foster, architect of London’s Gherkin, is a streamlined wonder.

Probably the world’s most famous postmodern architect, Canadian Frank Gehry, based in LA, is somewhere in amongst all of this. Gehry (82) certainly built and is still building but, has he just one idea and how much longer can he continue to sell it?

Researching this post I happened across the following: ‘Modern art no longer scandalizes its public. It has become the new academy, a new form of official art. Modernism and avant-gardism, are perceived today as elitist in comparison with postmodernism, in which high culture is no longer viewed as aesthetically superior to popular culture.’ Excerpted from Sociologist Diana Crane, PhD, professor emerita at the University of Pennsylvania’s Postmodernism and the Avant-Garde: Stylistic Change in Fashion Design. The John Hopkins University Press 1997.

Time, in architecture terms at least, passes far more slowly than in say the here-today-gone-tomorrow world of fashion. Building projects that were begun over a decade ago may just be nearing completion. In bracketing postmodernism between the years 1970 and 1990, the V&A are either doing it for convenience or are trying to tell us that it has for some time been all over bar the fighting. Perhaps they are hinting heavily that the old postmodern guard, will certainly not be building for much longer. Have we for some time been witnessing the emergence of a new modernism: a more sensitive modernism, informed by postmoderism of its earlier deficiences; excited at the possibilities that the widespread use of computers, smart-phones and the internet have opened up; a modernism that has unceremoniously dismantled and dumped its brutalist, non-user-friendly past; a finely  tempered modernism as seen in the fluid, sensual shapes of the architecture of Zaha Hadid and Herzog & de Meuron and the design work of companies such as Barber Osgerby? If so, I wonder what name we’ll give it?

Images from top:
Grace Jones Maternity Dress 1979, Jean-Paul Goude © Jean-Paul Goude
Juicy Salif Lemon Juicer 1990, designed by Phillipe Starck for Alessi
Super Lamp 1981, designed by Martine Bedin for Memphis © V&A images
Vegas 1966, by Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates © Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates
Kingkey Finance Tower 2011, by TFP Farrells

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Architecture | Ground Zero: Business as Usual

Friday, September 9th, 2011

1 World Trade CenterClick for animation
Republished below: the introductory statement to the current issue of one of the world’s leading architecture publications, Architects’ Journal, by editor Christine Murray, is a sad indictment on the politics, market forces and, in this case, political correctness that determine and so easily restrict architectural inspiration, resulting in an icon like the Twin towers being replaced with a mediocre mish-mash.

Ground Zero deserved quick procurement and brilliant architecture, but got neither. The plethora of stakeholders, not least the families of those who died, could not find consensus on the site, caught between urges to preserve the wreckage, the building of a memorial, and the commercial pressures of private developer Larry Silverstein (who bought the 99-year lease on the World Trade Center for US$3.2 billion just six months before they were destroyed).

Ten years since the events of 9/11, replayed footage on the telly will refresh the shock of the day that took 2,752 lives. But for architects, the opening of the elegant new memorial by architect Michael Arad next week will be mired by the presence of the aesthetically bland One World Trade Center rising beside it, with no features of note, sustainable or otherwise.

For architects, the redevelopment of Ground Zero may as well symbolise how multiple stakeholders, political correctness, market forces and commercial pressures can hamper inspiring design. The tragedy of the new World Trade Center is that it is now a commercial development like any other – mired by the same bureaucracy and mediocrity.

Agree? Disagree?

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Book | This is For You – Love it? Hate it?

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011


This is For You
An autobiography of sorts
The new novel by Pedro Silmon, serialised, exclusively for you on The Blog

It’s apparent from the phenomenal surge in the usage statistics for www.pedrosilmon.com (see below) that a lot of you have been looking at and, hopefully, reading the serialised instalments of This is For You this summer, as well as looking at the other aspects of our site. The final part was published last Friday, 2nd September. So far only one person has posted a comment (see 2nd September Comments below), which, thankfully, is a favourable one. Having published and made the book available on the internet, free of any charge, I hope that in return you might tell me what you think of the book. Love it? Hate it? Either way, I’d like to know.

Please leave a comment and look out for The Blog’s posts on Art, Architecture, Books, Exhibitions and anything that interests me that I think might interest you

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Art | ‘Bank’sy?

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011


Stop & Search

Kezsler Gallery, The Hamptons

Not that I would equate the two but if it’s acceptable in the 21st century to hang a 13th century renaissance fresco, torn, by persons unknown, from the Tuscan chapel for which and where it was created in situe, in the likes of London’s National Gallery, The Louvre in Paris, or New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, why then is it deemed unacceptable by curators and Banksy fans to carefully slice out a five and a half ton section of a concrete, butcher’s shop wall in Palestine defaced by the artist, sell it to an art dealer, transport it across the Atlantic Ocean to a gallery in The Hamptons, where it is put on sale, restored and stabilised, for around around $450,000.

Authenticated Banksy pieces can sell for as much as $1.6m. The deed, and the story that ensued, of those who removed it trying and failing to sell Stop & Search – it shows an Alice in Wonderland-like young girl figure frisking a soldier – on eBay, at which point the gallerists came into the picture, one of whom defends himself by saying: ‘I have never been involved in the actual removal of Banksy art – I would view that as grave-robbing!’, have lent the piece mythical status’. It might be said that by transforming the graffiti into a 3D object akin to sculpture, the perpetrators of the ‘crime’ have, albeit inadvertedly, lent it more than mere gravitas and that thus it should be a very bankable asset. However, Banksy’s people, Pest Control, rarely authenticate his public works and have refused to endorse Stop &Search and another piece, Wet Dog, which was part of the same consignment.

What is a Banksy worth?

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Book | This is For You: Ninth and Final Instalment

Friday, September 2nd, 2011


This is For You  An autobiography of sorts

The new novel by Pedro Silmon, serialised, exclusively for you on The Blog

As previously explained, the characters within this book are fictitious and any similarities to persons living, or dead, are coincidental but, like many first novels, This is for you, is an autobiography of sorts. At 26,000 words, it is relatively short, however, it was written, re-written, edited and refined over a five year period, spanning 2001-2007, in Germany and the UK. I am endebted to David Miller at the prestigious UK literary agency, Rogers, Coleridge & White, to whom I was kindly introduced by Sarah Spankie, Deputy Editor of the Condé Nast Traveller; having read a draft of the text, David suggested a few changes which improved it enormously.


Part 2 continued…
Bede was lying on his side. He woke with a start and felt the weight of an arm pressing down on his ribs. A man’s hand cupped his genitals. Loud, staccato snoring, which made the whole bed vibrate, came from directly behind his head. As he leapt up, his pyjama bottoms fell to his knees. The snoring continued unabated, and through the first dawn light he realised that he was in a shabby hospital ward. Two rows of beds were lined up along the walls. There were perhaps a couple of dozen in all, most of which appeared to be occupied.  He had no idea what he was doing there, or how long he had lain on these disgusting sheets. Who was the fat slob who had been abusing his body? He had an urge to kill him, but was afraid of making a noise and, in so doing, raising the alarm. The man wore a grey overall and must have been some sort of attendant. On his feet was a pair of greasy-looking tennis shoes, which Bede carefully removed and put on his own.

The double doors to the ward were not locked. They hardly creaked as he gently pushed them open and slid out into the corridor. At the far end, someone sat in a glassed-in office with his back to him, apparently sleeping. No one else was about. Bede walked into the toilet and climbed out of the window. Through the mist he saw a small dog, which had been sleeping near the edge of an overgrown lawn, jump up and skitter across the gravel path towards him. He recognised it as the same one that had followed him after his beating. It made no sound, but seemed very excited to see him, stretching up, putting its paws on his knees and looking into his eyes imploringly. Bede leaned over and stroked its head, but clearly it was not satisfied: it rolled over on to its back, so he tickled its stomach.

Not far off, there was a decrepit-looking, low-rise housing estate. In the shadow of the buildings, a few burnt-out cars stood rotting at the roadside; rubbish from a dustbin had been tipped out into the street. Mostly empty, communal washing lines stretched between poles above the litter-strewn earth in front of each block. Bede inspected the meagre, damp garments. There were no trousers. After a moment’s hesitation, deciding whether or not he could possibly wear such ugly clothes, he grabbed a faded pair of shorts that had originally been jeans, a ripped T-shirt and a fuzzy, fake mohair jumper. He started to remove his pyjamas, so he could replace them with the shorts when suddenly the dog picked them up and ran off. With a great effort Bede sprinted after it, the dog enjoying the chase a lot more than he.

He had been walking for almost an hour. The sun appeared as a white disc floating in a milky pool, just above the horizon. Hundreds of moist cobwebs, which a second before had been invisible, sparkled and twinkled like delicate jewelled necklaces hung on every bush and on the dried-out plant stems that towered over the pale fields. The distant, solid line of dark tree shapes began to break up and separate. As the sky transformed into a clean, white sheet, here and there the angular silhouettes of buildings emerged, then took on three dimensions. Everything had been monochrome; now, suddenly, there were colours. Beside a weed-choked canal, where willow herb grew tall amid the long grass, a black-and-white cat sat motionless, staring up at the tattered remains of a pink kite that had become entangled in the overhead telephone cables. In desultory fashion, as if it was simply doing what was expected of it, the dog chased the cat, but soon returned to Bede’s side. A lugubrious heron, disturbed by their presence, rose a few feet into the air, then, with a sad and silent flap of its huge wings, sailed off over the treetops. A little farther on, the remains of a human body dangled below flaking rugby posts that had been used as a makeshift gibbet.

The allotments that enclosed the garages, occupied a large open area on the west side of a tall hill, and commanded a panoramic view of the city, which, in certain lights, seemed very close, yet just as often appeared remote. Head-high weeds crowded in, obscuring the narrow paths, which Bede attempted to follow through the abandoned plots. Brambles, heavily-laden with glossy, ripe fruit, grabbed and tore at his bare legs. There were obvious signs that the land had only recently fallen into disuse: burgeoning, overrun flowerbeds; a wild tangle of vermillion-flowered runner beans blocked Bede’s way. Grabbing the lush, bean tentacles in both hands, he dragged them roughly to either side, tore open a ragged aperture and pushed his way through. Big, bushy potato plants grew up through the gravel and broke easily as he lifted his feet and trod heavily on top of them.

The dog came into the lock-up and sat down in front of him. Wearing an expectant look, it stared up at his face, pressing its snout against his leg when it failed to get his attention. Bede, heavily engrossed in his book, pushed the animal gently away without looking down. It moved off a little, stood very still for a few seconds, and then scuttled around in a tight circle, nose poking inquisitively on the ground, as if arranging some non-existent blanket. Then it folded its front legs, lowered its head, and dropped its hindquarters to the floor. Raising its head once more to yawn, the dog flopped slowly on to its flank, gave a great sigh and almost immediately, began to snore.


Prologue: the story is over and now it can begin

Negotiations for the sale of foreign rights to Bede’s book came to an abrupt end, when the anarchist government closed our company down. From what we have been able to ascertain, not a single bound advance copy survived. Serendipitously, and to our great joy and surprise, a photocopy of the original, handwritten manuscript, which had been sent abroad to foreign publishers for their consideration, and had languished, forgotten, in a cupboard for more than twenty years, was recently discovered and kindly returned to us. Although the paper has yellowed and the writing is somewhat faded, the text is entirely legible.

Curiously, as we prepared for the book’s belated publication, a date-stamped set of the original printers’ proofs materialised. The plain, unmarked envelope containing the lightly-scorched bundle was pushed through the company’s letterbox late at night and contained no indication inside as to its origin. CCTV cameras had picked up the obscure image of what looked like an elderly woman on a bicycle passing close to the building at about the appropriate time but apart from her, there is nothing to suggest who might be responsible for delivering the package.

The handwriting style of the notes and the amendments on the proofs, in an assortment of inks and shades of mostly blues and black, some, but certainly not all, of which were clearly written before the scorching had occurred – bore remarkable similarities to that of the original manuscript. Although the central, anecdotal theme was left intact, significant rewriting had occurred in several places: the first chapter was almost entirely reconstructed, and included several additions; most notably, a final chapter had been appended. Bede’s recurring dream, present throughout, was also added later. Curiously, the detailed description of the eye-test is consistent with contemporary, up-to-date technology and methods, which would have been less sophisticated at the time the original manuscript was produced. Leading experts also believe that the references to the dog might well have been put in very recently, perhaps after the finding of the burned bodies of a man and dog had been reported in the media. Our initial inference was that, whoever amended the proofs – and, as the book’s publishers, we are convinced that this was Bede himself – had at least at some stage been keen to have the world believe that he was dead.

The savage attack on Bede in the park that appears in chapter one had been observed from a distance. The witness, an old colleague from his days on the newspaper, spread the word that Bede had been killed. Suddenly, Bede became a martyr – a man who dedicated his life to literature, murdered for the simple act of reading a book. It was impossible for anyone to publish anything about this at the time, but as word was passed around, Bede’s premature death gained him mythical status. But there is no hard-and-fast evidence that Bede is dead even now, or that he was the person who died in the fire at the lock-up garage. He appeared to vanish at a certain point in time when the anarchist regime were doing away with undesirables; therefore his ex-colleagues and acquaintances, having not heard from him, and having heard rumours of the attack, simply assumed that he had been killed. Their conclusion was based on little more than supposition.

During the revolutionary years, no police records were kept, and, although it appears entirely credible that the body discovered in the burnt-out lock-up in the southern sector of the city, belonged to Bede, positive identification has been impossible to establish. The conflagration, which consumed the garage and what appeared to be the countless books it housed, as well as the disintegrated body beneath the ashes and rubble, left few discernable clues. The charred remains of a small dog were found close to the blackened human skeleton. Forensic evidence suggests that the dog had been provided with a makeshift water bowl, casting some doubt as to whether or not Bede, reputedly no animal lover, had actually perished here.

When he was brought before the tribunal, the deposed leader vehemently denied any personal responsibility for sending the death squad to the allotments. Yes, he had been a contemporary of Bede’s at university. No, he had never known him personally.

In retrospect, the textual alterations, etc, might easily have been introduced with the express aim of creating confusion and a smokescreen behind which the author might conceal himself. It has also been suggested that Bede may never have been the original author. In our opinion, this is pure conjecture, and it is not our wish to raise controversy. However, we and the distinguished panel of experts we have consulted, cannot deny that certain slight inconsistencies in the style and writing technique found in the latter part of the amended version might suggest that a second author was responsible for completing the manuscript. The task would have required an intimate understanding of Bede’s complex persona.

The extreme paucity of book manuscripts of any value from before the revolution meant that we were very keen to put into production at once, the book – technically-speaking, a novella – based on Bede’s newly-discovered original manuscript. Our undertaking would certainly have been simpler had we just gone ahead and published. The continuing controversy notwithstanding, in publishing this first edition, entitled This is For You – these words scribbled, evidently in haste, across the head of the first page proof, may have been intended as a dedication, who can say? – we are confident that you, our valued readers, are being presented with the best possible, and most complete version of this work.


That was the ninth and final instalment of This is for you, the serialisation of which began here on The Blog on Friday, July 8th, 2011

What did you think of it?

Please leave a comment and look out for The Blog’s posts on Art, Architecture, Books, Design, Photography and anything that interests me and I think might interest to you

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