Monday 1 January 2024

Art Exhibition Australia: Fairy Tales at QAGOMA How We Revived these Stories with New Myths, New Media and New Quirks

Henrique Oliveira, Brazil b.1973, Corupira 2023, commissioned for Fairy Tales installation (detail) by the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) Brisbane. Plywood, talumes and tree branches. Courtesy: © Henrique Oliveira. Photo: C. Callistemon © QAGOMA. 

By Wes Hill, Southern Cross University

Fairy Tales, the latest exhibition at Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA), gives off the pleasurable hum of remix culture, artists riffing on a core theme in numerous ways.

Overseen by the gallery’s cinematheque curator Amanda Slack-Smith, Fairy Tales focuses on how artists, designers and filmmakers have taken inspiration from fantasy motifs, adapting the fairy tale vocabulary of extremes (light and dark, good and evil, rich and poor) to their own artistic needs.

Based in handed-down oral traditions, fairy tales share characteristics with all manner of fables, folk stories and mythological narratives throughout the world.

These stories, which were initially rarely intended for children (yet featured them as central characters in easy-to-understand plots), made their way into print from the 17th century.

After the coining of the word “folklore” in 1846, colonisation, advertising and the international spread of mass culture drove folklorists and creatives to praise the authenticity of localised oral traditions.

This seductively designed show at QAGOMA makes clear that, rather than fairy tales being simply preserved, the modern age revived them with new myths, new media and new individualistic quirks, from Hans Christian Andersen to Walt Disney and beyond.

Creatures in the night

Brazilian artist Henrique Oliveira sets the mood of the exhibition brilliantly with his gnarled and twisted woodland, Corupira (2023).

The sculpture builds slowly as you enter the corridors of the space and culminates in a meeting of massive tree branches that have burst through the gallery walls. Oliveira’s title refers to a Brazilian folk story about red-haired satyr-like creatures who, living in the Amazon forest, deceive hunters and loggers from the shadows, killing them – or at least putting any potential coloniser off course.

Henrique Oliveira, Brazil b.1973. Corupira 2023, commissioned for ‘Fairy Tales’, installation (detail), Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) Brisbane 2023. Plywood, tapumes veneer and tree branches. Courtesy: Henrique Oliveira. © Henrique Oliveira. Photograph: C Callistemon © QAGOMA.

It is a great opener to the show because it metaphorically turns viewers into fairy tale wanderers, and artists into tricksters and spell-makers.

Oliveira’s work chimes perfectly with The Nightwatch (2004) by Belgian artist Francis Alÿs, consisting of surveillance video footage of a fox the artist released into London’s National Portrait Gallery (with the gallery’s permission) during the night. Alÿs’s fox continues the fairy tale tradition of depicting forest animals as actively engaging with human societies.

Alÿs self-consciously titled his work after a 17th century painting by Rembrandt van Rijn in which citizens are depicted serving as defenders and official volunteers for their city. Alÿs might be suggesting the contemporary artist is like a public servant whose job, like the fox in the video, is to intrude on the prized traditions supported by museums.

Australian artist Abdul Abdullah’s provocative photograph Troubling the Margins (from the Interloper series) (2022) follows a similar idea. Abdullah literally shows himself as a fox in a henhouse.

The artist-as-fox smiles maliciously at the viewer as if saying to the art world: “I can’t believe you let me in here.”

Abdul Abdullah, Australia b.1986. Troubling the margins (from ‘Interloper’ series) 2022. Digital print, 162.5 x 130cm; made with the assistance of David Charles Collins. Courtesy: The artist and Yavuz Gallery, Sydney. © Abdul Abdullah.

Uncanny images

One of many terrific sculptural works in the exhibition, Jana Sterbak’s Inside (1990) is an empty glass coffin seemingly pregnant with a smaller mirrored coffin inside.

A reversed imagining of life in death, the piece responds to the many glass coffins in fairy and folk tales (such as Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and the Grimm’s Brothers The Glass Coffin), exploring the uncanny idea of death being put on permanent display for the living.

Patricia Piccinini, Australia b.1965. Enchanted Field (installation view, detail) 2023. Fairy Tales, GOMA, Brisbane. Collection: The artist © Patricia Piccinini. Image: C Callistemon © QAGOMA.

It’s not a coffin but a caravan in Patricia Piccinini’s The Couple (2018), where two realistically rendered hybrid human-animal lovers are frozen in a serene moment cuddling on a fold-out bed, their clawed feet sticking out from under the sheets.

Piccinini’s works often centre on hyperreal figures that look genetically altered. These sculptures are at their most interesting when they make viewers aware of themselves. I felt stupid for it, but I couldn’t help feeling guilty for gawking too long at the sweet-looking couple’s physical deformations.

Projected behind a huge semi-transparent curtain, an exquisitely staged installation of Jean Cocteau’s 1946 film Beauty and the Beast is situated in relation to costumes and props from its production. This and other displays of material from fairy-tale-inspired films Where the Wild Things Are (2009) and The Labyrinth (1986) are among the most engaging cinema-themed pieces in the exhibition.

The capacity of anything to intrigue

In my 2015 publication about the relationship between folk art and fine art, I argued art critics and art historians in the 19th and 20th centuries narrowly discussed oral traditions and amateur cultural creations in anthropological terms.

By their reasoning, these were artefacts that failed to live up to the special insights and feelings expected of fine art.

Gustave Doré, France 1832–83. Little Red Riding Hood c.1862. Oil on canvas, 65.3 x 81.7cm. Gift of Mrs S Horne, 1962. Collection: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.

This school of thought is no longer the case. Fairy Tales is a good example of the recent expansion of art-history-based curating into larger visual culture frameworks. Clothing, relics, paintings, literary documents, installations, videos and filmic props now all cohabit the museum in non-hierarchical ways, staging not the inherent value of specific material so much as the capacity of anything to intrigue.

For a show about timeless human fears and fantasies, Fairy Tales may be curiously timely.

Fairy Tales is at QAGOMA, Brisbane, until April 28, 2024.The Conversation

Wes Hill, Associate Professor, art history and visual culture, Southern Cross University

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Monday 25 December 2023

The Boy and the Heron is an Autobiographical Reflection by Hayao Miyazaki

© 2023 Studio Ghibli. Cover Picture: Anna Nguyen.

By Tets Kimura, Flinders University

Much about Hayao Miyazaki’s latest film, The Boy and the Heron, remained a mystery until its premiere in Japanese theatres on July 14.

The title Kimi tachi wa do ikiruka, or How do you live?, was revealed in 2017. (The Boy and the Heron is the English title.) No trailer was produced for a Japanese audience and there were no announcements regarding the film’s plot, voice actors or production team. The involvement of Joe Hisaishi, who has been composing music for Miyazaki’s films since Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984), was confirmed on July 4, a mere 10 days prior to the film release.

Mystery served as a strategic promotional tool for the film. After the release on July 14, Studio Ghibli discouraged the public from making any comments about the film’s contents on social media. No pamphlet – a popular publication typically available at Japanese movie theatres – was produced for this film. An official guidebook was only made available for sale at the start of November.

Miyazaki wanted the audience to see his film with no preconceived expectations.

A coming-of-age story

Genzaburo Yoshino’s novel How do you live? was published in 1937, four years before Japan joined the second world war. The book follows a teenage boy as he navigates the big questions about how to live your life through interactions with his friends, housekeepers and family, particularly an uncle who acts as a guide. It was originally intended to be an ethics book for young adults, rather than a work of literature, and Miyazaki held a deep fondness for the book during his childhood.

While the film is an original story and not a remake of the novel, it shares numerous similarities. Both narratives feature a teenage boy on a coming-of-age journey, seeking the meaning of life, and are set in a similar historical era.

The novel unfolds in the 1930s, a period when Japan was increasingly embracing militarism. The animation film is set during the second world war, likely in 1944 or 1945, following the Fall of Saipan when American military aircraft began civilian-targeted firebombing. The film’s main character, Mahito, experiences the tragic loss of his mother in a fire, presumably caused by firebombing, early in the story.

While the historical background of the film is obvious to a domestic audience in Japan, it may not be immediately apparent to many foreign viewers. There is no guiding narrative to explain the historical background in the film. Miyazaki’s use of the title from the novel reflects on Yoshino’s anti-war stance, but this connection is not clear in the English title.

The new title, The Boy and the Heron, is unrelated to the Japanese original. It was possibly crafted to appeal to an international audience unfamiliar with the novel. Here, the boy symbolises Miyazaki himself, a child who, having lost his mother and been compelled to leave Tokyo during wartime evacuations, continues to yearn for motherly comfort.

The boy.
The boy is compelled to leave Tokyo during wartime evacuations. © 2023 Studio Ghibli

The boy embarks on a journey into an alternate world. A talking heron disrupts his journey, yet is crucial for the journey to reach completion. The encounter with the heron poignantly depicts how we can simultaneously embody friendship and opposition, mirroring the complexities of the real world.

The story serves as both a life lesson and an autobiographical reflection constructed by Miyazaki in the twilight of his life. It is a journey through time, an endeavour where he traverses decades to delve into his memories. For fervent Miyazaki enthusiasts, it offers a treasure trove that unveils the roots of his upbringing.

But the raw portrayal of Miyazaki’s past emotions might evoke discomfort. Some may feel reluctant to witness Miyazaki in such a vulnerable state, exposing aspects of himself they may not have anticipated encountering.

Born in 1941, the year when Japan entered the second world war, Miyazaki might have felt compelled to document his memories. Only a small fraction of today’s generations lived through the war; even fewer retain personal memories of that time. The opportunity to learn firsthand from direct experiences and oral histories is rapidly dwindling.

A scary bird.
The boy meets various people and creatures in his quest to answer life’s big questions. © 2023 Studio Ghibli

Awaiting another film

After 2013’s The Wind Rises, Miyazaki spent ten years creating The Boy and the Heron. During this time, speculations this might be his final film circulated in Japanese media.

Now 82 years old, Miyazaki has surprised many by already confirming his motivation to embark on his next cinematic endeavour. Despite his age, he has made clear his intent to create another film.

But The Boy and the Heron feels like the concluding work of his long journey, packed with messages to younger generations. His unusual request to not share any details of the film on social media suggests he wants his audience to individually consider the important issue of how to live your own life. While it is nice to feel connected, there should also be time to be on your own, and think. The Conversation

Tets Kimura, Adjunct Lecturer, Creative Arts, Flinders University

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Friday 15 December 2023

Harmonizing Heritage and Haute Couture: Erdem's Ode to Maria Callas Pre-Fall 2024

Erdem's new collection inspired by the mid-century European world of Maria Callas

Fashion meets opera in Erdem Moralioglu's new Pre-Fall 2024 collection, weaving threads of inspiration from the legendary Maria Callas. A diva whose on-stage prowess belied a life fraught with insecurity and tragedy, Callas's voice possessed an electric capacity to project complex emotional states. While the opera singer has been the muse for other fashion designers this season, Erdem takes a more abstract approach, writes Antonio Visconti. Photographs by Sonia Szostak

One of the dreamy silk dresses in Erdem's
latest collection scattered with flowers.
Erdem's latest collection is a sartorial exploration of how Callas dressed and carried herself, drawing from the singer's style and mid-century motifs. 

The juxtaposition of structure and drapery, tailoring and organic shapes, creates an intriguing dance of contrasts, reminiscent of Fifties and Sixties silhouettes: cocoon shapes, boat-neck dresses, and felted pea coats with voluminous backs.

The overall sensation is one of decadence tempered with an austere edge. In Erdem's vision, each ensemble is a play between the controlled and the wild. A sleek black dresss with an oversized fuchsia bow, evinces the contrasts. 

Monastic dresses adorned with built-in bows and capes featuring jewel-encrusted shoulders, exude elegance tinged with exuberance. A cloqué gown, with exaggerated bows on the shoulders, showcases Erdem's masterful touch in navigating a delicate line between the extravagant and something more refined. 

A black duchesse dress, complete with a structured bustier and waist, has a sculptural quality. Whereas knits paired with mint-green draped skirts bridge both the casual and formal. Flower motifs, predominantly roses, are used as symbols, scattered across silk dresses, in blurred motion, as if caught mid-flight from audience to star. A long gown, entirely covered with hand-dyed applique roses in varying shades from red to pink, has a certain poetic expression. 

The juxtaposition of structure and drapery, tailoring and organic shapes, creates an intriguing dance of contrasts, reminiscent of Fifties and Sixties silhouettes

Roses adorn this gown inspired by the
mid-century style of Maria Callas
Silk-printed roses beneath black tulle skirts, and a black peplum suit jacket adorned with hundreds of black crushed flowers, almost camouflaged in their abundance. The collection creatively interprets the wardrobe of Maria Callas, who lived life both in the glare of the theatre and under the spotlight of high society. 

Erdem's designs blur the threshold between on and off stage making his creations very wearable along with being an homage to Maria Callas. 

The designer's own narrative has its drama, as he was born in Montreal, later traversing continents, honing his craft under fashion luminaries like Vivienne Westwood in the United Kingdom. 

His trajectory from London to New York and back, culminated in the launch of ERDEM in 2005,  Accolades such as the British Fashion Council’s Women’s Wear Designer of the Year in 2014 and an MBE in 2020 underscore his impact on fashion.

Creavity and elegance converge in Erdem's collections which are full of emotion. As Pre-Fall '24 unfolds, Erdem continues to be both curator and composer, weaving a tapestry that explores though the medium of fashion the enduring legacy of Maria Callas.

See more highlights from Erdem's collection below 

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Monday 4 December 2023

The Amazing NGV Triennial 2023 Makes us Question our World and Forces us to See it Differently

Installation view of SMACK's Speculum on display 2019 at Matadero Madrid © SMACK. Courtesy of the artist and Onkaos

By Sasha Grishin, Australian National University

What the previous two National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) Triennials have taught us is that the visitor should be prepared to be surprised, amazed and challenged. NGV Triennial 2023 does this in spades.

By the third iteration, the NGV Triennial has developed its own DNA signature. It is eager to redefine the parameters of art and design practice; it incorporates the entire curatorial team at the gallery; and the triennial interventions affect every level of the NGV building.

There is a case to be made, when the curatorial staff is large enough, for a project like a triennial to galvanise the staff into a creative collective with each person contributing according to their speciality, as well as working across disciplines.

Although it may be a large show – about 120 artists, designers and collectives from over 30 countries are involved in about 100 projects – it is manageable and is contained at the one site. It is designed to create a single knockout blow and largely manages to pull it off.

Newcomers and iconic names

As with its predecessors, this triennial contains a mixture of iconic names, including Tracey Emin, Sheila Hicks, Maison Schiaparelli and Yoko Ono, all represented by major works, together with those less well known, except to art insiders.

In an attempt to impose some sort of structure, three thematic pillars have been devised – Magic, Matter and Memory – and the artists have been loosely corralled into these categories.

In an exhibition of this nature, it is difficult and perhaps unnecessary to speak of highlights. Perhaps it is more meaningful to comment on the pieces that make you question your reading of reality.

Installation view of Mun-dirra, a collaborative work by artists from the Maningrida Arts Centre. Work on display in NGV Triennial from 3 December 2023 – 7 April 2024 at NGV International, Melbourne. Photo: Sean Fennessy.

Mun-dirra is a monumental woven fish fence created over two years by 13 Maningrida artists plus three apprentices. It creates a mesmerising installation that runs for about 100 metres. When questioned, the artists simply related how they collected the pandanus leaf, how they made the dyes, and then wove these eel traps to create this most wondrous installed environment in which you lose yourself among the veils.

Almost as a complement to it, Wurundjeri artist Aunty Kim Wandin has installed a bronze eight-metre-long eel trap in the moat in front of the gallery.

Installation view of Aunty Kim Wandin’s work Luk Burgurrk Gunga, on display in NGV Triennial from 3 December 2023 – 7 April 2024 at NGV International, Melbourne. Photo: Sean Fennessy.

American-born French-based veteran artist Sheila Hicks in her Nowhere to Go sculptural installation creates a pyramid, almost seven metres high, where the rounded textile balls become both an architectural structure as well as a celebration of the power of colour. Quite simple in concept, at the same time memorable and effective.

Installation view of Sheila Hicks’ work Nowhere to go. On display as part of NGV Triennial from 3 December 2023 – 7 April 2024 at NGV International, Melbourne. Photo: Sean Fennessy.

Dutch digital artists’ collective SMACK has created a tantalising and haunting installation Speculum.

It could be described as a digital animation of Hieronymus Bosch’s famous triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights (c1500). Here, each of the hundreds of little figures has been given an individual digital identity and is fully animated as it undergoes its various tortures and torments. It is an absorbing kinetic narrative that completely draws you in and reveals many troubling contemporary aspects to eternal questions concerning the human condition.

Installation view of SMACK’s work on display in NGV Triennial from 3 December 2023 – 7 April 2024 at NGV International, Melbourne. Photo: Sean Fennessy.

Questioning our world

Polish-born American-based artist Agnieska Pilat and her Hetrobots, especially commissioned for NGV Triennial 2023, is one of a number of pieces at the triennial that questions the role of artificial intelligence in art, design and in our lives.

Pilat has appropriated three robot “dogs” from engineering company Boston Dynamics, which have been used by militaries and police forces. Here her quite “cute” dogs have their own built environment in which they creatively rearrange the interior, create marks on canvases and shape their environment as a non-programmed act.

In a way, nothing much happens, but incrementally they are changing our world.

Installation view of Agnieszka Pilat’s work Heterobota on display as part of NGV Triennial from 3 December 2023 – 7 April 2024 at NGV International, Melbourne. Photo: Sean Fennessy.

One of the more spectacular exhibits comes from the Paris haute couture house Maison Schiaparelli. Artistic director Daniel Roseberry presents a selection of recent costumes, gilded accessories and surreal body adornments within an immersive celestial environment. It is a strangely out-of-this-world experience.

Installation view of designs by Maison Schiaparelli on display in NGV Triennial from 3 December 2023 to 7 April 2024 at NGV International, Melbourne. Photo: Sean Fennessy.

A surprising but very effective inclusion is a cameo exhibition of Prudence Flint’s paintings titled Hunting and Fishing.

This Melbourne painter has created over a number of decades a peculiar figurative language where fairly spartan and slightly surreal interiors are populated by a series of scantily clad models. Over the years, her paintings have developed an uncanny atmosphere – calm, accessible and frequently carrying the sense of a suppressed silent scream.

Installation view of Prudence Flint’s work on display in NGV Triennial from 3 December 2023 – 7 April 2024 at NGV International, Melbourne. Photo: Sean Fennessy.

The proof of a great exhibition is that it makes us question our world and forces us to see the world differently. NGV Triennial 2023 assaults our senses as we encounter architecture that breathes, mega-cities that fracture into human fragments, a huge hand that either tells us that all is OK or flicks us the bird and Yoko Ono who defiantly asserts “I LOVE YOU EARTH”.

The NGV has managed to raise A$8.5 million to pay for many of these newly commissioned projects and presents the triennial as a free event. This exhibition celebrates the freedom of the human spirit and will amuse, delight and shock over a million people who will visit it over the next four months.

Installation view of Yoko Ono’s work I LOVE YOU EARTH on display in NGV Triennial from 3 December 2023 – 7 April 2024 at NGV International, Melbourne. Photo: Sean Fennessy.

The NGV Triennial 2023 is at the National Gallery of Victoria until April 7 2024.The Conversation

Sasha Grishin, Adjunct Professor of Art History, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

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Thursday 30 November 2023

Escape to the Côte d’Azur: Fashion Editorial by Elli Ioannou in Cannes, France

Liubava Kanarchuk wears a diaphanous, rose-hued pleated gown by Gemy Maalouf with pearls by Bijou de la Mer, as she catches the breeze at Cannes, France

As winter's chill embrace tightens its grip across Europe, hearts yearn for the vivid hues and warm caress of summer days. We embark on a journey to the enchanting city of Cannes in the South of France, where the azure skies and vibrant colors of the French Riviera beckon like a siren's song. Photography by Elli Ioannou; styled by Giorgia Viola & JSN Fashion; modelled by Liubava Kanarchuk; gowns by Gemy Maalouf, Vivienna Lorikeet and RVNG Couture;  jewels by Bijou De La Mer and Helena Joy; location at the Hotel Martinez, Cannes

Running away into the lush 
gardens of the Hotel Martinez
in a gown by Gemy Maalouf
A sense of escape from frosty quotidian days is embodied by a warm afternoon at the Hotel Martinez on Cannes' palm-tree lined Promenade de la Croisette. The Art Deco opulence of this storied place has offered respite to Hollywood stars every May during the film festival. 

Opened in 1929 by Emmanuel Michele Martinez, the son of Sicilian aristocrats, the hotel is a walk to the Palais des Festivals and looks over the Mediterranean Sea, the Bay of Cannes and out to the Lerin Islands. The languorous gardens and dramatic, wrought-iron stairway provide the perfect canvas for a fashion tale that unfolds against vibrant plants and flowers.  

Flowing gowns designed by Gemy Maalouf, Vivienna Lorikeet and RVNG Couture are a vision of modern elegance. Brilliant orange and bougainvillea hues embody summer afternoons and evenings with an effortless chic. Melbourne-based designer Vivienna Lorikeet's silk organza Blossom Gown (see below) has a glimmering look with hand-beaded sequins on an evanescent digital print. 

While Gemy Maalouf's delicious deep fuchsia dress is from the Lebanese designer's Spring/Summer 2023 collection called Midnight Capri. Whereas the dashing dress and cape by RVNG Couture head designer Jordan Stweart is created from satin with a captivating embroidery. 

The diaphanous dresses and vivid hues mirror the vibrancy of the Mediterranean and tell a story of adventure, and the promise of sun-filled days. Fluid skirts are caught by sea breezes from the nearby plage and drift in the wind. Yet the fine details and delicate embellishments echo the panache of the French Riviera and the allure of a summer escape. 
A brilliant, bougainvillea-hued
 gown by Gemm Maalouf 
shimmers in  the sunshine

Couture Against a Canvas of Azure Skies 

The atmospheric Côte d'Azur and the gowns' evocative silhouettes, textures and colours provide a dynamic contrast to the beauty of French gardens and the seashore where our editorial was shot.

Silken scarves dance in the wind, mimicking the rhythm of the waves, while a molten maxi dress billows with grace, emulating the gentle rustle of palm leaves. 

Beautiful, bold pearls from Bijoux de la Mer and scintillating jewels from Helena Joy enhance the classic lines, creating a perfect look for having an aperitif and dancing the night away: Cannes becomes a living, breathing runway. 

Wintry frosts may envelop those in the Northern Hemisphere, but these transporting images are from a world where the sun always shines, and the days are filled with the promise of new escapades. 

We find solace in the fantasy of the South of France, a visual reverie that warms the soul and ignites the anticipation of brighter, sunnier days to come. ~ Jeanne-Marie Cilento

See the full fashion editorial at the Hotel Martinez in Cannes, France below.  

Looking across the winding stairs of the Hotel Martinez wearing a RVNG Couture gown and capeJewels by Helena Joy.
Romantic, long gown with embellished bodice by Gemy Maalouf at the Hotel Martinez. Jewels by Bijoux de la Mer. 

On the dramatic stairway in the vivid and elegant gown by Vivienna Lorikeet with its rich tones in silk chiffon. Jewels by Helena Joy.

The colours of flowers in a summer garden, this graceful gown by Gemy Maalouf at the Hotel Martinez. 

The swirling skirt of Vivienna Lorikeet's exquisite couture "Blossom Dress" with sparkling sequins. Jewels by Helena Joy.
The soft pinks and pleats of this delicate dress that is like a pale summer sunset by Gemy Maalouf. Pearls by Bijoux de la Mer.
Gemy Maalouf's gown from her Spring/Summer 2023 collection is perfect for an escape to the South of France. Jewels by Helena Joy.

Amid the summer greenery of the Hotel Martinez Garden, this brightly hued dress by Gemy Maalouf is the perfect foil.

Striking a pose on the stairway wearing the exhilarating cape and gown from RVNG couture with its exquisite embroidery.
Catching the sea breeze on the Hotel Martinez' beachside boardwalk in Gemy Maalouf's diaphanous creation. Jewels by Bijoux de la Mer. 

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