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Que je m’ennuie entre ces murs tout nus
Et peint de couleurs pâles
Une mouche sur le papier à pas menus
Parcourt mes lignes inégales

(Guillaume Apollinaire, ‘À la Santé’, Alcools, IV.1-4)

I’m so bored between these completely naked walls
And painted in pale colourless colours
A fly with little steps roams upon the paper
Through my uneven lines 



In 1911, arrested for an apparent theft at the Louvre, Apollinaire was experiencing a nightmare. He immediately saw parallels in his prison experience with poetry; with writing on paper, and being enclosed in a bare and colourless space. He describes feeling imprisoned by what he feels to be an imposition of form or framework. His own lines are uneven, imbalanced, and bounded between the naked walls of paper; yet within this prison, a fly meanders freely through the words.

The sensation and consideration of imposed frameworks, as liberating or restricting, of outlines and circularity, appears across these contributions forming Issue 7 of Soanyway. This imposition could be the result of a metronome, forcing steady rhythm; or the rules and conventions set for haiku. It could be the walls of the gallery, setting parameters for installations, performances or painting; or the edge of a canvas or paper. It could be the restrictions felt within language and translation (across medium as well as culture): the obligation to express and explain ideas in a foreign language, or even to use words at all. Within or external to these frames, there is also at times a sense of illusion, spinning and strangeness in the form of opposition or contrast to restriction. Beginning as usual with two exhibition features, the issue as a whole offers conversations and echoes between and across language and medium.

Derek Horton and Gertrude Gibbons - in conversation with Alen Ožbolt

A conversation with Alen Ožbolt on the occasion of An Introspective: V.S.S.D. (Painter Do You Know Your Duty, 1985–1995) +– Alen Ožbolt (works 1995–2018) at MG+MSUM, Ljubljana.  

An Introspective: V.S.S.D. (Painter Do You Know Your Duty, 1985–1995) +– Alen Ožbolt (works 1995–2018) was curated by Martina Vovk at MG+MSUM, Ljubljana, 6 February 2020 – 3 May 2020 (extended 30 August). The introspective exhibited work by the Slovenian duo, Janez Jordan and Alen  Ožbolt, who began working together as street graffiti artists in 1983.They had their first exhibition,  now iconic, at the Škuc Gallery in 1986, titled Veš slikar svoj dolg (Painter Do You Know Your Duty),  which they subsequently took as their name. V.S.S.D. was active until 1995, the artists remaining individually anonymous throughout this period, referring to themselves only in the first-person  singular. V.S.S.D. presented a different approach to the concept of a work of art, introducing the  ‘total work of art’, or ‘spatial painting’, to the Slovenian art scene.  

The exhibition also presented the work Alen Ožbolt has produced through his solo artistic career since V.S.S.D. ended. This work expands and develops upon the ideas V.S.S.D. introduced, including  an exploration of works as unrepeatable, and being framed and conditioned by the walls of the  gallery, such that they can never be seen in their entirety. Ožbolt considers the influential nature of words and the importance of titles; how words might impose and shape a work’s interpretation.  

Thinking about the gallery space and language as forms of frames, we had a conversation with Alen  Ožbolt over Skype, between Leeds, London and Ljubljana. 

Sand in the Eyes

V.S.S.D.: Sand in the Eyes, Equrna Gallery, Ljubljana, 1991. Photo: Bojan Salaj.

Gertrude Gibbons: Some of the texts you sent suggested they felt the work was already done, past, and there was a sense of completion. But some of the other texts said the work seemed abandoned, left in a hurry, or unfinished. I wondered about your relationship with ideas of the incomplete. 

Alen Ožbolt: This is a very nice notion. So at the time of the 1993 exhibition I was young [1]. I started doing art as a student, I did my first exhibition in Škuc Gallery when I was 20 and that time was very challenging for me. It was still the time of Yugoslavia and the Socialist regime, although Slovenia became more and more democratic. As a young student I wanted to rebel against the institutions — I provoked and experimented. 


Actually, "it's completed" is from the Bible. You know when Christ said on the cross “it is done”. The Bible as a material was, in a way, forbidden in Yugoslavia — not really forbidden but hidden. So I used “it is completed” in this context. Also, it was very important for me, since I was young, I was at the beginning thinking about the end, about “no future” — of course ‘no future’ was partly echoing punks from London. But anyway, as a young man I tried to make something completed — to get closer to the end. The question is very good, what is incomplete, like you said, is finished in a way without a future.


V.S.S.D.: Head, 1985 & Alen Ožbolt: Black Cloud, 2018. Author of collage: Marko Damiš [Introspektiva cover image].

GG: I saw there was one image on the exhibition website, a head, titled VSSD, Head 1985 and then also as Alen Ožbolt, Black Cloud 2018. So was that added onto a previous work? Do you amend works later on?

AO: The head is from my early student time at the Academy — Academy was very academic, and very Modernistic at that time. I got very bored with the rigorous system, so I did the head in relation to this regime. The tutors had a Modernist way of thinking, but all around me were ideas of Postmodernism. And this Head was my response to the environment of the academy. So this image we used as a collage: Black Cloud is one of my latest works and Head one of the first, and we use it like a composite, to make a kind of connection in the present with a long time ago. It’s actually not really a collage because it uses Photoshop.


GG: That's significant in relation to the possible future of something being incomplete. 


Installation shots from Ceci n'est pas une photographie, Center for Contemporary Photography, Ljubljana, 2015. Photos: Bojan Salaj.

Derek Horton: Thinking about Photoshop brings us on to the question of photography. I was really interested in the ways in which you work with photography. Obviously it's important for us to think about, because the way we show work with Soanyway is online and it doesn't matter what the work is, we're always looking at a photograph of it on the screen. So there's that question about how photographing a work changes it and the different experiences of looking at a physical object and a photograph, that whole documentation of the work idea, but also from looking at your work online as much as I could find, you work with photography a lot. You've made paintings that are kind of manipulations of photographs, you've used photography in a three-dimensional way in sculpture on some occasions… I think there was a show, 'Spaces of Photography'? In 2014 or ‘15?

AO: Yes, Ceci n'est pas une photographie. With this project and exhibition I really thought about what photography is. It's symptomatic what you say, that you know my work via photography. Coming from Ljubljana I couldn't travel so much, and I get to know about artworks via photography, so reproductions are important to me. I mentioned Photoshop, but I never use it. I don’t use a computer for producing my work, so that collage for the Introspective mailing was made by a designer. Today it's very different, with Photoshop, computers, phones, you know, these ‘cameras’, if we may name it the camera. What is photography today? Is it still existing as photography? This phone camera, is it a camera? Is photography still a new view, or a mirror? Is photography still a document? It used to be, a long time ago, but today it is the production of a new or parallel reality… Today it is the construction of reality and not its reflection. But yes I have used photography since V.S.S.D., in which I worked with my friend Janez Jordan as a duo, and since our projects were very temporary, like a kind of event, we always tried to document it for ourselves. Some documents of the specific works were so perfectly and precisely done that later on we re-used the photographs as an original work. And Bojan Salaj, a photographer, helps us to realise these. 

Introspektiva Ozbolt

Installation shot from An Introspective, Moderna galerija, Ljubljana. Photo: Dejan Haditch.

GG: I don't know if this is the case, as it's sometimes difficult to tell from the photographs online, but was there a really big photograph of the Sand in the Eyes work in the current exhibition? There seemed to be a wall with a huge photograph of that work. 

AO: Yes, we collaborated with very good photographers in the 80s and 90s. This room you talk about we call the ‘information documentation’ room. So in this room we use mostly photography as a document and some text, and also we combine these with some original works. As Derek mentioned, yes, we tried to interweave between the document and the original. Then later sometimes the photography became the artwork itself. 


DH: It's a really interesting way in which the work changes its context, because it's not just a document, it's making a new work from the document.

AO: Exactly, I agree with you. In the exhibition Memorial Images of a Future (1989) we use photography as a medium to make artworks.

GG: Yes, returning to that idea of the unfinished, it's giving it that different future. Another aspect I was curious about, not being able to be there in person, was that there was music in the exhibition? By Mario Marolt? I wondered what your thoughts were regarding the role of music, and how it complements the work? 


First exhibition of V.S.S.D., Veš slikar svoj dolg I, Škuc Gallery, 1986. Photo: Marko Modic.

AO: I understand our exhibitions as events. They sometimes call it total installation. And they are really a kind of event, with a very temporal and singular setting. If you go through the old images you may see the fire — but you cannot experience the smell [2]. At that time I was not about reduction; we tried to activate all the senses. We didn’t call it performance but actually it was a kind of performative thing because of the music, the fire, the smell. Our friend the musician, he did special compositions for each show. In the show at the Moderna Galerija he did a mix of all these compositions. 


GG: And can you describe what kind of music it is? Because I haven't been able to listen to it!


AO: It was the beginning of punk, although my fellows, we listened mostly to Black music, Soul and Jazz and Funk, we also listened to Classical music, improvisation, ambient. And we listened together with the musician and he put all of this together. But what was very important at the beginning was he did everything analogue, so he'd play everything and record everything, not like Brian Eno who experimented with computers. 


DH: It's interesting that you mention Brian Eno because he works a lot with visual artists or he certainly used to. He's very much involved in that kind of total experience, total installation.


AO: Yes so the music was part of the exhibition, a total ambience. 


GG: And did that stop when VSSD stopped? Did his compositions end then?


AO: The last composition was with the exhibition Red Sea (Red Planet), then we stopped using music [3]. Then you listen to silence! [laughing] Later on he did more with computers, more digital, electronic.


DH: The question of the total installation, or the experience of not just the visual but sound and smell as you mentioned, makes me think back to your origins with VSSD as street artists. I read that the earliest VSSD works were kind of street actions, and that you only later moved into gallery spaces. I'm intrigued by that journey, and how the work changed as a consequence of being in a gallery space rather than being in the total environment of the street.


AO: Absolutely, very nice question. We started as graffiti artists in Ljubljana at the beginning of '84. For me, graffiti art was night art. At that time, in former Yugoslavia, it was dangerous, so we needed to hide. That's the way we worked — one was checking, the other working. We had problems with the police, with the government. After two or three times we had enough of this situation. 

Of course when you change the place, you change the context; you change the frame, you change the work. The gallery we may understand as a frame or as a box. So the provocation was, we felt, more free in the Škuc Gallery which was a very specific subcultural, alternative space at that time. We felt more free inside the gallery than outside. So the place where we started was culturally, artistically, very avant-garde or alternative, so it was unlimited. We felt we might put everything into it; we may play with the fire, with the various materials, forceful settings, so this really freed us from the pressure from the outside. From that time we saw the gallery as a platform or podium for our work. 


DH: It's really fascinating actually, because that's kind of the reverse of the way many people would think about it; that the gallery, far from being a constraint, brought more opportunity and more freedom to work in a more adventurous way. 


AO: Exactly. For the second show we got the opportunity to use the gallery as a studio, as a production space, because we got the space for five months. So it was really a studio for us, a working place. Of course you know Brian O'Doherty, Inside the White Cube, a brilliant, beautiful text. What we did in ‘87 is we put this white box into the black! When we got this opportunity at Škuc Gallery for five months, we really built inside it. 


Second exhibition of V.S.S.D., Veš slikar svoj dolg II, Škuc Gallery, 1986/87. Photos: Miha Škerlep.

GG: Yes with the installations being framed by the specific individual gallery spaces, I wondered how in this current exhibition that was approached, if any such installations were partly remade? Because I saw some metal frames on stands with sand...


AO: Yes, the question of how to do it again, or redo, or reconstruct in galleries, or in a museum sense. It was only the blue sand piece we tried to make as a reconstruction. Sometimes you need to change something to remake it, so only one work is a reconstruction, the other works are transitions — they change from their original situation to ''the museum'' for the ''retrospective''. But I find when you transfer you “translate” from the past, so it's translation all the time here. And I'm critical about reconstruction, but we tried, and this piece, To See or Not to See is one of the most popular with the audience. And here at the Introspective I was very happy to get works I'd not seen since the 80s, to bring the works from the past into today and this situation. And my idea was to see if these works speak or still have a voice today, if they have a message. 


DH: Yes, to see if they still have relevance and meaning now. 


AO: And all of this exhibition, Introspective, it's very specific because I've never before done a retrospective. I did once try to reconstruct some, but only as documents. So I feel like, you know this expression of course because it's from your culture, this "go down the rabbit hole". Five years ago I did not expect what would happen in the four years of working on it! Everything happened, up and down, and we found that most of the works are lost, gone, or a lot of works are destroyed. 


Installation shot and detail from An Introspective, Moderna galerija, Ljubljana. Photos: Dejan Haditch.

DH: I read your quote, "Culture is for everyone; art is for one", in one of the interviews. I was intrigued by those statements — I wasn't sure how serious you were — "Culture is language, art is barking", I really liked that one! It was hard to read what you meant — whether, to use another English expression, "your tongue was in your cheek"?


AO: Yes, also "Culture is prison, art is freedom. Culture is using, art is not having.” So words are also my material to use, my matter. I use titles (I only once had a title of ''no title''), so the words are the material here. And it's of course how you may touch people with words. It's always impressed me how we love artists, writers, poets, singers using words. But here in Slovenia we have a saying that politicians are not doing anything, they're just talking. But they're doing with talking. I try to use words, language as my material, for provocation.


GG: So these statements are provocations?


AO: Yes, yes of course. I did many provocations that way with interviews. Sometimes I call it interventions.


GG: Yes that's the tone that came across, and it's interesting that it came across in English as well as Slovenian. 


AO: It's interesting because it's not such a different context anymore since globalisation, and Americanisation, etc. We are not that different anymore like it used to be, 50, 40 years ago, so the culture is really mixed up. But how this sounds to you I don't know. Of course I was crazy about the Sex Pistols in the way of being angry and using words to make fire — but not in the bad sense of course! Words can fire people. 


GG: Given the importance of words as your material, the role of titles, and how these might frame a work's reception or interpretation — What do you think about translation of those words you're using, and the translatability of words as materials? Do you think that works in English, or are some completely tied to the Slovenian language and cultural reference?


AO: I really hope it's crossing borders, so that it's not limited to our culture. Of course in the Slovenian language we have the common phrase, ''art in image and word''. Whenever you see an artwork or listen to music, we are talking about it. Sometimes we cannot look at a painting for a minute, before we need to say something, so it's really mixed up. So we have not been borne into the world only but also into the words, into the language. And for me, I live more in language than in houses, in a way! So language is the most complex and the most important human tool, and it is not only for communication. It is to mind, think, to understand and to make also. 


GG: I have to say that, in terms of Slovenia, I only really knew about the NSK from an exhibition in London a while ago [4].


AO: And Laibach of course, part of NSK, they're the most famous outside Slovenia — NSK, IRWIN group, Laibach. Usually when I meet someone abroad, about Slovenia they only know Slavoj Žižek, NSK and Trump’s wife, of course! That's all that people know about Slovenia which is kind of stupid!


DH: But after our next issue of Soanyway they will hopefully know a little bit more about Slovenia!


[1] VSSD exhibition It is Completed. The Future is Something Redundant, Vienna, 1993.

[2] From VSSD’s first exhibition, Škuc Gallery, 1986

[3] Red Sea (Red Planet) (1992/93)

[4] Neue Slowenische Kunst 1984-1992 at Chelsea Space, London, 2012.

Images courtesy the artist.

_inventory Platform - Where I'm Coming From

Where I’m Coming From was a digital residency curated by  _inventory Platform (Linda Rocco and Rhine Bernardino) in August 2020. The project, supported by the Yinka Shonibare Foundation and Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture, was dedicated to four languages that are spoken by a significant portion of the migrant community actively working and contributing to the British economy but which remain largely invisible: Filipino, Taiwanese, Yoruba and Berber. 


With three artists from each culture and language featured over four successive weeks, the online programme combined live performance, documentary film, animation, video art and text works. Each week concluded with a cooking session enabling the audience to learn about and experience each cultural group’s cuisine.


Opening up conversations around the exclusivity of language in accessing the production and consumption of arts and culture, whilst also considering the wider cultural presence of underrepresented artists and groups in international art debates, the project focused on increasing opportunities for new ways of working collaboratively, highlighting diversity and multiculturalism. 


These concerns are reflected in the following interviews with four of the twelve artists who participated in the project: Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen, Aïcha El Beloui, Taiwo Aiyedogbon and Aki Pao-Chen Chiu.


Ang Saan Ako Nagmumula ay isang digital residency na magaganap sa loob ng isang buwan, patungkol sa apat na uri ng wikang kasalukuyang ginagamit at sinasambit ng mga mga taong nangibang-bayan o matatawag na migrants, silang mga galing sa natatanging komunidad na ito, na mayroong kinikita at nakikitang ambag sa ekonomiya ng Britanya ngunit tila nanatiling mga taong hindi nakikilala o nakikita: mga tao na may wikang Filipino, Taiwanese, Yoruba at Berber.

What are the languages you grew up speaking or surrounded with as a child? How present is the English language in your upbringing and the environment you currently live in? And how does this influence your art practice?

I grew up speaking Tagalog, American English, Danish, and a hybrid of all the three. English has always been essential. It was the common language of my parents. Pigeon or broken English was spoken in my childhood and home too. I speak English when I travel with my work and when I teach in the Art Academy, KMD, Bergen, Norway. KMD is an International Art school, when one person in a gathering doesn´t speak Scandinavian everybody starts speaking English. This is typically Scandinavian. The language is spoken by very few. In Danish schools, learning foreign languages starts very early; often English is the second language. In my art practice, text plays a major part. When I am invited to do work in Denmark mostly I write in Danish, but as I work internationally it is difficult. Often I work directly in English in order to avoid the translation. The original language where the work is created means a lot. During the pandemic, when everybody is more or less grounded to where we live I have written more in Danish.

What is your relationship with the language in focus and all the other languages that you speak or are familiar with? In what ways does it shape perception and cultivation of your cultural and artistic identity?

In some of the songs I write, I have mixed different languages: Tagalog, German, Danish, English etc. Even languages I do not speak, I sometimes use words from. I consider myself a global citizen and I find it important to use other languages than English. It is a paradox, though, since English has become the language used to communicate internationally.

Did the process of creating the work for Where I’m Coming From provide new insights and realisations for you in terms of your relationship to the language in focus or languages in general? If so, what are they and do you think you will be exploring them further? 

Having my text translated live to Gay Lingo in Tagalog certainly gave my work a new and additional relevance. I am curious to develop future works in a queer direction. Gynophobia is about gender and stereotyping of women and feminism. 

Your art practice strongly challenges social conventions, quite often in highly satirical ways. You play around various manners of utilising language such as writing songs that mock the dynamics of cultural diversity, the art world and the artists’ ego. How do you reconcile your critiques towards an ecosystem that you actively participate in and have achieved accolades from? 

I think my viewer should answer this question.

What do you perceive is your duty as a female and BIPOC artist in this system? Do you feel that aspects of this perceived duty were communicated through your Manifesto, Gynophobia

Yes I do. But I would like to emphasise that the «message» in Gynophobia is universal and I want to reach out to everybody, including white male citizens.


What are the languages you grew up speaking or surrounded with as a child? How present is the English language in your upbringing and the environment you currently live in? And how does this influence your art practice?

As a child, I was surrounded with Moroccan which is a mix between French, Arabic, Spanish and Berber, but at school I started to learn Arabic and French too, since I was 3 years old. The English language is now very present in my life, and it started to be present while I was in high school: all movies were dubbed and we didn’t have Internet at the time, so it was only thanks to music that I really started to have an understanding of the English language. When I started to work, I decided to improve my understanding by using English on a daily basis, to read and write, which was a big challenge since I never studied it properly.  


How does this influence my art practice? I think that draws from the fact that my mother tongue is not written, so every language I use everyday to work and communicate with people and peers outside my family group, is a language that I borrow. For me, it is just a medium

I’m using to be understood and to understand other people.


What is your relationship with the language in focus and all the other languages that you speak or are familiar with? In what ways does it shape perception and cultivation of your cultural and artistic identity?


I think I’ve answered this question above: my mother tongue is not written so this forced me, as many other people in my situation, to master the other languages. I think that makes you more open to other cultures, because of course the language is a big part of culture, and it puts you in a situation where you are the receiver, the receptacle of another culture. 

Did the process of creating the work for Where I’m Coming From provide new insights and realisations for you in terms of your relationship to the language in focus or languages in general? If so, what are they and do you think you will be exploring them further? 


Yes, the process of creating the work for WICF reminded me that I actually do not understand one of my official languages of WICF, which puts me in a whole new position. It’s very strange to be in a position where you don’t understand the language spoken or in writing, because illiteracy is a big thing back home. It’s very strange to experience being illiterate. I am interested now in digging more into it, it’s a language I understand more when spoken, but I have no idea what the letters say. Nowadays the writing is becoming more and more present in public spaces and official documents, on buildings, and for me it’s very alienating to go around unable to decipher what is written if not using Arabic.


You use drawings and illustrations to create a series of mappings in your work to emphasise the need to highlight invisibility in public spaces. Majority of them are oriented towards urban architecture and the experience of the city landscapes. For Where I’m Coming From, you focused on a more rural and agricultural milieu, what prompted this and could you please elaborate further on the “invisibility of the communities behind the labour” that you wanted to address and how using the Berber alphabet (Tifinagh) provided the necessary subtlety to fully convey the work. 


I personally don’t think I focused on an agricultural milieu; to me labour is linked to agriculture, so I think it was also influenced by my last project in Peterborough as an agricultural city with a lot of immigration. It’s that sense of invisibility again. It might be something you see but you don’t understand: it’s not necessarily something you don’t see it all; it might be something you see every day, but I don’t know how to read, how to decipher, what’s behind. That’s exactly what I wanted to mean with those letters, embodying the people working behind the word, but then we don’t see them; we don’t know where these are people coming from. 


「阮對佗位來」是一月日的網路計畫,針對四種對英國經濟很有貢獻毋過 踮毋是太多人知影的移民社區內底真濟人會曉講的語言:菲律賓話,河老 話,西非約魯巴話益閣有非洲柏柏爾語。

What are the languages you grew up speaking or surrounded with as a child? How present is the English language in your upbringing and the environment you currently live in? And how does this influence your art practice?

The languages I grew up with as a child were Mandarin and Taiwanese (Taiwanese Hokkien). My parents spoke a mix of these two languages, but mainly Mandarin when they talked to my sister and me. When meeting our grandparents, Taiwanese was mostly used. My father's family also spoke Hakka (Taiwanese Hakka). Growing up, English was more of a school subject than a practical tool in everyday life, although American movies, TV series, and music might help a bit with familiarity. There weren't many opportunities to speak English in Taiwan. Also, students were taught American English at school so I struggled a little with British accents when I first came to London. Being away from my home country for many years, I noticed my Mandarin got rusty, but regardless of the amount of time I've spent in the UK, my English is still far from perfect. The incorporation of languages in my current project is a way to contemplate the meaning of ‘belonging’. I think English as my second language, its clumsiness and childlike nature, can express those frustrations and struggles I experienced as an alien.

What is your relationship with the language in focus and all the other languages that you speak or are familiar with? In what ways does it shape perception and cultivation of your cultural and artistic identity?

Taiwanese is associated with a large part of my family memories, especially with the elderly members. My paternal grandmother didn't speak Mandarin so Taiwanese was the only language we could communicate in. Although my maternal grandparents speak Mandarin as well, there is more closeness when we talk in Taiwanese, which encouraged me to speak Taiwanese more when I lived with them during my university years. Although a lot of people like me are not very fluent in Taiwanese, many expressions and words are highly integrated into everyday Taiwanese Mandarin.

I also speak a little Japanese. Sometimes I switch between Japanese and Taiwanese when I talk to my maternal grandparents, who were educated during Japanese colonisation. When I moved to London, to adapt to the new environment quickly, I deliberately detached myself from almost all non-English speaking media and communities. Apart from the messages exchanged between friends and family in Taiwan, English was the only language I used, and it became connected to building a new home in a new city. A couple of years ago, Japanese became the other language I spoke regularly because of work commitments. Around the same time, I moved in with two Taiwanese friends for a year. The shift between languages became more frequent and the different feelings I had towards each of them grew apparent. The constant changes in language showcased the process of digesting conflicts between identities, responsibilities and cultures. These adaptions in the nuances and subtle scenes in everyday life perhaps demonstrate the complexity of living in the modern world, and the feeling of being stuck in the middle.

Did the process of creating the work for Where I’m Coming From provide new insights and realisations for you in terms of your relationship to the language in focus or languages in general? If so, what are they and do you think you will be exploring them further?

The works exhibited in Where I'm Coming From were previously voiced in English by males from different nationalities and accents. This series is part of the project I'm currently working on. One of its focuses is to explore how visual art can illustrate complex identities in the modern world through investigating the relationship between images, texts and languages. For WICF, I thought it would be more meaningful to change the language to Taiwanese. Until meeting Linda and Rhine (the curators of WICF), using Taiwanese wasn't my plan. One of the reasons for using male voices in English was to create a conflicting understanding of the stories of an Asian female protagonist, creating a sense of alienation or absurdity. Taiwanese, on the contrary, presents a very intimate relationship with the stories. Participating in WICF has offered me the opportunity to see how an opposite approach tells stories, and opened up other possibilities of how I can implement languages in the future.

Your video works for WICF, Belongings and Botanist, are immensely intimate and poetic memories of your Dad since he passed away, narrated in Hokkien through the voice of your mother. How challenging was it to revive such personal experiences, involving close members of your family, to ultimately produce the work? How instrumental was the use of the Taiwanese language in adding to the poignancy of the works?

Although it was clear for me to make a Taiwanese version of the series for WICF, I was a little reluctant at first. I had different feelings for each language I spoke and they had their own characteristics and sentimental values. Taiwanese in a way represents family related memories, and its notion here includes Taiwanese friends and communities I cherish. The passing of a loved one was never a subject in conversations with my friends and family; I was able to digest these emotions through my practice. I guess I didn’t actually anticipate how the works would be perceived by the people I was close with. I assumed these private emotions would become even more public and unreserved to a Taiwanese audience. Delivering these sentiments in Taiwanese was a form of confession. Writing on memories of my father, family, and the life events that happened in the two places I consider home, Taiwan and the UK, is a way I organise the relationship between my thoughts and the images I've created. English not only represents the current environment I live in, it has also forced me to write in a very raw and direct voice. Translating these unrefined texts into the local language is a process of rewinding and replaying these memories repeatedly. Moreover, having my mother read these stories was possibly the most direct way I could express myself to her, which I found greatly challenging. Using Taiwanese deepened the level of intimacy I had with the stories, especially with my mother's narration. It's hard to describe, but I was aware that it was a struggle to distance myself when listening to the recordings in the making of the series.


Ibi Tí Mo Ti Ńbọ̀ jẹ́ ìgbélé orí ẹ̀r alátagbà olóù-kan tí a fi s’rí èdè mẹ́rin tí ó wà, tí a sì ń s láti nu àwn ẹ̀yà arìnrìn-àjò tí ó pọ̀ , tí wọ́n ń iṣẹ́ takuntakun, tí wọ́n sì ń fikùn rọ̀ ajé ilẹ̀ Britain, ùgbọ́n tí akitiyan wn ò fi bẹ́ẹ̀ hàn gbangba: èdè Filipino, Taiwan, Yorùbá àti Berber.


What are the languages you grew up speaking or surrounded with as a child? How present is the English language in your upbringing and the environment you currently live in? And how does this influence your art practice?

The language generally spoken in my household growing up as a child was Yoruba it was a general language spoken in my community as well, while English was taught and encouraged in school. I have also been able to learn and speak a little bit of Hausa, Igbo and French growing up in my community. English was a second language, mandatory in school and also practiced at home to help our progress. It is amazing how consciously and subconsciously English is spoken amongst people in my immediate community to help deal with issues of communication between members of the community, because the community comprises of immigrants from other regions of the country with very different dialects. Knowing that Lagos is a Yoruba-speaking state and also possessing a rich level of English-speaking individuals, influences my art positively in terms of engaging the public.

What is your relationship with the language in focus and all the other languages that you speak or are familiar with? In what ways does it shape perception and cultivation of your cultural and artistic identity?

Yoruba is my first and immediate language, and being able to speak a little of other Nigerian languages has been the result of my love for communicating. There are some experiences that I have encountered that I have always and will forever value as a Yoruba lady living within my environment which has cultivated rituals in my works.

Did the process of creating the work for Where I’m Coming From provide new insights and realisations for you in terms of your relationship to the language in focus or languages in general? If so, what are they and do you think you will be exploring them further?

Yes, I came to realise engaging with and through the process of my work opened a channel to long for a deeper understanding of the Yoruba language. This has gone beyond the culture and art of speaking, to living. 

In your live performance Aaye (Space) you engaged with a group of young men performing music along with Yoruba poetry. How did this collaboration come about? Was there any specific motivation in choosing this particular group? In terms of gender dynamics, what were the advantages and disadvantages of reaching out and initiating this performance work? Do you have any plans to further work and develop new projects with them in the future?

The creation of Aaye (Space) was developed from a conversation with one of my cousins, I initially intended engaging a performance that explores sound and Yoruba language which I developed for this project. Collaborating with these men has been one of my best collaborations so far, and I long to expand this with them. It's my first collaboration with men that was not deliberate. The art of spoken words and poetry are popularly done by men in Otta, not that women are not involved, but few of them are. 

Maria Garton - The Crystal Mass
Maria Garton
Maria Garton
Simon Welch - Prelude
Yuzo Ono - The Western sensibility of haiku; the case of Jack Kerouac

I am a haiku poet in Japan, and I spent almost two years in the UK from 2018 to 2020. During this stay, I realised that haiku has been widely accepted in British society, such that haiku is adopted as part of the curriculum in primary schools. However, I felt that there was something fundamentally different between Western haiku and Japanese haiku.


Haiku is the form of poetry that originated in Japan, often called the shortest poetic form in the world, as it has merely three lines with 5-7-5 syllables, respectively. As far as I know, most Western haiku writers follow this rule of 5-7-5 syllables. However, due to the difference between Western languages and the Japanese language, what Western languages can say in the 5-7-5 syllables is often more than what their counterpart can say within the same restriction. Since the kernel of haiku literature is based on its compactness, this linguistic difference leads to a substantial aesthetic difference. This is the reason that, now and then, Western poets’ haiku makes me feel a bit odd.

But, one day, I came across a haiku book written by Jack Kerouac, the prominent American novelist and the author of On the Road, one of the most influential novels of the last century. He published a Book of Haikus and dedicated himself not only to writing stories but also creating many haikus throughout his life. The following haikus by Kerouac are highly sophisticated and imaginative with his urbanised sensibility:

Train tunnel, too dark

for me to write: that

"Men are ignorant"


Birds flying north —

Where are the squirrels?—

There goes a plane to Boston


So humid you can’t

light matches, like

Living in a tank


The moon

is a

Blind lemon


Hitch hiked a thousand

miles and brought

You wine [1]


It can easily be recognised that these Kerouac haikus do not follow the rule of 5-7-5 syllables. In fact, Kerouac advocated 'Western Haiku’, which abandoned the rule of 5-7-5 syllables, realising that the Western languages could only approach the soul of haiku by neglecting the syllable restrictions, which is often considered the basic rule of haiku. He notes:

A "Western Haiku" need not concern itself with the seventeen syllables since Western languages cannot adapt themselves to the fluid syllabillic Japanese. I propose that the "Western Haiku" simply say a lot in three short lines in any Western language. Above all, a Haiku must be very simple and free of all poetic trickery and make a little picture and yet be as airy and graceful as a Vivaldi Pastorella [2].


In general, the Japanese language consists of pairs of a consonant with a vowel (or of a vowel alone). It means Japanese haiku does not have any sound made solely of consonants (with the only exception of the sound of 'n'). One of the most famous pieces by the legendary haiku poet, Matsuo Bashō, is ‘shizukasa ya / iwa ni shimi-iru / semi no ko-e’, and it can be translated as ‘Quietness / cicada’s voice / sinks into rocks’. In English, this piece has merely 3-4-4 syllables, far less than 5-7-5 syllables.

Knowing this, Kerouac must have thought the length of 5-7-5 was too wordy for haiku-writers in the West, and that this wordiness could eventually ruin the conciseness of haiku. He demolished the basic rule of haiku in order to save the soul of haiku. As a result, I feel his haikus accurately capture the essence of haiku aesthetics, as some remarkable Japanese haiku poets do. He also explained that haiku was ‘the discipline of pointing out things directly, purely, concretely, no abstractions or explanations’ [3], and I totally agree with him. As such, I was surprised that a Western writer could understand this deepest axiom of haiku, and I have to admit that Kerouac was one of the most excellent haiku poets of the 20th century. I feel his haikus also convey the Western essence of poetry. Consequently, his haikus beautifully represent the combination of two different cultures. He successfully combined the beauty of the East and that of the West through his notion of 'Western Haiku’.


[1] Kerouac, Jack. Book of Haikus. London: Penguin Books, 2003, pp. 43-96 [selection].

[2] Kerouac, Jack. Scattered Poems. San Fransisco: City Lights Books, 1970, p. 69.

[3] Ibid, p. i.

Christopher Page - /Cloud/
C Page Allegory-of-Privatised-Space.jpg

Allegory of Privatised Space, 2018, acrylic on wall. Dimensions variable.

These works were shown in the exhibition /Cloud/ at Ben Hunter gallery, London, November 2018 – January 2019. The title references Hubert Damisch’s A Theory of /Cloud/, a text which enables a new exploration of pictorial space. 

The vivid yellow of Christopher Page’s Allegory of Privatised Space seems molten and ready to move behind the frames that encompass the white of the gallery walls. Its texture, movement, and depth is reminiscent of sections of Renaissance frescoes, like the variously coloured ‘panels’ below Piero della Francesca’s The Legend of the True Cross, which give the illusion of marble, mirroring the marble façades painted within the fresco, and appear bordered by plain stone. Page’s painted surfaces are illusive, playing on perspective. Surrounded by these works which both use and elude surface as a space and a boundary, the spectator might feel they have entered a different dimension, their own bodies becoming two-dimensional at the edge of these framed dreams or gestures towards illusory space. 

C Page Allegory-of-Interface.jpg

Allegory of Interface, 2018

oil and acrylic on canvas

160 x 160 cm


Allegory of Cloud, 2018
oil and acrylic on canvas
160 x 160 cm

Images courtesy of the artist and Ben Hunter gallery, London. Photography: Damian Griffiths.

LeightonB Linklater
Hannah Leighton-Boyce and Jazmine Linklater - Persistent Bodies and More energy than object, more force than form

Persistent Bodies and More energy than object, more force than form by Hannah Leighton-Boyce were developed through a research residency at Glasgow Women’s library, co-commissioned by Castlefield Gallery and The University of Salford Art Collection, and exhibited at Castlefield Gallery, Manchester (2018) and Glasgow Women’s Library (2019). The poems by Jazmine Linklater were written in response to the artworks. They are included in her pamphlet, Figure a Motion, published by Guillemot Press.


Pulse Pulse

Corrosive cumulative content tricks
Trip plose stip tup pulse pulse powers
Round repetition and the loud light sounds
Salt skin fish scale glass snapped zinc

Hannah Leighton-Boyce_PersistentBodies

Pulse Pulse

Low sound languid bloom soon sparks
Spirals a curvature echo staccato
Stacking a ratcheting crotchets
Moving toward one point
Many lines of a light
Of a semibreve singing

Hannah Leighton-Boyce_More energy than


Installation photographs by Hannah Leighton-Boyce and Simon Liddiard.

Clare Price - spit

Sensuous abstract paintings; dance-like performances made in front of them or sometimes enveloped in them, the canvases freed from their stretchers; photographic works made in collaboration with Benjamin Whitley; theatrically constructed den-like spaces filled with objects of significance; fragments of raw and visceral writing. In all of these aspects of Clare Price’s deeply personal and politically complex practice, embodiment and lived experience are central. Fragile and vulnerable yet simultaneously liberated and empowered, the artist constructs literal and metaphorical frameworks that contain and protect as much as they release and expose.


salmon south london sky red baubled chimneys paynes grey puffs crisp stars coddled nettles peels clod clumps pretty tiny custard yellow sparrows in eaves tangled looped brittle wisteria curved slates crimson clamps slid mesh nesh a flurry open numbers under nails did varnish lily of the valley aconite puschkinia lint floss wool landed lucent clear luminous orange flesh tint pale teal ivory weft over beds twined legs nest in mid fuzzy thistle like satellite antennae chimed willow cow parsley small fuzzy thistle fledgling quill buds like hooves bowers bend rusty point buff tinged ducks viola muscari blue plum i made a den in an mfi wardrobe it had paper buttons numbers to do with the space shuttle white encased shoddy burgundy burst waist curled in wood rings printed concrete magnolia magenta flames landed boundless vivid play held in space under the roof where I visit unlocking I want to make a web in the attic a white suit and tie daisies make up birds nest everything is huddled


are you on your own here? there used to be long gardens behind before they built the railway i dreamt i had or was a bird with a yellow tail fledgling i reconnected with them and they had this strong round bird and it ate the yellow one go figure letting go of objects right up in my gullet it’s called the croft flashing feeling lacy frail and sinew lovely little thing how old is she? poppet yorkshire accent bottle top glasses tweed and a white shirt used to work for the post office shone black shoes walks muttering under breath been here since i can remember kind man manged daytime fox hijab trowel stooped cat cow pent up want up tied up the telly person when i keep you all out i have so much pow i could fall over i see why you kept that down twitched square in my solar stained orange pine of the time pollen tiffin and toffee scramble moorhens falsies rushes cloakroom girl at my age faced with my disabilities we had a laugh though burn traces in the fire minty she’s ruby’s sister i see you pushing me so you can call me a bitch i did the work everyone melds in may pole spirals we are all the same ire dampens i found a map of south london parks i drew years ago burgess park just had high flats on a blob of green and it said “really scary” next to it they did it up for the new flats not for the people who deserved it moved out to ramsgate no work treated as less than human are the mounds the old streets? rubble canal buried me and the dog both of us dressed like boys either that or a ball gown nothing in between pergola bird box flutter by butterfly speakers on bikes raining in my heart at the end of the walk the saliva rises lava hisses bubbles spits like a mountain it will pass emoji stuffed pound shop clouds rachel said you are strong clare write it all down left to clear up the mess lighter pretty objects for pleasure fill the holes left by the laden ones the york flags arch over the coal hole and within it both ways bubs used to call it the gimp room flowers clamber rose steel overpainted imprints pin and steady the bricks of the cottages there is joy under this seething mantle i will share it i spat on it to put it back together


lads on bikes with shark teeth on masks like a de kooning painting she’s wild a mind of her own takes herself for a walk crochet wine coloured hat tall over locks frog carcass she beckoned him and i knew it was about tricks me and oz saw a deal as cars and hands passed freed from the toxic triangles weaving silvery bright webs i want to make a beautiful new spitty bubble savage papery petals bleed you look nice in that picture when you are not trying to be a player iranian persia doesn’t exist anymore glacial time heals you shouted at my kid years ago and i let you have it now your baby made lanterns hanging from trees fire red fronds claret thick but see through a little girl wore a crown of dandelions and put it on the dog starlings darling grimed boom boxes on bikes kite tail silken tension tendons high top wallabies daisychains daisy chain at the fridge there wasn’t a word for it but i knew i belonged there that beautiful kitchen in ireland with v and o and n and p i could just be quiet and breathe and play i felt that precious rare jewel of acceptance oh so you’re nye’s mum he said it’s very 2006 things are a lot more delicate now he meant shelves but yeah he left me for her when he was 3, 6 months after we got married she had a baby the school mums like her more it was brutal the more they hated me the more i dressed up the more i dressed up the more they hated me i was providing no time for coffee and politics controlled at home locked gate she was high up in the church and the pta never met a worse bully the dads are above the single mums but below the smokers luke said or something like that the hierarchies palpable i would pretend to be on the phone legs would buckle the dog got me back i couldn’t do wide open spaces the truth drug you couldn’t handle her wildness the wardrobe with the bad juju is gone i’m going to paint everything white like the knack and how to get it i’m losing interest clive said it reminded him of his mum’s house in jamaica they would polish the wooden floors with coconuts he said emerald green under wing lemon sherbet flitter this written child curled under the hips of the roof


peas peas peering in the eaves the work peace glimpse clear the plants trickle thunder claps rain lashes the train rhythmic on the steel bricks breathe your room is lit richest bauble stops resin crystal blobs lightning rebels drips on wrought iron haunch bowed caution tape beguiles nettles wheat and wild dogs chicken bones cherries droop like nail varnish rouge noir in the dream there was a crash like ballard but then the doors slid like a bus and it was out of view he said is it that the carnage continues but you just can’t see it? don’t know how he knew, gloops droops chinooks he can’t take away your beauty bitumen boiling behind my box-kite eyes the meadow is up to my knees cornflower petals and pollution me and the dog in the camera on the bus i forgot the woods smelt like that canopied phosphorescence clear spinning spun weaving sewn russell said like gainsborough looms with sunlight dancing on them tales spanning pips and stones and seeds flesh gauze head next to the rails jubilant points burst cordoned grit scorched circle oak leaf overlap fern kernel bees i can tell you are looking at yourself from above can you let me know where i can learn to fight i see you plain stung you are snap dragons pop clive said i know it’s not been easy and i went to khans and cried him and monika and jason the estate agent and ally said that she said you were lucky with the house the hacienda the ball’s house the hidden gem, cherry tree, the greenhouse the attic the garage in brighton, the cools, anne, the cupboard where we worked with the dripping aircon paul held us safe accepted free, this house, ireland, frankincense swinging it was so glamorous he knew all the responses turns out he was listening all along

NEW 2.4_.jpeg
Pierre Yves Clouin - Cibles
Simon Linington - Ghosts

I was concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other when my body began to change shape. It began to change shape because I love you, and you don’t love me.

First, there was a noise I didn’t recognize and it was the only thing I could hear. It was a long high-pitch sound that went on and on up there somewhere. It would sometimes change speed, becoming slower, then slower still, before speeding up again. I thought it would end soon, and I waited and waited, and that’s when it happened.


I was lying on my back in bed when my t-shirt began to sink where my stomach is. I thought there were things inside me that would stop it doing this, but when I lifted my t-shirt to have a look, there was a hole to the left of my navel as large as a fist.


I put my left first finger inside the hole and felt around until I touched the tenth rib. I continued to the ninth and, pushing my finger as far as the knuckle, I finally reached the eighth. I wondered if I would find my heart if I kept pushing my hand up through my ribcage.


Then, as my left hand was somewhere inside my ribcage, I realised I was standing alone in a field of grass taller than me. The grass was greeny-yellow, or green and yellow, and all around me I could hear the chirrups and clicks of insects rubbing their body parts together. I wanted to see what they looked like.


I raise my arms above the grass to feel the warmth of the sunlight. It moves between my fingers, and over the backs of my hands and forearms, and I watch the shadows on the ground becoming longer, and changing direction as the sun gets lower in the sky.


Suddenly my hands feel colder, and I look up to see they have pierced the sky, which is falling over my upright arms. It stops just below my armpits, trapping my arms and head above it; my torso and legs still standing in the grass. I never imagined what it would be like up here: in every direction, it is dust and bones rising on and on, to blue mountains on the horizon.


I break up the boredom of being trapped here by tracing letters in the dust with my right first finger. “E, V...” I notice what lies just beneath the surface is darker, colder also. In the distance, I hear singing, and to my left an old woman is walking towards me, kicking a path through the bones with heavy footsteps. 


“Woe-ful me

Un sad th day

My hart es not my own

My mind es sad un trubbled

Sum-times I think I’ll go

Unto my heedlus luv

Un all my pash-un show

Un ye ef I shuld do so

I fear, et be en vain…”


The old woman sees me, stops singing, and now that she is standing over me, I notice her clothes are old fashioned and her mousey hair is pulled through a band on top of her head into a bun. She looks exhausted, and I wonder if she has the energy to carry on. 


“Hello,” I say. She ignores me, so I decide to try something else. “What was that song you were singing?”


“Ush,” she snaps back. 


I shield my eyes from the dust that rises from her boots and offer an apology before asking, “What happened here?” 


“Wot appened ere appened uh long time ago, un nuff-in appened since.” She lifts her chin to look over my head and beyond me. “We walk roun all day, but we’re not gett-in enywhere, we’re jus kick-in th dirt wiv our feet.”


“And the others?” I ask, and turn to look over my right shoulder to see if anyone is there.


“Ain’t seen no-body else ere.”


“But you said we, who are—”


“Look, yurr star-tin te annoy me Simon,” she snarls, and before I can think where she might have learned my name, or if we have met before, she hit me on the side of the head with a rock, and the blow threw me forward against the ground. She walked around me and kicked me in the side, and I grabbed her ankle and pulled her down onto the ground. She quickly turned over, sat up, and slammed the rock down hard on the ground again and again, and the noise ricocheted off the thousands of bones and covered everything with that same high-pitch sound I had heard when I discovered the hole in my stomach.


“Stay away from me,” I shouted, and again, “Stay away.” The old woman took a step back. I moved my right hand toward the side of my head where I thought the wound was, but before I could reach it, she lunged forward and hit me again, and my body relaxed as if someone had said, “Simon, it’s all right.”


The air is hot and stuffy, and my clothes cling to my body as I fly with my arms straight out at my sides over a lake in the middle of a park. The lake is circled by a well-worn path, busy with mothers with small children kicking restless feet in pushchairs, holding candy floss and balloons-on-sticks. Bigger boys and girls chase one another over bridges, in between food stalls, and blow into plastic horns; they throw Frisbees, shout, scream, hide from their fathers behind tree trunks, and argue over tangled kites stranded on the grass. Away from the noise, older people sit in the shade under the tallest trees in tricolour deck chairs, reading newspapers and listening to the radio whilst eating hazelnuts and potato chips.


A small white, short-haired dog runs out from under a tree, stops, looks up at me and barks, its tail moving excitably from side to side. A woman grabs the dog by its collar, and after catching her breath, points at me and says, “Look at that bird, he is too big.” A second woman exclaims, “He is the wrong colour!” And a small girl holding an ice cream, grabs the second woman’s sleeve, and asks, ‘Mama, where is he going?”


I close my eyes and think back to eating ice cream with my sister at Nanny Tessa’s beachside café. We both had a favourite flavour ice cream and a favourite colour ice cream. I would always ask for chocolate, but mint was the best colour because it was green like an alien and they were cool. My sister loved strawberry because it was pink, and people ate strawberries when they watched Tennis, and she wanted to go to Wimbledon and see Steffi Graf play. We would talk excitedly about making an ice cream tower with one scoop of each different colour, piled high on a single cone, and we both agreed, “The best thing in the world EVER,” was when you had finished eating the top of the ice cream, and there was still more pushed down inside the cone.


It’s been four summers since I went home and swam on that beach. I think about what it feels like to dive off the breakwater and go deeper into the sea, and I pull my arms back further, and I’m lifted higher and higher, and everything around me is blue.


The sky begins to fill with dark clouds, and I can hear the distant roll of thunder. There is a lightning flash, and the first warm drops of rain land lazily on my outstretched arms. After the rain, the dark clouds rise higher in the sky, and the smaller, lighter clouds sink between the hills below me. Still wet from the rain, I watch these hills bursting with daffodils, crocuses, and snowdrops. 


The sun rises higher in the sky, and the plants turn their creaking heads to face it as if unfolding after a long time asleep. As their stems grow under and over one another, they become grazed and tangled, and the breeze cries through huge choking knits of stem, shoot, and leaf.


Either side of me, the hills grow taller and lean inward and drag their shadows over the plants who bow down their heads at the ground. The leaves on the trees turn orange, then red, and fall on the lichen and moss and rot, and the air is filled with the sounds of branches snapping clean from dying trees and thuds as they punch the earth.


Grey flat clouds move quickly across the sky and crowd out the sun, and everything lays blind and broken on the moonless earth. Exhausted, I fly closer to the ground to look for somewhere to rest, and fireflies pass by me and flash electric blue in bursts that burn down the night.


I hear, “Simon,” and I am woken up. 


I rub my eyes open, yawn, and stretch. Alicia is sitting in front of me on a low dry-stone wall, looking at the ground with her legs together from the knees to the ankles, her hands resting in her lap. She looks up at me, and the breeze blows everything away for the last time. 


“I didn’t think you’d remember,” she says.


I clear my throat, and reply, “I was standing in a field of grass that was this tall” —gesturing with my right hand above my head— “and I was watching the shadows on the ground, and suddenly the sky—”


“Yes, I know. You were with her.”


Alicia is looking at me and waiting to hear what I have to say. “I don’t think I want to talk about this now,” I tell her.


“Tell me, Simon.”


 I turn away and mumble, “I was with her.”


“Did you plan to?”


“I thought about it.”


She huffs, “And you spoke about it, the two of you?” 


“Yes,” I say.


“So, what happened?”


It was January. The edge of the water was just a few feet away on my right side, and the sun shone brightly over everything. 


I often listen to the cello when I write, and I was thinking about the wordless song it sings as I untied my laces and slipped off each of my shoes, left first, then right, scrunching the socks down inside each of them. I was thinking about that warm dark sound as I ran barefoot along the beach, and I’m still thinking about it now.

Fiona Grady - Colour Wheels

Colour Wheels, 2020

Watercolour ink on 300gsm paper

29.7 x 21.0cm


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