Artist Statement – Genetic Modification

Genetic Modification explores the global increase of genetically modified fruit and vegetables, as agricultural conditions change and water levels continue to rise. Across a table are 10 jars filled with genetically modified produce, with the intent to appear as if they are in a scientific context. From left to right there is an increase of water which responds to the rising water levels on coastal countries and how this affects the salinity levels in the soil preventing crop growth. Genetically modified produce has the ability to grow in these unideal conditions and therefore is a suitable alternative.

The labels on each jar represent the specific scientific name of the fruit or vegetable inside. Projected onto the produce are a series of genetically modified PLU codes found on stickers placed on fruit and vegetables.

Genetic Modification was influenced by the work of Vincent Van Gogh and Patricia Piccinini. Van Gogh’s Still Life with Vegetables and Fruit explores the artist’s fascination for experimenting with colour and light, having the intent of making his paintings look as mature and realistic as possible. Physically our work is much like a still life through our exploration of bright colours and use of projection. Conceptually it relates to the work of Piccinini whose art practice explores how technology, nature and the artificial are changing society. These ideas make reference to Genetic Modification as it explores how scientists are utilising technology to overcome the nature-associated changes we are being faced with.

Week 13 – Final Class

Izel and I begun todays class by going straight to the black box and beginning to set up. From last weeks feedback we decided to put the jars right next to each other as oppose to having the 15 cm unnecessary gap. We brought a wide variety of fruit and vegetables and different sized jars to make it look a little more interesting. We lowered the table by eliminating a plinth as we believe it was too high last week to formally study in detail.

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We also altered the work so it was off the wall as opposed to against it which we believed opened it up, not making it look like such a kitchen display but a scientific experiment. The projector was mounted to the ceiling and was hooked up to a dvd player, we inserted the usb with the code footage into the DVD player, and played it on repeat. We are still going to partially fill the jars up with water but didn’t this week so we were able to use the food for the assessment. To make the jars look more experimental we researched the scientific names for each of the fruit and vegetables and wrote it on labels which we stuck on the jar. Each item has its own individual quirky name so we believed by displaying these it would have a positive aesthetic affect on the work. For example, according to everyday science pumpkins scientific name is ‘cucurbita Moschata'(everyday science, 2011).

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As shown in the photograph above with very little light it is difficult to make out exactly what is in the jars. We thought perhaps having one light on in the black box during the exhibition will best as that way the audience can gain an insight into the detail of not only the produce but also what is written on the jars labels.

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Our work was inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s Still Life with Vegetables and Fruit 1884 and the work of Patricia Piccinini.

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Van Gogh was a Dutch Post-Impressionist painter who is arguably one of the most famous artists in the world. According to Martinique during the period that his work Still Life with Vegetables and Fruit Van Gogh was experimenting with colour, light and techniques that he had learnt from other modern artists (Martinique, 2017). He admired how the light would fall on across the fruit and vegetables and believed the dark colours were more mature and realistic (Martinique, 2017).
Our work is similar to a still life such as this but to some degree we have taken it out of the context of art and have categorised it as being a scientific experiment, acknowledging modern day society and how times have changed since the 1800’s when Van Gogh’s paintings were created.

Patricia Piccinini is an Australian artist who works with a range of media, according to the MCA her artist practice is heavily influenced on how she believes technology impacts life (MCA, 2017).  Piccinini explores the contemporary ideas of how nature and the artificial are changing society and the way we live (MCA, 2017). These ideas make reference to our work in the fact that it explores how scientists are utilising technology to overcome the nature associated changes we are being faced with.

Reference:

Everyday Science, 2011, Scientific Local Name of Vegetables and Fruits, Everyday Science, viewed 31st May 2017, <http://everydayagri.blogspot.com.au/2011/10/scintific-local-name-of-vegetabls.html&gt;

E, Martinique 2017, Still Life with Vegetables and Fruit, Widewalls, viewed 31st May 2017, <http://www.widewalls.ch/fruit-paintings/vincent-van-gogh-the-still-life-with-vegetables-and-fruit-1884/&gt;

MCA, 2017, Patricia Piccinini, Museum of Contemporary Art, viewed 31st May 2017, <https://www.mca.com.au/collection/artist/piccinini-patricia/&gt;

Week 12 – GM Fruit and Vegetables

This week the group continued on with our own ideas. Izel and I brought in more jars, fruit and vegetables to further experiment with this idea. According to Reynolds corn and potato are the highest genetically modified crop in Australia (Reynolds, 2015). So we decided that we would put these two in our final work along with other everyday fruit and vegetables that are genetically modified.

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We put a table against the wall in the black box and put two plinths on top of it so the jars were at eye level. We set up four jars with the food inside them and placed them about 15cm apart as shown in the image below.

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We didn’t think that the jars alone were enough so we thought we would explore how they would look if we added water to them. We were pleased with the effect and decided to further research the topic of how rising water levels affect our crops. As stated by phys.org, coastal countries are highly prone to rising sea levels which then leads to salt water intrusion and a rise in salinity levels in agricultural land (phys.org, 2017). High levels of salt in agricultural areas make it very difficult for crops to absorb essential necessary nutrients in order to grow (phys.org, 2017). This idea relates to our work in the fact that climate change and rising water levels heavily affect the growth of fruit and vegetables. This increases the need for genetically modified food so they are able to handle these changing and unideal conditions.

After this we needed to find formal codes to project over these fruit and veggies which were fairly hard to come by. We we already aware that if theres five numbers on the PLU code and they begin with 8 this means that the item is genetically modified. For instance, a genetically modified banana would be 84011. So we decided to find as many PLU codes as possible that were used for each individual type of produce, we copied and pasted these together and projected them onto the jars.

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We wanted to take it to the next level though, so we wrote the codes first hand on the computer then videoed the screen and that way we captured the codes moving. From there we videoed the footage by speeding it up and sizing it so it would fit the jars and wouldn’t project onto the back wall. We were pleased with our progress at this point.

Reference:

E, Reynolds 2015, The Truth about Genetically Modified Food, News, viewed 24th May 2017, <http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/food/the-truth-about-genetically-modified-food/news-story/74211e046436937846f0bea00e0ad81c&gt;

Phys.org, 2017, Food Security Threatened by Rising Water-levels, phys.org, viewed 24th May 2017, <https://phys.org/news/2017-01-food-threatened-sea-level.html&gt;

Week 11 – Group split

Today our group decided to continue on with our idea from last week and branch off that. So we worked with our existing jars by putting various objects inside of them and continuing to experiment with this concept. Izel and I brought in some fruit and vegetables and the others brought in more things from the butcher. We wanted explore many potential ideas at once, so we place all of our items in the jars we had and set them in (separately) with the intention for them to look as if they were in a science lab. We began integrating the projector by projecting a beating heart video from YouTube onto the real heart, however this didn’t produce the effect we wanted so we filled the jar with milk which still didn’t seem to work.

At this point Izel and I were considering the idea of branching off from the group and pursuing our own ideas. We decided to work together with the fruit, vegetables and the jars we had. We wanted to use light and projection with our work but wasn’t sure on how we could do tis or even make the jars of fruit and veg have a contemporary meaning. Working at a fruit shop for over 5 years I have come across many different kinds of fruit and vegetables that have been produced in a variety of ways, whether they are organic, imported or genetically modified. We decided to further study the concept of genetically modified fruit and vegetables and how they work.

According to SBS in Australia corn, potatoes, soy bean products, sugar beet, pineapple, papayas, wheat, barley, canola and sugarcane are at a high risk of being genetically modified (Pazzano, 2012). Each fruit and vegetable will have a sticker on it and the code on the sticker will give you the opportunity to be able to tell whether the product is genetically modified or not. As stated by Lipman if there are five numbers in the PLU code, and the number starts with 8, this tells you that the item is a genetically modified fruit or vegetable (Lipman, 2010).

Discovering that GM fruit and Veg have individual codes we thought it would be a good idea to experiment by projecting these codes onto the jars. We didn’t have enough time during the lesson to fully set up so instead we projected a series of codes onto just one jar which had an incredible effect. We will continue with this idea next lesson.

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Reference:

C, Pazzano 2012, Factbox: GM foods in Australia, SBS, viewed 16th May 2017, <http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2012/11/15/factbox-gm-foods-australia&gt;

F, Lipman 2010, What do those Codes on Stickers of Fruit and Some Veggies Mean? Be Well, viewed May 16th 2017, <https://www.bewell.com/blog/what-do-those-codes-on-stickers-of-fruits-and-some-veggies-mean/&gt;

Week 10 – Alternative Ideas

Another peer joined our group today, Matt who seems to have similar skills and art interest to each of us. Today I brought in some jars and aluminium, Jade brought in a sheep heart, Izel brought in some bones from the butcher and brightly colour fruit while Hugh brought some twigs, string, coins and figurines. We decided to sit down for the first part of class to discuss where we were going to go with executing our ideas and how we were going to use these unique range of materials. We narrowed it down to a couple of ideas which was the complete opposite of last week, and brought it back to basics. One of the ideas was to explore how light being projected onto objects can distort the shadow. So we got into the black box and borrowed a stage light and plinth, we placed the objects together in the hope they would create a shadow that looked nothing like the objects themselves.

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As shown in the photo above this became fairly difficult. We even went to the lengths of hanging the stage light to the roof with a fish wire so we could produce movement which did intact create some unique shadows, but it jus wasn’t enough. We tried rearranging the objects by stacking them together, putting them inside each other and adding to them with different materials such as glad wrap, mirrors or even our phones. Unfortunately we couldn’t make anything of it and the rest of the group agreed that it would waste time to continue to purse this idea, which was slightly concerning being so late in the semester.
Our second idea was to explore the idea of ‘prolonging life’  which was what the sheep’s heart and bones were for. We thought it would have an conceptually deep effect if we attached hardware used in surgery such as foil (to act as a titanium plate) and screws to the heart and bones as they act as a mechnisim to repair damaged muscle and bones.

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However, these materials are perishable and fairly difficult to come across and work with. Once we finally set it up we decided it didn’t have the effect we intended it to. It wasn’t obvious enough that there was a screw in the bone and the foil looked tacky and misplaced. IMG_6931.JPG

This line of work is confronting for some, just like the work of Patricia Piccinini, a contemporary visual artist. She works with a variety of media including, painting, video, sound, installation, and sculpture. Piccinini’s startling sculptures explore the relationship between science and nature, art and the environment. Audiences are drawn to her sculptures because they look so real, yet they are creatures of the Piccinini’s imagination created to consider a strange new world of artificial beings derived from experimental biotechnology (Art Gallery WA, 2010).

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Reference:

Art Gallery WA, 2010, Patricia Piccinini: Relativity, Art Gallery WA, viewed 8th May 2017, <http://www.artgallery.wa.gov.au/exhibitions/patricia-piccinini-relativity.asp&gt;

Week 9 – Interaction with Projection

Today our peer Hugh joined our group which was a great advantage as we were able to collaborate more ideas together to produce a better work than our previous lesson. We thought we would take the opportunity to sit down for the first half an hour of class to brain storm various ideas and materials we would like to use. We came up with a complex ida that did touch on everyones skills and therefore everyone would be involved so we decided to pursue it. It related to last week’s work where we projected onto a screen but instead of stage lights we used a projector and found a video on YouTube showing various colours to display. We thought we could record ones actions using a webcam mounted to the roof and then play that recording back onto a manikin or related human looking object, but we’d distort this footage utilising a filter on processor. The work would explore how we perceive ourselves and others through human interaction, light and projection.

However, we weren’t able to properly create the work then and there as we didn’t have a manikin or enough time to set up a welcome and make a code through processor, so we had to sacrifice. We decided to project colour as a background and a silhouette off Google image. The idea was for the silhouette to act as the human and we were going to project on the audience, but it completed failed and didn’t work. It was too complicated for the timeframe and although it was achievable on paper it, it wasn’t in reality. So we are back to the drawing board to come up with some new ideas. Before we left class we sat down and had a chat and broke down what we wanted to achieve through this work. All our answers were generally similar saying we wanted to explore what we could do with light and projection through human interactions whilst utilising media/technology to some degree. We will act on this goal next lesson and bring materials to class in which we can use.

One artist that I will bring to the table next week that I believe could potentially influence the direction of our work is the Korean artists MOON Kyungwon & JEON Joonho who make art that explore questions concerning contemporary civilization in light of political, socioeconomic, and ecological changes (Socks, 2012). Their exhibition project News from Nowhere  2012 is premised on a post apocalyptic scenario where humanity has been almost entirely wiped out and is forced to reconsider how to live a life no one is familiar with (Socks, 2012). The work questions – what is the real meaning of conceptual art? It would be beneficial for the group to think outside the box by researching conceptual artists that explore deep concepts like these.

Reference:

Socks, 2012, News from Nowhere, by Moon Kyungwon & Jeon Joonho, a Retrospective from the future, Socks, viewed 2nd May 2017, <http://socks-studio.com/2012/08/07/documenta-13-news-from-nowhere-by-moon-kyungwon-jeon-joonho-a-retrospective-from-the-future/&gt;

Faces used for ParaNorman Film

The Out of Hand: Materialising the Digital exhibition showing at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, explores the highly important role of digital material in contemporary art, science, fashion, design and architecture.

The exhibition consists of the work from more than 60 artists, architects and designers globally such as Zaha Hadid, Ron Arad and Barry X Ball as well as works from Australia and the Asia-Pacific and the MAAS collection. The exhibition explores the impact that digital technology has in the creation and design process of works, making us appreciate the several techniques that have been recently discovered giving artists greater opportunity and advancing possibilities and expectations.

One work that was a particular stand out was ‘Faces used for ParaNorman Film’ created by LAIKA. ParaNorman is a 2012 American comedy horror film in the form of 3D stop-motion replacement animation. As mentioned in TV Tropes article, the film was the first stop motion that utilised a 3D colour printer to create their characters faces and limbs which were regularly replaced with slightly different parts in order to achieve the illusion of ‘movement’ (Tv Tropes, 2012).

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LAIKA entertainment founded in 2005, is a company who employ storytellers, artists, inventors and technicians from all around the globe. LAIKA is dedicated to creating handmade animations with not only state-of-the-art technologies but with traditional handmade animation techniques from the very beginning (LAIKA, 2017). Their intent is to form emotional, innovative and crazy stories the filmmakers admired and loved to watch as they were growing up (LAIKA, 2017). The company has made its mark on American cinema by constantly challenging the boundaries of stop motion animation.

The film is set in the small town Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts, the main character Norman Babcock is an 11 year old boy lives with his father Perry, his mother Sandra and his teenage sister Courtney. Norman has the ability to see and speak to ghosts, zombies and the dead wherever he goes. Everyone apart from his loyal best friend Neil refuses to believe him and for this, Norman is bullied by his peers in school and is an outcast from his family. Later in the film Norman is summoned by his crazed uncle (whom is a ghost) to protect Blithe Hollow from a centuries-old curse. However, things don’t go according to plan and the town is put at risk.

The work is displayed in the gallery on a white bench top exhibiting only 40 different faces in a glass box, including the mouth and eyebrows used in the actual film. Next to the work is an iPad playing a short documentary regarding the materials and techniques used in order to create the faces. Having a passion for film and television I was immediately drawn to this work. Despite the fact that it was the last work I saw at the exhibition I still spent the most time observing it as opposed to the others, watching the documentary countless times and carefully studying each individual face. There was something quite fascinating and appealing about them, their shape and colour are beautifully crafted and the detail in their expression was vivid and capturing.

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As portrayed in the youTube video Faces of ParaNorman, before ParaNorman LAIKA created Caroline, which was the first film created using 3D printing for animation (eOnefilms, 2012). It was here they took every specific facial expression a character would make and printed it using a rapid prototyping machine. The company continued to use the same technique with ParaNorman, however they couldn’t risk the sacrifices they had to make with the design. As mentioned in eOnes YouTube film using a rapid prototyping machine means the objects printed would be colourless and plastic (eOnefilms, 2012). This means each individual facial part would have to be hand painted, which is possible but they wouldn’t of been able to get the interesting and detailed facial features desired. For example, one of the main characters Neil (Norman’s best friend) has thousands of freckles, he himself has tens of thousands of expressions and therefore it would be impossible to paint these freckles in the exact same place on every face. With 24 frames a second, if he were hand painted it would be evident that these particular facial features would be moving quite rapidly which is what producers want to avoid at all costs. As stated in eOnes Youtube film to resolve the dilemma the company decided to invest in a 3D colour printer, through the use of this machine the creators were able to build the colour into the model, which isn’t something you could do with a regular 3D printer (eOnefilms, 2012). Hence why colour 3D printing is much more beneficial when creating realistic, relatable and lifelike stop-motion animation characters.

So correspondingly, as mentioned in Juanmi’s short film, each individual face is created through a colour 3D printer but more specifically a powder printer, thin layers of powder are repeatedly applied until it eventually become a 3D object (Juanmi, 2016). This object is then dipped into super glue, which hardens them so they continue to keep their shape (Juanmi, 2016). These two materials are essential in creating the different facial parts to the characters, the powder printer gives the opportunity to give a very detailed, controlled and precise look to every model, where as the glue plays an important role in keeping their frame. As mentioned by Juanmi, there were over 40,000 faces alone used in ParaNorman, each face needs to be exactly the same in terms of colour and shape (Juanmi, 2016). This is because 24 different faces will make up only one second of conversation or emotion and therefore it is essential that all faces go together smoothly.

Creating stop motion pictures is a massive job, and requires a lot of time, money, expertise, patience and materials. As portrayed in Juanmis film in order to create ParaNorman it took, 3 years of work, 4,000 kilograms of printing powder, 300 liters of superglue, 300 puppets, 50 stages, 5,000 x-acto blades, 66,400 rare Earth magnets, 729 sheets of sand paper, 8 liters of white resin, 25,000 purple nitro gloves and 1 massive warehouse (Juanmi, 2016).

I believe the film creators utilised replacement animation, as it is a way to get the most out of your characters, in terms of emotion and vocabulary. Doing this gives the power to completely alter a characters expression in any way you choose with full control of the outcome. Although, creating a stop motion feature is an extremely long, difficult and time-consuming process the final product is generally quite appealing which was definitely achieved in ParaNorman.

LAIKA’s intention was to create a stop motion animation through combining traditional animation techniques with 21st century technologies, like the 3D printer. Instead of altering facial expressions by constantly sculpting characters ‘clay’ faces, LAIKA remove the entire face and replace it with another, take a photograph and change it again. As mentioned by MarBelle, the faces are broken in half, from the eyebrows to the mouth and therefore they are able to be animated separately and have more freedom to work with the characters emotions (MarBelle, 2013).

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Through the use of colour printing, the creators were able to produce a human like skin tone. I noticed in the film when the artificial light hits the surface of the characters skin it absorbs as opposed to reflecting off it, just like it does to us as humans. This technique creates unique frames we haven’t yet seen in stop motion animation before and I assume is another reason as to why LAIKA chose to use 3D printed faces for their characters.

As stated in Juanmis video each character in Paranorman begun as puppet, LAIKA first designed each body on paper, which was then transferred to a metal skeleton (Juanmi, 2016). This allowed the film makers to pose it and hold its position, from there they dress them in their individual costumes and put on their 3D printed faces (Juanmi, 2016). The makers would move their body slightly, take an image and do so again after changing their faces, this created the illusion that the characters were alive. Studying various frames throughout ParaNorman you are able to gain an insight into just how much effort was put into every second of ParaNorman. Every scene is extremely detailed, from the chip packets in the vending machines, to the newspapers in the background, everything has a purpose and adds to the element of realism the film presents.

LAIKA producers wanted to take this art form, which they were so passionate about and push it as far as they could. In doing so this took numerous characters, giant sets with great attention to detail. However, there were various issues they came across when it came to transferring what was in the script to real life. As mentioned on the LAIKA website when creating stop motion you are fairly limited in regards to what you can do in terms of effects and fast paced scenes, LAIKA really wanted to challenge this by creating high-speed chase sequences with massive effects and they achieved it to a high standard (LAIKA, 2017).

ParaNorman received an average of 4 stars on majority of reviews. Common sense media said it is a lush, vivid and stylised stop-motion animation (Common Sense Media, 2012). Possessing exciting and eccentric characters while obtaining a level of sophistication just edgy enough to engage teenagers that refer to themselves as too old for animation films (Common Sense Media, 2012). They explain it to be far from a ‘Disney princess musical’ by having an authenticity to its ‘teenspeak’ (especially Courtney’s hormone-fueled attempts to attract Mitch)  while also displaying a deep understanding of the perils of early adolescence, when being different feels like it’s a curse but can really be a blessing in disguise (Common Sense Media, 2012).

Another review from The Guardian said it’s a likable scary story – with hints of Tim Burton and Steven Spielberg (Bradshaw B, 2012). The review also says it’s engaging entertainment, with a solidly constructed storyline (Bradshaw B, 2012). Likewise another review by Metacritic explains ParaNorman to be an amazing film. They say the art style is fantastic and innocent and the message of the movie is even better (Metacritic, 2012). The review notes that “ParaNorman focuses a lot on tolerance so it never got boring, this in combination with visual effects were perfect and so was the voice acting” (Metacritic, 2012). These reviews prove that the film was a success, not only for its story line but its characters through the use of combining 3D printing with stop motion animation.

LAIKA producers believe this form of film making to be extremely rewarding due to the detailed love and care invested into every precise thing from the characters faces, to the smallest prop, they do it for the end result (LAIKA, 2017). Which is a beautifully produced stop motion animation.

Overall, LAIKA’s technique of combining traditional animation with modern day technology and 3D printing made it possible for them to create the unique film ParaNorman, the kind of animation that hasn’t yet been seen before. By utilising 3D colour printing to form the characters faces LAIKA’s producers were able to create realistic scenes and characters the audience could relate to. This along with the modern day story line gives the film the ability to capture the attention of all ages, hence why reviews believe it to be the perfect family movie, which was LAIKA’s intent.

 

References:

Tv Tropes, 2012, Western Animation/ParaNorman, Tv Tropes, viewed 25th April 2017, < http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/WesternAnimation/ParaNorman>

LAIKA 2017, Connecting the New with the Timeless to Tell Enduring Stories, LAIKA, viewed 25th April 2017, < http://www.laika.com/about>

eOnefilms, 2012, ParaNorman Feaurette: Faces of ParaNorman, Youtube eOnefilms, viewed 1st May 2017, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vu62AzWPTDs>

Juanmi, R 2016, ParaNorman – Making Faces, YouTube, viewed 1st May 2017, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMpDJ6YKuF8>

MarBelle, 2013, Step Behind the Scenes at Laika, the Stop Motion Animation Company Behind ‘ParaNorman’ No Film School, viewed 1st May 2017, <http://nofilmschool.com/2013/03/bts-laika-stop-motion-animation-paranorman>

Common Sense Media, 2012, ParaNorman Review, Common Sense Media, viewed 1st May 2017, <https://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/paranorman>

Bradshaw, B 2012, ParaNorman review, The Guardian, viewed 30th April 2017, <https://www.theguardian.com/film/2012/sep/13/paranorman-review>

MetaCritic, 2012, ParaNorman, MetaCritic, viewed 1st May 2017, <http://www.metacritic.com/movie/paranorman>

 

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