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Episode 25
Artist Jen Stark

  • 1 min read

Episode Description

0:52 - Jen Stark discusses her iconic style, her love of color, her foray into NFTs, her constant pursuit of new mediums and the launch of her own immersive experience.

28:59 - The week's top art headlines


Craig: [00:00:09] This is Art Sense, a podcast focused on educating and informing listeners about the past, present and future of art. I'm Craig Gould. On today's episode, I speak with artist Jen Stark about her iconic style, her love of color, her foray into NFTs, her constant pursuit of new mediums and the launch of her own immersive experience. At the end of the episode, I'll be taking a look at some of the week's top art headlines. But first up, a conversation about mainstream psychedelia with Jen Stark.

Craig: [00:00:51] So, Jen Stark, thank you so much for joining me today to talk about your work and where you've been and where you're headed, Jen with artists, I usually I start with a hypothetical if you were to meet somebody at a dinner party and they've never seen what you do. How would you describe your work to them?

Jen: [00:01:10] Yeah. Well, thank you so much for having me on. I would describe my work as mathematical. Inspired by nature, psychedelia, a bit of geometry and very visual and colorful, I

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Craig: [00:01:27] Think color is, you know, I think one of the probably one of the first words that people would associate with with your work. Have you always had this love of color and color theory?

Jen: [00:01:38] I did. Yeah, I've I've loved color all my life. I grew up in Miami, so I think the the colorful cultures and also the lush nature here really brought the color out of me. But I also love how colors like juxtaposed kind of create these like weird movements. I love all the mysteries around it.

Craig: [00:02:02] When you talk to somebody about the colors in your piece, your your artwork. Do you necessarily think of it as being rainbow? Like, I had a podcast interview one time with this artist, Gabriel Dawe, who does these amazing string sculpting sculptural installations?

Jen: [00:02:18] Yeah. I've seen his work.

Craig: [00:02:19] And yeah, it's it's amazing and ephemeral, but he doesn't really associate his use of color as being necessarily rainbow. You know, that's not the order of what's going on. Do you think a lot about mixing up the color combinations in a way that heightens the experience, like what goes through your head?

Jen: [00:02:40] Definitely. Yeah. I mean, I'm I'm inspired by rainbows, like light spectrums, all like, you know, how light is actually it looks white, but it has all the the the colors inside of it. I think that's really interesting. And I just I love what like psychologically what colors do to your eye and brain when you look at it, especially the from the rainbow spectrum. So also like in the studio, I'll use a lot of neons and kind of darks and lights next to each other, and they they create certain reactions. Yeah, it's pretty interesting.

Craig: [00:03:21] Necessity is the mother of invention, and I understand there's there's kind of an origin story for your for your work that kind of goes hand in hand with that where you were kind of in a place where you needed to work with a limited toolbox. And that's kind of where a lot of what we think of as Jen Stark work originated. Could you possibly tell that story?

Jen: [00:03:44] Yeah, yeah, for sure. So when I went to college, I attended MCA Maryland Institute College of Art. I decided to study abroad that semester, which was a great idea. I really encourage any college students to do that. And when I studied abroad, I was a college student still on a budget and I went to the art store and all the prices were so high for like oil paint and other stuff. The euro was just like through the roof that year, so I decided to get a super affordable material and I saw a stack of construction paper for like one euro. So I bought that decided to go back to the studio and just see how I could transform it. And that's where it all started. I started cutting with an X-Acto knife and kind of transforming it and making it more three-dimensional.

Craig: [00:04:41] Those first works where they were, they just like eight and a half by 11. Or were they? Were they larger?

Jen: [00:04:47] Those were, I think it was like, yeah, eight and a half by 11 pretty standard, like the kind of stuff you find that store.

Craig: [00:04:55] It wasn't long before you started using stop motion animation. I saw that you studied animation in college. Was that kind of a logical next step for you to do stop motion with with the pieces?

Jen: [00:05:07] Yeah, it really was also. So my major was Fiber's, which is like textiles, and I kind of took it as working with paper paper fibers. It comes from trees, and I kind of kind of saw a lot of similarities in there. Also, the major was very conceptual and open. So I really love the professor. She let us have a lot of freedom and exploration. Yeah. And just like the sequential nature of doing things and step by step, I love that about animation as well. How you, you know, you have all these tasks or all these like generations to get to the next, the next step. So yeah, for me, animation was just like a next step for my sculptures.

Craig: [00:05:58] So here you mention fiber and textile, there have have you ever thought about using textiles or fabrics or particular colored patterned materials within each of the color fields in your paintings? I guess that would almost feel like a quilt at that point, wouldn't it?

Jen: [00:06:17] Yeah. I mean, I do love quilting and I really appreciate the artistry of them. I think they're amazing. I haven't really technically worked with fabric, with my work. It was kind of just in college, like learning the skills and techniques and transforming them with paper or wood or metal.

Craig: [00:06:38] Well, Jen, I don't know if I don't know if you've ever searched your name on YouTube, but there are hundreds and hundreds of videos by middle school teachers doing bio lessons on who Jean Stark is, and here's your work. And now we're going to do a project together. What do you think it is about your work that gets people excited in makes your work feel so approachable?

Jen: [00:07:04] Yeah, that that whole thing, like the teachers and classes during my artwork, was a very unexpected result. I'm blown away like seeing all all the kids like inspired by my work and the teachers teaching it in classes. I think I think people really gravitate towards the paper sculptures because they're so, they're so approachable and like paper is such a material that everybody uses in their lives. So I think they love the idea of taking something so common and just transforming it into this like magical, crazy piece of art.

Craig: [00:07:45] When I look at your your body of work, you know, I think one of the themes that will come up in this conversation is how you you just, you know, you have this esthetic, you have something that people will will look at your work and say, Oh, that's Jen Stark. But it takes on so many different forms, you know, whether that's murals or digital digital animation, stop motion, you know, all these different forms. Maybe we could talk about murals. How long have you been making murals?

Jen: [00:08:18] I've been making murals since. I think I made my first one and two thousand seven. I that was the year that I decided to become a professional artist. I moved to Miami and I was making art, but also I had a part time job cleaning artwork, putting art DVDs in for like this amazing hotel on South Beach called the Sagamore. They had an awesome art collection, so I was working for the owner, you know, making sure her art collection was looked good, and she asked me to do a mural by the pool one day. So I said yes, and it took me about a week or two so that that was my first mural I ever did, and that was pretty exciting. And it's still there, actually.

Craig: [00:09:06] That was going to be my next question. I also paint, and I know that my first mural got painted over and that was like this huge. I was like, Oh yeah, but you've you've gone on to do lots of murals in places that are pretty well. I mean, you have a mural at the Facebook headquarters, you know, but you've also you just really big outdoor murals, right? Like how big? How big are we talking here?

Jen: [00:09:37] I have one in downtown L.A. that's I think it's like two hundred feet by like thirty five feet high. The big murals are fun because we get to drive scissor lifts and boom lifts, and I'm actually certified. So you see me on the boom lift. It's all good, but those are really fun. You kind of your outdoor all day. You're like getting physical in the sun. It's it's awesome to driving that machinery. I love it.

Craig: [00:10:05] Just don't drive it down the 101. Right?

Jen: [00:10:08] Right. I'll try not to.

Craig: [00:10:11] Do you have a finished drawing in mind beforehand? Are you gritting it and putting it up there specifically? Or do you kind of let yourself kind of create on the fly on the surface because it feels like you're somebody who really kind of works hand to wall? Are you going in there with some preconceived exacting notion or are you just working on that wall?

Jen: [00:10:34] I am when I do the murals, it's usually for for the building or the company or the owner. So I usually have to do a sketch before so that the building owner is happy with it. But I'll present an idea to. You know, approve it instantly. And then I go from there and I usually just take a pencil and start drawing. I don't. I don't grit it out, I don't plot it out or project it, I'll just take the pencil and go for it, and then I'll I'll dot what colors of paint to put inside of it. So that way my my team can know what to paint, and I usually hire assistance to knock out the murals to work with me.

Craig: [00:11:23] Do you have like one team? Do you have like a studio crew that's always there? Or do you have people that you collaborate with in these different realms of expertise?

Jen: [00:11:35] Yeah, I usually I usually have the same artist friends working on the murals with me because we we know exactly what to do. We have a lot of history together and it's they're a great team. So yeah, I have I have a couple of full time assistants and then I'll I'll bring on other people that I work with in the past.

Craig: [00:11:55] Your work keeps moving, like I mentioned earlier, into all these different areas, right? And so do you have people come to you and say, Hey, I have this realm of expertise? I haven't seen you do anything in it. I think your art would be great for, say, an NFT or this interactive digital, whatever. Or do you have these ideas and then you seek out people to help you execute? How does that work?

Jen: [00:12:23] Yeah, I think it's a little of both. It's usually me. Putting it out there in the world that I need this kind of help or asking friends that I know can lead me to like a good collaborator. So it's usually that, but once in a while I'll have people come to me with ideas.

Craig: [00:12:43] I think the 2015 MTV VMAs seemed to be a watershed event for you. Can you can you tell us how that opportunity came about? Like, how did how did they reach out to you?

Jen: [00:12:58] Mm hmm. Yeah. So that was incredible that the 2015 MTV VMAs, they they approached me. They emailed me asking if I wanted to be a part of it and have some artwork in it. And of course, I said yes. Miley Cyrus was hosting that year, so I knew it would be a lot of fun. And simultaneously that week, my good friend Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips. He was in Los Angeles. Then he texted me one night he was like, Hey, we're at Miley Cyrus's house. I come over. So I'm like, OK, let's go. So I went over there and hung out with them. And that was that was really fun to get to meet her. And she's a fan of my work. So that was exciting. And then I went home. The next day, I got a random text from like an anonymous number, and it was an image of my artwork on a billboard with her like, mocked up like this fun mock up for the VMAs. And it was Miley texting me asking if I wanted to be a part of it. So those two things kind of just came together organically, and it was also because of Miley that helped push my work further. I think I was only supposed to do like one one video or one ad with them, and I ended up doing stage design. She she slid down this big wormhole when she entered. I had like the LED curtains, like the stage was playing my animations. It was awesome.

Craig: [00:14:35] Wow. I mean, so it turned into like a full blown art direction sort of gig. Did you sense that things changed after that? I mean, what did did your phone ring more? Did did you get more eyeballs? I mean, did you did you feel like there was like a noticeable change after that event?

Jen: [00:14:57] Yeah, that was awesome, especially that night. I got a lot of texts from friends, you know, that was kind of a kind of a fun way of with my artwork. And I feel like through my whole career, I've I've gone through like a few of those waves. We're like, there's a big event and I'll get more eyes on my work. And you know, so it just it just helped to bring a lot more opportunity. And that was that was really awesome.

Craig: [00:15:20] So, you know, the Van Gogh experiences have been all the rage this year.

Jen: [00:15:27] Yep!

Craig: [00:15:27] Can you can you tell my listeners about Cascade the gin stark experience?

Jen: [00:15:34] Yes, for sure. So we came up with this idea to do an immersive, interactive experience, and we did it in September and October in New York City at the William Bell Hotel. It was a six thousand square foot warehouse that we transformed into a six room experience. And some of the rooms had interactive elements. The whole thing was projected on the walls and the floors, and the viewers would go up to it and interact with shapes. Things would magnetized to them. They could walk up to different walls. There was one wall that was kind of inspired by the movie Big, where they play the piano on the floor. So this was like an instrument on the wall. People went up to touch the squares and colors change. Musical notes happened, and it was really fun to provide an experience that was beyond the typical art gallery, where you just walk up to a painting and look at it. I love having the viewers as part of the art interacting with it, and that was really awesome, and we're hoping to bring it to L.A. this year, so...

Craig: [00:16:45] I didn't have a chance to go to the show. But you know, just the videos I saw online of people. You know, that's the thing about social media. Social media influencers, you know, love this sort of thing because it's it's so visual in they'll they'll capture it and put it online. And so some of the videos I saw, I was just like, taken aback by how interactive it was. You know, whether that was objects following you around the room or your ability to paint, you know, digitally paint on a wall. Or it was just, you know it. It was, you know, I thought that it would just be immersive for someone to to go in and kind of have this trippy sort of state, but. You know, I was really taken aback by just how interactive it all seemed.

Jen: [00:17:32] Cool, well, thank you. Yeah. And I have a similar experience like a one room installation that's up right now at Wilding Cran Gallery that's in L.A. on through December 23. So that one is really fun. You get to pick up like a paint roller or paint brush, and when you touch it to the wall, it creates other colors and effects, and it almost looks like you're painting on the wall digitally. And these were collaborations with Cut Made. Who is there like a genius computer engineering and interactive, interactive stuff there? They're really awesome at making the ideas come to life. So for those installations, we use LiDAR. And those are like, those are like lasers that are scanning the wall. So anything that goes through that force field, it catches it and makes all these wonderful colors. And it's awesome.

Craig: [00:18:32] How often do you get to use the words force field?

Jen: [00:18:35] Yeah.

Craig: [00:18:37] So listen, you made a big splash when you decided to get into NFTs. What was that process like for you?

Jen: [00:18:47] Yeah, that that was wild. It was it was crazy because it was right at the end of COVID, so everybody was still stuck at home, but like yearning to come together. And it just feels like a new, like the new fork of art history to me. I love, I love like the idea that an NFT, it just gives autonomy to the artist and the artist is like forever connected to this piece of artwork and gets royalties and stuff. Because in the traditional art world, like with fine art, the artist doesn't see a penny of secondary sales, especially in the U.S. So that idea was really interesting for the artists to be connected to this artwork. And yeah, and a lot of digital artists, they never, never really made money on their art. And this the whole NFT world is awesome because it's giving a lot of artists financial freedom and they're able to support themselves. It's pretty great.

Craig: [00:19:51] It seems like a space that would be really well suited for an artist like you because I feel like you have a lot of recognition in people who appreciate art, but maybe aren't in the art world with a capital A.. And so as part of that democratization, the ability for for all people to have access, it seems like you would be a popular target for those people that are interested in collecting and they know who Gen Stark is, even if the folks that you know, traditionally go to Christie's or Sotheby's wouldn't have known who Jean Stark is.

Jen: [00:20:31] Yeah, it's this whole world is pretty awesome. It's cool that I have like a foot in the fine art world. Foot in the digital NFT world. It's like I feel like the art world hasn't fully embraced the NFT world yet, but we're getting there. I see like galleries starting to do their own platforms and stuff like that. But yeah, it's I'm excited to see where this is going to go. And I also love the community aspect of it, like how some artists have like utility in their NFTs and they they kind of reward there and a few collectors and stuff. It's it's pretty cool. It's like it's a lot to think about. I think my brain has grown twice as much this year.

Craig: [00:21:18] Yeah. Well, I mean, there's you're just you've got stuff going on all over the place. Speaking of rewarding your followers, there's even the the start coin now, right?

Jen: [00:21:29] Yep. I have a coin pak coin that's that's on rally. Yeah, that's been really fun. It's like social social currency for artists. And I have like a private discord for the coin holders, and they get like benefits like virtual artist tours. Or I'm going to release like avatars like in the next month or so. So yeah, it's exciting.

Craig: [00:21:55] Has that been a good experience for you? Do you feel like you've been able to incent your followers and engage with them the way you had hoped to when you when you got into that?

Jen: [00:22:05] Yeah, it's definitely. Um, helped connect me to them, and I think I think it's a really great tool. I'm still kind of a newbie at it, so I know I have a lot to learn and a lot to develop with it. But yeah, it's been a really great way to interact with collectors and fans.

Craig: [00:22:23] And so your your NFTs, to this point, it's, you know, basically looping digital animation and some some music also. Is that right?

Jen: [00:22:35] Yep. Yeah. We usually do mop floors and there's there's usually always a musical element involved in it. And we've we've created them with all different programs like Cinema 4D Touch Designer. And it's usually me collaborating with another artist like the super talented animator or coder and all kind of like art, direct them on what to do, and it's really fun, fun collaboration.

Craig: [00:23:05] So. So how do you go about picking the music for this? I mean, someone like you, you probably have, you know, a dozen music friends like, do you just call up a friend and say, here's this image what inspires you or how does that work?

Jen: [00:23:20] Yeah, usually I have a couple sound engineers that I work with in the past, and I'll usually present them. The animation usually give them inspiration images, or I'll be like, I want this to sound like a a wood wooden chime or like a xylophone. I want it to sound mysterious and uplifting. So I'll give them like keywords like that, and then they'll kind of translate it into their own, their own style.

Craig: [00:23:51] I understand you have a new generative and project coming up with art blocks. Can you tell us more about that?

Jen: [00:23:59] I do. Yeah, that drops Monday, December 13th, and that is super exciting for me. It's a platform that I've wanted to have an excuse on for a while. It's. All the artists on there are really awesome, and I love I love the like, the minting style, you don't know what you're going to get until you purchase it. So that's really interesting to me. It's kind of like kind of like a present that you unwrap and it's revealed. So for this one, I wanted it to kind of be inspired by my the older paper sculptures. So it's titled Vortex, and it's these like multilayered. Some are animating pulsing like vortex geode sculptures. And it was really fun to work with coders on this, and I worked with Rich Lord and Jake Rice. They they killed it. They did amazing stuff. We've been working on it for a couple of months and I'm excited for it to come out.

Craig: [00:25:06] The thing that amazes me about you most is just said, you know, there's cut paper, stop motion digital animation, NFTs, generative NFTs, laser cut, acrylic cut, steel neon. You're not afraid to to put your hands in all of this, right? And so where you know and I love your sculptures, I think your sculptures, you know, the the large metal ones that that, you know, it's like they're powder coated and then kind of stacked in in like a cube or, you know, something maybe even bigger for like a public art commission. But those those are awesome. You know, it feels like you've checked every box on the bingo card. But is there is there one that you haven't gotten to that you you feel like you are interested in maybe dabbling with?

Jen: [00:26:10] Yeah, for sure. There's always there's always more stuff I want to do, so I definitely want to do more of the interactive like projections, interactive experiences and just like keep taking it up a notch every time and evolving it. I also want to do more public art type stuff where there's like a renewable energy component involved. I think that that would be that's like a big dream of mine. So trying to put it out there in the universe and make it so.

Craig: [00:26:45] But so what is that? Is that like a multicolored Jean Stark windmill? Like what is what is that? What are you thinking?

Jen: [00:26:53] Yeah, it could. It could be that it could be some kind of like shade sculpture that provides utility and also energy, something with like solar panels. Yeah, I'm not exactly sure yet, but I want to make it in the future sometime, so be really fun.

Craig: [00:27:14] That's awesome. So, Jen, where if people wanted to keep track of you and what you're doing and you know, people need to stay tuned in because it's always changing, right? You're you're not that artist who figured out something that people wanted to buy, and you just keep on turning out the same painting over and over again, like if people want to keep track of Jen wherever they go. Is it Twitter or Instagram or your website?

Jen: [00:27:41] Yeah, I would say either. I wouldn't say either Instagram @jenstark or Twitter @jen_stark, and yeah, I'm usually posting the most up to date stuff on there, or they can go on my email list on my website

Craig: [00:27:56] Well, Jen, I I really appreciate you taking time out to talk to me about your work. I hope. I hope people check you out. And hopefully, you know, like you said, people can go dove into an immersive experience with with your work and in L.A.. Well, I mean, there's there's the work currently up at Wilding Crane Gallery and then you said you're hoping to get Cascade in the space in 2022 in L.A. Is that sound right?

Jen: [00:28:29] Yeah, exactly we're going to travel it to L.A. and I'm really excited about it.

Craig: [00:28:34] Well, again, I appreciate your time so much.

Jen: [00:28:38] Of course it's my my pleasure. Thank you for having me on.

Craig: [00:28:53] And now the news.

Craig: [00:28:58] Nifty Gateway is touting the recent sale of NFTs by the artist who goes by the pseudonym PAK as being the highest ever price for a work by a living artist at ninety one point eight million dollars. However, the headline is debatable since it reflects an open edition purchased by more than twenty eight thousand buyers. But the project does provide an indication of how gamification will play an increasing role in the future of art sales. The sell of The Merge began at 6:30pm on December 2nd, with each token, which was referred to as mass selling for $575. Every six hours. The price went up $25. Buy ten mass get, one free. Buy 1000, get another 300 free. In the end, over two hundred and sixty six thousand units of mass were sold at the completion of the drop. Each buyer received an NFT with their accumulated mass. The bigger your mass, the more bonuses you are eligible for. This isn't a typical cell of a unique object, nor is it remotely similar to the sell of a limited edition print. This type of sell in since increased buying at every stage of the process and signals a possible shift in how artwork is imagined and sold in the future.

Craig: [00:30:25] In season one, episode two of the Showtime series Billions, we see the fictional hedge fund manager Bobby Axelrod, make a play to acquire the naming rights of a Carnegie Hall like performance hall in New York. Bobby has to strong arm those with interests while also stroking a massive check. But in the end, the hall is renamed after Axelrod, only to later have the name removed after a series of high profile legal problems. As if lifted directly from an episode of Billions, The Metropolitan Museum of Art this week removed the name of a major donor from one of its wings after the pleading from a number of art world heavyweights. At issue was the Sackler wing of the Met. The Sacklers may not be a household name to most Americans, but many Americans may recognize their family company, Purdue Pharma. If Purdue doesn't ring a bell, then there's no doubt you've probably heard of Purdue's number one moneymaker OxyContin. Purdue falsely marketed the opioid as not being addictive when it knew that it was. Purdue Pharma boss Richard Sackler was at the center of it all. The nation fell into an opioid crisis while the Sackler family made billions. A bankruptcy judge in September made the questionable judgment to let the family walk with immunity from all future opioid litigation in exchange for a fine of four point three billion dollars and forfeiture of the company. That still leaves the family with a net worth of roughly $10 billion. But a tarnished family name Also in September of this year, big media like Time Magazine started asking Met boss Daniel H.

Craig: [00:32:11] Weiss the tough questions about the naming situation with the Sacklers. Fast forward to Thursday, the Met released a statement saying that quote seven named exhibition spaces in the museum, including the wing that houses the iconic Temple of Dendur, will no longer carry the Sackler name. The statement goes on to spin the decision in such a way to make it sound unusual with allusions to the Sackler is wanting to quote unquote pass the torch to the next great benefactor. But the truth is, the Met has been under increased pressure to do something for years, and the institution couldn't do nothing any longer. Artist Nan Goldin was the first high profile artist to weigh in back in twenty eighteen golden and her group Prescription Addiction Intervention Now PHN stormed the met and staged a sit in protesting ties to the Sacklers. Over the last three years, the list of artists putting their name behind removing the family grew to include AI Weiwei, Laurie Anderson, Richard Catalan, Jim Dine, Jenny Holzer, Arthur Jafa, Anish Kapoor, William Kentridge, Cindy Sherman, Brice Marden, Ed Ruscha, Richard Serra and Kara Walker, all of whom signed a document formally requesting the removal of the family, whose cash cow had twice pled guilty to federal charges of wrongdoing in relation to the opioid crisis. In the end, the Met was facing a public relations crisis, and although it's hard to walk away from significant sources of capital, doing the right thing always seems to pay off in an unforseen ways in the end.

Craig: [00:34:01] If you've ever spent any time working in marketing or design, then you know the reverence for Pantone colors, Pantone has basically made a business out of color matching. Designers can specify a color in a design and trust that the end product matches perfectly. Because Pantone has invented a language that defines specific colors in the spectrum, colors can be sold according to these specific numbers, or colors can be mixed to accurately match a given swatch. Pantone is the biggest name in color, and each year they announce their color of the year for twenty twenty two. They have chosen a color called Very Peri to the untrained eye. It might be called purply. The trained eye might refer to it as a deep periwinkle. According to Pantone, it's "a dynamic periwinkle blue hue with a vivid flying violet red undertone" Pantone feels the color reflects a sense of optimism, as well as the burgeoning digital realm quote, blending the faithfulness and constancy of blue with the energy and excitement of red. This happiest and warmest of all blue hues introduces an empowering mix of newness. Somewhere, I can hear Elvis singing a happier version of Blue Christmas and a very merry Christmas. That's all the time we have for this week.

Craig: [00:35:39] You've been listening to art since you can find the show on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher Radio, Spotify or your favorite podcast app. If you've enjoyed this podcast, be sure to subscribe. And while you're there, please rates show and leave a quick review. Your feedback is the key to other folks finding us. If you'd like to see images related to the conversation, read a transcript and find other bonus features. You can go to Canvia Art. And click on the podcast tab if you'd like to reach out to me. You can email me at Craig at Canvia. Art. Thanks for listening.

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