Archive for the ‘Past’ category

Still : Hendrik Kerstens & Robert Polidori


Sultan Gallery is pleased to present Still an exhibition of photographs by Hendrik Kerstens (Dutch) and Robert Polidori (Canadian) curated by Miami Beach based art dealer Mark Dean.

In the immortal words of William Faulkner, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” This exhibition brings together two artists who explore how we understand the past through the present. Both employ photography in ways that deliberately subvert conventional notions about the photograph’s relationship to reality. Instead of capturing a “decisive moment” or freezing a slice of time, they adopt the language of classical painting to explore a more layered sense of history.  This results in images that appear to exist simultaneously in the past and present.

Hendrik Kerstens achieves this feat by drawing on his Dutch heritage. He photographs his daughter using painterly lighting, poses and costumes that deliberately evoke the portraits of Dutch Golden Age painters like Johannes Vermeer and Frans Hals.  Presented so that her porcelain features emerge luminously from plain dark backdrops, Paula Kerstens locks the viewer in a timeless gaze that might have emerged from seventeenth century Holland. But a closer look at these photographs reveals historical anomalies.  They are composed with contemporary props: Such objects as white plastic or pink tissue paper have been skillfully manipulated to suggest details of period costumes. And because Kerstens has been pursuing this subject for twenty years, we also see time unfold in a literal way as the fresh-faced young girl matures into a beautiful young woman.

Robert Polidori layers history in another way. A photographer renowned for disturbingly beautiful studies of subjects like post Katrina New Orleans, the crumbling elegance of contemporary Havana or the abandoned schools, offices and homes destroyed by the Chernobyl nuclear accident, he here presents the works that set him on his path.  Beginning in 1985 and continuing for the next twenty years, Polidori documented the ongoing restoration of the 17th century Palace of Versailles. His photographs from this series have the scale and architectural sweep of history paintings, and like Kerstens, he uses light and color to underscore the images’ painterly aura. But instead of providing narrative dramas, his photographs are peopled by a disconcerting mix of construction materials, upended royal portrait paintings, security cameras and discolored walls. In place of the clarity we expect from a museum presentation, historical distances are collapsed and jumbled. Taking us behind the scenes, Polidori offers a case study of the way that historical consciousness is constructed.

Still, the title of this show, points to a double meaning. On one hand, it captures a contemplative serenity that links these images to the painterly traditions of a less hurried time. But the word also suggests a vision of time in which the past is embedded in the present:  still here, still living, still relevant. Kerstens and Polidori meld painting and photography, history and contemporary life, fact and fiction to suggest the ways that memory is forever being shaped and reshaped by the imagination.

About the curator:

Mark Dean established DEAN PROJECT gallery with the opening of the public gallery in September 2007. DEAN PROJECT’s original gallery location consisted of a 2,000-sqft gallery building located directly beside the P.S.1/MoMA Museum in Long Island City NY. In October 2010, after three years in LIC, the gallery relocated to 511 West 25th Street in Manhattan. After six years in NYC the gallery has relocated to Miami Beach Florida.

Over the past eight years DEAN PROJECT has exhibited around the world at over sixty contemporary art fairs. From the time the gallery opened the public program has consisted of fifty public gallery exhibitions to date including solo, group and annual independent curated summer invitational.

Exhibition Dates : 6th – 29th October, 2015


Hunt Slonem : New Species


‘New Species’ is a solo exhibition by acclaimed American abstract painter Hunt Slonem who is best known for his paintings of tropical birds and butterflies, inspired by his personal aviary in which he keeps more than one hundred live birds of various species. His work depicts a reverence for exotic life forms, birds, butterflies and flowers.  Once a painting has been completed with visual stories and compositional balancing acts, he inscribes the surface with a furiously cross-hatched mesh of lines, cutting through the rich oil to give an abstract, painterly and tactile effect with an implied impression of spatial depth. His jarring color choices, spontaneous mark making and scratched hatch marks are the result of his ongoing fascination with the manipulation and implementation of paint.

This exhibition is in collaboration with Cuadro Gallery, Dubai.

About Hunt Slonem:

Hunt Slonem was born in Maine in 1951. He received his BA from Tulane University in Louisiana and then studied painting at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. His obsessive rendering of his subjects reflects his desire to explore issues of spatial complexity, compression and density in what acclaimed curator Henry Geldzahler deemed, “a consistent investigation of post-cubist abstraction” (1993). Since 1977, Slonem has soloed in over 250 exhibitions at prestigious galleries. His work is exhibited globally and is held in the collections of over 70 international museums. Slonem currently lives and works in New York City.

About Cuadro Gallery:

Founded in 2008, Cuadro Gallery, located in the Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC), has quickly become one of the UAE’s premier contemporary and modern art venues. Each year, Cuadro assembles a substantial curatorial program in four distinct visual areas of interest: Painting, Paper, Photography, and Sculpture. Each exhibition centers on a significant educational paradigm that is accompanied with lectures, workshops and panel discussions. In addition, Cuadro provides qualified art consultation services for its discerning collectors, offers an international platform for its stable of artists, and administers an extensive Residency Program for a select group of artists. Through these initiatives, Cuadro maintains its commitment to dynamically engage and add value to the local and international art communities.

GCC : A Wonderful World Under Construction


Inspired by nation-state branding campaigns, ‘A Wonderful World Under Construction’ imagines a reality in which a government body provides branding as an essential public service.

A state’s investment in public diplomacy and expensive nation branding campaigns are often disseminated as seemingly benign efforts to promote tourism, trade and foreign direct investment. These outward facing tactics emerge out of opaque dealings with strategic communications experts, public relations and consulting companies that often obscure a government’s negative qualities to secure influence on the international stage.

Through these soft power strategies a nation can pursue ambitious international and domestic policy objectives, while at the same time their internal PR strategies capture the public imagination on a national scale.

This exhibition serves as the launch for a fictional smartphone app that offers branding as an essential public service by the government. The detritus of this press conference, including posters and promo videos remain in the gallery. By existing in the interstitial space between idea and implementation, we invite audiences to consider the pervasive role of government in the day to day management of our hyper-mediated lives.

This exhibition is produced with the generous support of The Sultan Gallery and additional support from ACICO Industries Company. 

About GCC:

GCC is a collective based in the Arabian Gulf. Their name is taken from the English abbreviation for the Gulf Cooperation Council, a transnational, political and economic union. GCC engages in a multidisciplinary practice that explores the construction of identities and systems across the purview of contemporary Gulf society, including its bureaucratic, cultural and diplomatic arenas.

The delegates are: Nanu AlHamad, Khalid Al Gharaballi, Abdullah AlMutairi, Fatima Al Qadiri, Monira Al Qadiri, Aziz Al Qatami, Barrak Alzaid and Amal Khalaf.

Solo exhibitions include Ceremonial Achievements at KraupaTuskany Zeidler, Berlin (2013), A Space for National Achievement at Sultan Gallery, Kuwait (2013) Achievements in Swiss Summit at Project Native Informant, London (2013), and GCC: Achievements in Retrospective at MoMA PS1 (New York, 2014) and at the Sharjah Art Foundation (Sharjah, 2014).

Group exhibitions include Speculations on Anonymous Materials at Fridericianum, (Kassel, 2013), Here and Elsewhere at the New Museum (New York, 2014), and Art PostInternet, UCCA (Beijing, 2014).

This exhibition will be on from 10th March – 2nd April, 2015.

Van Leo – Master Cairo Portrait Photographer


Van Leo (a.k.a. Leon Boyadjian) was known as the photographer of the stars of the silver screen during Egypt’s golden age of cinema.  He also photographed a significant number of Cairo’s elite society from the 1940s-1990s. From Roushdy Abaza, Faten Hamama, Samia Gamal, Omar Sherif to lesser knowns, Van Leo made unique black and white portraits – many of which requested hand-coloring when there was no Kodachrome or color printing available – from his famed studio on Sharia Fouad (present day 26th July Street).  Van Leo also made passionate and avant garde self-portraits that are widely acclaimed – during the whirl and buzz of WWII Cairo.For this endeavor, he drew the wrath of his father for being a waste of film, time and money.

After 50 years of continuously running a studio photography business during both turbulent and quiet times in Cairo, Van Leo called it quits in 1998.  He bequeathed his entire collection of over 20,000 negatives and prints to the American University in Cairo (AUC) for safekeeping and preservation of his great legacy.

All of the photographs in this exhibition are traditionally made gelatin-silver fiber prints, printed in the darkroom from the original negatives.

Accompanying the photographs will be the forty-minute documentary film “The Many Faces of Van Leo” (2001), written, produced and directed by Fatma Bassiouni. The film examines in detail the intricacies of Van Leo’s life, including interviews with Van Leo in the last years of his life, that further allows one to understand the creative genius of master photographer Van Leo.

This exhibition is curated by Barry Iverson.

Exhibition dates : 20th January – 12th February, 2015



Adel Abidin : Cover – Up!


The exhibition, Adel Abidin’s first in Kuwait, will bring together two video installations Cover Up (2014) and Three Love Songs (2010) with a series of new text‐based sculptures related to Three Love Songs (2014).

Adel Abidin is a visual artist whose projects, whilst focused on global social, political, and cultural issues inspired by his Iraqi heritage, are playful and ironic. His video and sculptural installations often reference pop culture, racial stereotypes and traditional icons, designing tense situations of confrontation and dialogue that truly engage the viewer.

Abidin’s critically acclaimed Three Love Songs was a highlight of the inaugural exhibition at Mathaf Arab Museum of Arab Art, Doha in 2010 and has gone on to be shown in other venues around the globe. The installation is made up of three stylised music videos (lounge, jazz and pop) displayed on neighbouring screens, each featuring an archetypal western chanteuse: young, blond and seductive. Sung in Iraqi dialect Arabic, the singers do not understand the words to the songs they sing; told they are traditional, passionate love songs when in fact they were commissioned by Saddam Hussein to glorify his regime. With lyrics such as ‘By Allah we owe our lives to your mustache…’ ‘Oh father of the two lions, oh father of virility…’ the clash between the beguiling, soft images and the aggrandizing, triumphalist words is powerful and unsettling. This uncomfortable juxtaposition and manipulation is typical of Abidin’s practice. Displayed alongside will be wall‐mounted sculptures, re‐moulded quotations from the lyrics in Arabic script made in copper. Taken out of the context of the video but made into beautiful objects, these sculptures add a fresh perspective to the overall project.

Cover-Up was produced in August 2014 as part of a larger commission from the annual Flow Festival, Helsinki where Abidin was named Artist of the Year. Displayed on two screens back to back, Cover-Up is again a video installation of a seductive figure in close up. Filmed in black and white, the project replicates the iconic image of Marilyn Monroe in a white dress standing above a subway grating which haphazardly blows the dress up, a scene from the 1955 film The Seven Year Itch. Replacing Monroe with an Arab man and the white dress with a Kandora, Abidin plays with our assumptions on attractiveness, the art of seduction and propriety. The title, which can be read in a number of ways, comments on the hypocrisy rife in contemporary society, mistakes and bad decisions that are hidden, but hinting that their exposure is all to easy.

About the artist, Adel Abidin : 

Adel Abidin (b. Baghdad, 1973) received a bachelor’s degree in Painting from the Academy of Fine Arts in Baghdad in 2000 and a Master’s degree in Media and New Media Art from the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki, Finland in 2005 where he continues to live and work.

Abidin has exhibited in numerous group and solo exhibitions, in 2014: ‘Simple past, perfect futures’, Le CENQUATRE‐PARIS, Paris; ‘Music Palace’, Boghossian Foundation, Villa Empain, Brussels; ‘Shifting Identities’, MACRO, Rome; ‘Collective Reaction, Station Museum, Houston; ‘Here and Elswhere’, New Museum, New York; ‘Songs of Loss and Songs of Love’, Gwangiu Museum of Art, South Korea; ‘Late Modern and Contemporary Art’, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Previously he has taken part in The Helsinki KIASMA Museum of Contemporary Art, The DA2 Domus Atrium 2002 Centre of Contemporary Art (Salamanca), Location One Gallery in New York City, Arab Express, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2012), the 17th Sydney Biennale, Aksanat (İstanbul), ‘ I Love to Love’, Forum Box Gallery, Helsinki; the Biennale of Contemporary Art of Bosnia; Hauser & Wirth Gallery, London; Singapore Art Museum; Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver; MOCCA, Toronto;Mead Gallery, UK; Espace at Louis Vuitton, Paris; MAC‐VAL Museum, Paris; the 10th Sharjah Biennial and 52nd Venice Biennale, where he represented Finland and the Iraqi Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale; held solo shows at L’Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris; Kunsthalle Winterthur, Switzerland; Darat al‐Funun; Amman and Wharf: Centre d’Art Contemporain de Basse, Normandy.

In 2012 Abidin received a Five Years Grant from The Art Council of Finland and was a nominee for the Ars Fennica Prize in 2011.

He has frequently shown his work in the Gulf. In March 2013 Lawrie Shabibi hosted the critically acclaimed solo exhibition ‘Symphony’ curated by Basak Senova, which included the ambitious sculpture Al Warqaa commissioned by the Barjeel Art Foundation. The same month he held a solo exhibition ‘Blueprint’ at Maraya Arts Centre, curated by Sara Raza. In 2011 he was part of Sharjah Biennial 10 and his video installation Three Love Songs was a highlight of the inaugural exhibition at Mathaf Arab Museum of Arab Art, Doha, ‘Told/Untold/Retold’ curated by Sam Bardouil and Till Fellrath.

Adel Abidin will hold his second exhibition at Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai Life is Short: Lets have an affair from 4‐12 March, 2015. An aptly short show (held to coincide with the opening of Sharjah Biennial 12) this exhibition is a sound installation and documentation of a trial that the artist faced in Amman, Jordan for allegedly committing adultery. The exhibition was first shown at MUU, Finland in July 2014. Interestingly, although the case was dropped at the time, on a recent visit to Amman he was arrested on the basis of a technicality and spent one night in jail.

Upcoming shows:

Glasstress collateral event at the 56th Venice Biennale, International KIASMA premiering his recent video work “Michael”.


Exhibition dates : 

16th December – 8th January, 2015




Arwa Abouon – Honolulu


Honolulu translates as ‘Land of Pearls’ in Arabic, or literally ‘Here are Pearls’. This land that is often described as ‘Heaven on Earth’ establishes a final meeting place where we are promised a reunion with our deceased loved ones. For some, the attainment of Paradise remains a myth, but for others it instills hope and provides motivation to redress wrongs. This show represents both the coming to terms with the landscape of the unknown and embracing its faith counterpart.

Heaven cannot be attained without our time here on Earth.

‘Il est minuit à Tokyo, il est cinq heures au Mali,

Quelle heure est-il au paradis ?’ – Manu Chao

P.B.U.H. Series

“When I utter this name, I am reminded of a profound story. I must come to know and declare his name sincerely, meditatively and honorably, as this man remains the subject of poetry to hope for people finding faith once more. As he is sacred, we wish peace upon him”. The P.B.U.H. (Peace Be Upon Him) series depicts various transliterations used in North Africa, Asia, the Middle East and internationally of our Prophet Muhammad – He is to be emulated with the utmost care in order to attain our own true natures and to connect as a whole to humanity and then ultimately to God.

The Practice of Paradise

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there”. – Rumi

The Practice of Paradise studies the issue of the legalization of different modes of Islamic dress in Western society and considers the Islamic tradition of guarding outward expressions. This work presents approaches of veil vs. face coverings vs. smiling vs. laughing expressions in such practices that encourage attaining individual self-discipline.

This instillation raises a political matter but negates it and focuses on our internal state first in order to be able to further discuss the debates we confront in this world. “Improving one’s internal affairs is likely to create a more positive outlook and result in self-awareness; this then results in individual preparedness to seek harmony from difference and to be better able to dialogue comprehensively”.

“Smiling and laughing, covering and veiling, are validations for various people. As Muslims, we are encouraged to be moderate in order to prosper”.


Pathways Series 

Allah (swt) says: “Take one step towards me, I will take ten steps towards you. Walk towards me, I will run towards you.” Hadith Qudsi.

“Each of our life Pathways are different, but they are embedded into our experiences as important awakenings that lead us toward a path of self-knowledge. Growing up in the West, I have come to know of faith without force. This open opportunity to embrace faith has allowed me to mature alongside it. I surrendered to the heights of my faith and allowed my pathways to fall into place naturally. And this dual freedom and surrender has let me see my life as functioning within a divine dependence”.

This series of collagraphs (ink-less embossing on somerset paper) one of the various mediums used to depicts different stylized Islamic arches that symbolize an imprint made on our individual lives. The four larger arches are composed of an abstract graphic watercolor motif that represents the unknown that each of us encounter on our unique pathways. 

(video) Believers look up – take courage. The angels are nearer than you think. – Billy Graham

 “Angels are the guardians which facilitate one’s attainment of complete faith. Through our respective experiences, they travel alongside us on this journey of life. It is Angels that will receive us at the gates that people of faith devoutly strive to enter”.

In this video installation I allow the wind to dictate where these Angels may be. In particular, the Angel Mikaael is he who is responsible for directing the rain and winds according to the will of God. These garments symbolize the committed presence of Angels and encourages the viewer to meditate on the notion that the divine manifests around us at all times.

(photo series by my father, circa 1960’s)

Remember that this is only a temporary physical disconnect – one where he no longer has to suffer the ills of this world.  – Eiman Ahmed Zarrug

Born in Tunisia in 1940, Arwa’s father paved his way through life by way of education. From a small town in the south, her father received a scholarship to attend the most prestigious college in the capital city, Lycée Carnot. After completing his degree he received additional opportunities to continue to study abroad in Europe and in Canada. He decided  to set out for the Americas.

“Canadian society proved to be very different for him and the university was overwhelming. However, he perservered and with the support of a student affairs officer he continued to accomplish great feats in his studies and later in his career. From a young boy who fought with his older brother for candlelight in order to study to a man who brought to his children opportunities he was never given, my father strove to deliver brighter futures for us all. Canada is now his final resting place and it is fitting given that this soil has provided us with rights we would not have received in our native homeland”.

My father had an interest in documentation and performance with strong realistic storylines. In Tunisia, he collected black and white portraits and postcards of famous movie stars like Shirley Maclaine to Harry Belafonte. He would also regularly attend the cinema. The series of images in this study are self-portraits that my father took during his time at Université de Montréal. He had joined the photography club and documented his school life and he’d set up the camera with lights to reenact scenes at his host family’s home to send back to his own family. These lighthearted reenactments show my father in scenes that depict an enthusiastic young man’s journey exploring a new cultural environment and slowly building his place in the world.

This series honours her father and his inspiring life. Mustafa Muhammad Abouon, 1940-2013.

Ghadah AlKandari – Secretary


Ghadah Alkandari’s solo show Secretary is a visual account of the artist’s last six months leading to October 2014. As with many of her exhibitions, this collection is a series of journal-based drawings grouped into three main installations. A dynamic show, Alkandari hopes to entice visitors with the promise of touching, organizing and re-organizing her work. After all, a secretary’s job is never done.



Ghadah Alkandari is an artist and blogger living and working in Kuwait. She was born in India in 1969. She has had numerous solo exhibitions in Kuwait. She has also participated in several group exhibitions locally and internationally, the most recent of which was the Arab Culture in Diaspora exhibition in Kuwait. Other notable group exhibitions include Femmes Artistes Du Koweit at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris in 2006, Approaches to Figurative Practices at the Third Line Gallery, Dubai in 2007 and 2010 JAMM Contemporary Art Auction in Kuwait. In 2014, she exhibited her work at the Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art’s Project Space.




Roberto Lopardo – Mappings



(In collaboration with Cuadro Gallery, Dubai)

The exhibition displays selected works from The Mappings Project by Cuadro Gallery artist, Roberto Lopardo: Mapping Latitude 45 Longitude 123 and Mapping Kuwait.

The Mappings Project engages the artist in a photographic experience in which one photograph is taken every minute continuously during a 24-hour period resulting in a total of 1,440 images. The photographic residue, presented as a monolithic grid, is sequentially ordered in 24 rows (one row per hour), with each row containing 60 columns (one column per minute). Each project, which is captured in a different location, results in a singular work of art.

Mapping Latitude 45 Longitude 123 began at the end of an overgrown dirt road in the middle of Yamhill County, Oregon, USA. The land was situated far from anywhere and left to its own methods things were growing and living as only they could. The first image was taken at 12PM on August 16th 2011. As the project unfolded and the ever-growing visual residue became manifest, infinite layers of repetition were recorded. Over and over again, the lines and light, the colors and textures repeated. Eventually, as the artist’s heart rate and eyesight settled into the new environment, what had originally appeared similar now became evidently different. By the design, the project ended where it started, since the way in was also the only way out.

Mapping Kuwait City began at sunrise at 5:21am on April 16th 2012 in the vicinity of the Kuwait Towers, a landmark that has come to symbolize the birth of modern Kuwait. As the collection of imagery multiplied, the seamless manner in which the city visually embraced its past while still welcoming its future became ever apparent. The images unearth older architectural gems that sit tranquilly aside chic modern day monuments to architecture. At times a street corner is turned and it appears as if the cacophony of visual input will forever undermine all sense of order but somehow Kuwait manages to keep returning to itself. It is a city in which things and places and people feel as if they have always sat comfortably next to one another — each playing their role in an ever-unfolding drama.


Roberto Lopardo was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1975. He carries a Masters of Fine Art from the Rhode Island School of Design, a teaching certificate from Brown University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and Philosophy from Whitman College. Lopardo has been exhibited in many prominent venues including the RISD Museum, the US Consulate in Dubai, the Tenri Institute in New York, Video-Appart in Paris, and Emerson Gallery in Berlin. Lopardo has also curated several prominent emerging artist based exhibitions including No More [In] security, Basically Human, Rituals of Dinner, Sheep are Welcome, and Latent Discoveries. Roberto was recently awarded a New York University (NYU) research fellowship. Lopardo is represented by Cuadro Gallery, Dubai. 


Founded in 2008, Cuadro Gallery, located in the Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC), has quickly become one of the UAE’s premier post-modern and contemporary art venues. Cuadro Gallery maintains four key areas of focus: exhibitions, education, residency and consultation. Cuadro’s curated exhibitions provide audiences with an opportunity to experience diverse approaches to and executions of art. These exhibitions are enhanced by the Education Program at Cuadro, comprised of lectures, workshops and panel discussions that present an academic avenue through which to understand and participate in the evolving art market. The Residency at Cuadro offers a select group of artist’s studio space, accommodation, career mentoring and exhibition opportunities in the UAE. The artists, both local and international, are often also provided the opportunity to exhibit the work they have created at Cuadro at the end of their residency.

Cuadro also provides qualified art consultation services for its discerning collectors, building on existing collections and helping to establish new collections.

Through these initiatives, Cuadro maintains its commitment to dynamically engage the local and international art community.

The solo exhibition will remain open from 16 September – 9 October 2014.SONY DSC Mapping Lon. Lat.



Barry Iverson – The Tour


In “The Tour” photographer Barry Iverson delves into ambivalent truths and fantasies that the process of image-making can render real.

Playing with early photographic vernacular stemming from studio portraiture, glamorous cinematic gestures, Orientalist postcards and architectural records, this body of work is a highly personal documentation of a history both recent and deep, remembered and imagined; a projection of subjective memories on actual places.

–        The Townhouse Gallery, March 2014

Exhibition Dates :  13th May – 12th June 2014











Mai Al-Nakib : The Hidden Light of Objects – Reading and Book Signing


The headlines tell of war, unrest, and religious clashes.  But if you look beyond them you may see another side of life in the Middle East—adolescent love, yearnings for independence, the fragility of marriage, pain of the most quotidian kind.  Mai Al-Nakib’s short stories carefully trace overlooked moments in the lives of those who reside in this fraught region of the world—and the power of objects to hold extraordinary memories.

Mai Al-Nakib will read from The Hidden Light of Objects (Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing 2014) and discuss the process of writing what celebrated author A. Manette Ansay has described as “the most original first collection of short fiction I have read in years.”  Reading to be following by book signing.

Mai Al-Nakib is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Kuwait University.  Her academic work deals primarily with cultural politics in the Middle East. The Hidden Light of Objects is her first collection of short stories.  She is currently writing her first novel.

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