Page 45 July/August 2012
Mapping and marking, place and space, memory and experience intersect with irony and honesty in Gregor Turk’s Terminal Velocity at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia [May 5–July 14, 2012]. A recipient of the Museum’s Working Artist Project award, Turk received a major stipend, a studio assistant, and space to present a year’s work. Four large installations in the show weave together themes the artist has explored throughout his career, with global and local cultural references that are both straightforward and tongue-in-cheek.
Turk’s Metronesia Series, 2012, includes three wall-size recreations of the Atlanta map, trisected and circled by major interstate highways. The series was inspired by Micronesian stick charts—hand-held stick constructions that map ocean swells and wave patterns for navigation. These charts rely on their makers’ experiences to be completely understood. Metronesian Stick Chart was constructed from found pieces of mimosa wood wrapped in black, road-worn bicycle inner tubes, their valves positioned to mark major freeway exits. An avid cyclist, the artist deliberately chose tubes with Schrader valves, also used on automobile tires, as a wry acknowledgment that Atlanta is not a bicycle-friendly city. Metronesian
Replacements features large, dried leaves cut into X- shapes and tacked to the wall with pushpins in the shape of Atlanta’s major intersections. The title’s obvious interpretation is that Atlanta’s major freeway network replaced the natural environment with miles of asphalt. The push-pins also suggest the marking of key points on a strategic map, an ironic notion to those familiar with the organic and completely non-strategic configuration of most Atlanta-area roads. The leaves themselves indicate “X marks the spot,” but they also read as crosses: the symbol of martyrdom for the benefit of human transportation. Metronesian Tectonics maps Atlanta with plastic and metal car plates named after cities on various continents. Together with the title, this is a pun on the movement of “plates” around Atlanta, with the names arranged according to the global regions conjured by American automobile manufacturers. an index to contemporary art’s imminent history
On the opposite wall, Turk references West African Vodun with his Fetish Series, 2012. The artist covered the wall with the series’ fifteen discrete component works: rubber-wrapped X-shapes made of wood from specific places with conflicted personal significance, such as the spot where a friend died on a hike, or the location where a schizophrenic neighbor took her own life. Having lived in Africa during the 1980s, Turk experienced varieties of traditional African spiritual practices involving revered sites and objects. The sharp nails driven into some of his Fetishes recall those used to release powers from within Congolese nkisi dolls. The X-shapes index multiple intersections, including the intersection of religious traditions at certain sacred sites inthe Middle East and the center of Coptic crosses, which he saw in person at the Israel Museum in 2000. With a humorous twist, his combination of black rubber, shiny spikes, and the connotations of the word “fetish,” the series also references “X-rated” fetish parties. The ubiquitous “X” reappears as negative space in Interchange 1–9, 2012, a grid of nine squares of crisscrossing inner tubes divided by intersecting diagonals in the shape ofAtlanta’s nine major interstate interchanges.
In the gallery corners, Turk’s Monument Series, 2012, spoofs the authority of public monuments. The Transformer converts its obelisk shape into easily carried luggage, and the luggage wheels underneath The Conveyor diminish its site specificity but increase its portability. The Courier opens like a coffin to carry memorialized contents, and The Aggrandizer suggestively inflates with an attached hand pump. The exhibition title itself belies Turk’s playfully ironic attitude: Atlanta was originally the southern terminus of the Western & Atlantic Railroad line; and, as it happens, Velo-city is an irregular international conference that promotes cycling-friendly cities.
Gregor Turk, exhibition view of Terminal Velocity at Museum of Contemporary Art Georgia, 2012
Terminal Velocity examines the power of mobility and place in our lives
Page 15. July 12, 2012
by Debbie Michaud
Triumph. It's certainly not what commuters are celebrating in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Yet that's exactly the sentiment artist Gregor Turk has assigned to a section of I-85 in "Metronesian Tectonics." The large-scale arrangement traces the interstates in and around metro Atlanta with vintage car plaques: Intrigue, Nomad, Venture, Odyssey. I-75, I-85, I-285. Manifest Destiny, meet gridlock.
"For the American market, we and Madison Avenue tend to romanticize certain themes, and place names have always been popular because they conjure a specific image," Turk says.
In his current MOCA GA exhibit, Terminal Velocity, Turk, who's made an entire career of his fixation with maps, considers notions of place and the significance of intersections. Turk is a 2011/2012 Working Artist Project recipient, an annual award by the museum supported by the Loridans Foundation and the NEA that includes a hefty grant, an assistant, and an exhibit. An Atlanta native, Turk has watched over the last five decades as car culture has consumed the city. "I grew up here, and being from here and watching the interstate grow from two lanes to what it is now ... it's been pretty remarkable," he says. "This whole idea of mobility and place — I think that our culture is more driven that way, of always saying where we are, and marking where we are."
"Metronesian Tectonics" is part of the Metronesia Series, three takes on the same outline of metro Atlanta's interstate system: one with vintage car plaques, one of rubber-wrapped wood, and another constructed of cut leaves. Each display bears a striking resemblance to a heart or lung. It's a fitting visual metaphor for the lifelines that the city's major roads have become, especially as the region readies to vote on a 1 percent sales tax measure that, if approved, will raise billions of dollars for new roads and transit.
Four works comprise the Monument Series, a playful reaction to Atlanta's disregard for landmarks. "The Aggrandizer" slumps over in a far corner, as though Atlanta's inferiority complex has materialized into a flaccid obelisk. A bicycle pump sits nearby to deliver an ego boost. Turk sourced the wood for the Fetish Series from sites with emotional significance to him: a hiking trail where a friend died, the woods around his house. "These are a more personal examination of an intersection of a very specific place," Turk says. Fourteen of the series' 15 wood Xs are wrapped in rubber, and some have been impaled with flooring nails. The fetishes range from the succulent and sexual to religious to violent. Overall, they create the feeling of having stumbled upon a cache of prehistoric relics.
The Interchange Installation takes up the gallery's far wall with graphic abstractions of the city's nine major interstate intersections. Flayed black rubber inner tubes girdle hunks of wood in a display of geometry that displaces any literal notions of Atlanta's streetscapes. "To me this piece is much more meditative or contemplative," Turk says. "It's boiling Atlanta down to its quintessential points."
X MARKS THE SPOT: Installation view of the Fetish Series
Published: June 13th 2012, Arts ATL
Text: Catherine Fox
Gregor Turk has devoted a large share of his career to exploring the map, well, every which way.
In work encompassing clay sculpture, conceptual photographs and actual travel (he bicycled and walked the length of the U.S.-Canadian border in his “49th Parallel Project”), Turk has considered the map as a tool, a cultural construct, a fiction. He has exploited its aesthetic qualities and deconstructed its language.
The Atlanta artist brings together many of his concerns and methods in “Terminal Velocity,” his engaging solo show at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia. The culmination of his year-long Working Artist Project grant, it runs through July 14.
The self-described topophiliac aims to make art that is “a point of departure.” Three giant versions of the familiar map of metro Atlanta’s Interstate highways announce that our city and its car culture are the jumping-off point.
“Metronesian Stick Chart” exemplifies the material and the wit that dominate the show. The highways are wrapped in black inner-tube rubber, their exits indicated by tire valves.
The roads in “Metronesian Tectonics” are composed of actual car nameplates. Turk has arranged them in clusters of similar character — cowboy ruggedness (e.g., Sierra), European glamour (e.g., Riviera), animal magnetism (e.g., Jaguar) — to highlight the Madison Avenue metaphors and our relationship to cars as extensions of our (aspirational) selves.
Maps are, of course, abstractions of geography. “Interchange,” a series of six square, wrapped-rubber wall pieces based on actual Atlanta intersections, takes that notion even further: geography as abstract art. Although it is striking, the piece is not as resonant as others here.
“Fetish Series,” a group of 15 X-shaped sculptures, is more interesting as a point of departure. Each piece is made of branches Turk has gathered from the Atlanta neighborhood named in its title. As in “Interchange,” he nullifies the specificity, this time by wrapping all but one in black rubber. X is supposed to mark the spot, but these X’es have no context or character: an ironic place for a topophiliac to find himself, but that ambiguity is his point.
Turk employs a variety of wrapping patterns and embellishments that inflect the reading of the X shape. The pieces impaled with flurries of nails, for instance, are reminiscent of religious objects in Africa, where he spent two years in the Peace Corps.
The ruffly version suggests a kiss on a valentine, a sweetness that contrasts with the generally more sinister aura. Nancy Grossman’s leather-covered sculptures come to mind, and, given the phallic shapes of the wood, Robert Mapplethorpe and his bondage photographs.
The phallic references become, shall we say, more prominent in the “Monument Series.” Turk has made four rubber-wrapped obelisks, which mark the corners of the gallery. One is titled “The Aggrandizer,” a pointed reference to the ego behind the will to mark the land. But the poor thing shrivels into a flaccid state unless a visitor is willing to use the attached tire pump to blow it up.
“The Courier” resembles a suitcase, and another is on wheels. This of course mocks the notion of the monument as a permanent marker. And Turk makes good on their portability. Employing a trope used by a number of contemporary artists, he has transported the monuments around town and recorded their travels in photographs compiled in the book at the front desk.
These playful pictures treat the obelisks as a character. A worm’s-eye views casts one as Big Man on Campus in the similarly phallic atrium of a John Portman hotel. One plays the preservationist, a lone protester in front of a bulldozer. There’s brotherly love as well: a Turk obelisk standing close to a just-as-silly undersize one on Peachtree Street near Brookwood Station.
Turk’s monuments are a humorous version of “Ozymandias.” They also refer to our culture of mobility or, to bring up an idea with local currency, noplaceness. If change is the new stability, then “Terminal Velocity” is not an oxymoron.
Published: May 16th 2012, Burnaway
Text: Grace Thornton
On my drive to Gregor Turk’s exhibition Terminal Velocity, which reveals the artist’s interpretation of place and place-marking, I got terribly turned around on a road I’ve driven down a hundred times before. I had missed the turn for the Museum of Contemporary Art because the road on the left side of Peachtree is called by one name, and another on the right (with quite a smaller sign, I might add). The infuriating detour seemed almost serendipitous, however, when I arrived at the exhibition only to see Turk’s multiple maps of Atlanta highways laid out on the wall.
The maps identify what most Atlantans will recognize as the anatomical and existential heart of the city: the outline of I-285, subdivided by the ventricles of I-20, I-75, and I-85. The first of these cartographies, Metronesian Tectonics, is made of an impressive array of car plates announcing the ever-ambitious model names of various vehicles. Turk cleverly arranges these tags into categories. One row—I think the vein representing 75 North—reads in succession, “Legend, Mystique, Intrigue, Esteem, Triumph, Acclaim.” The grandeur of these aspirational names, especially coming from an Atlanta native such as Turk, are so clearly devoid of meaning when considering that other than being gathered into Metronesian Tectonics, the only other accumulation of this many model tags would occur during five-o’clock traffic. No one is a legend in that context. The person with the sexy sports car in the next lane loses an awful lot of mystique when you’re stalled next to him long enough to hear he’s listening to a Phil Collins CD. And you sure as hell don’t esteem the asshole in the minivan who just cut you off.
Turk levels the field in the second work of the Metronesian series, ridding the map of branding and focusing on the politics of Atlanta as a driving city. For this second installment, Turk has wrapped the mimosa wood that forms the outline of the city with inner-tube ribbons punctuated by air valves at each point that an exit would appear on the actual highway. Metronesian Stick Charts references Micronesian stick charts, described in Turk’s artist statement as “handheld wood and seashell constructions that depict nautical routes by indicating wave swells and water currents rather than standard distance.” Micronesians explored the vast oceans with their crude tools, and Atlantans navigate their own city streets with tools that run on crude oil.
Metronesian Replacements, the third and final work in this series, serves somewhat as a commentary on the first two pieces. Found leaves, cut into exes, are tacked into the wall by their frail stems—in this way they appear to be plunging, like miniature skydivers having just reached their own terminal velocity.
The fragility of the leaves and the absurdity of using them as map-making tools emphasizes the coy message of Tectonics and Stick Chart by illuminating that place is filled with personalized connotations. As MOCA GA’s brief on the exhibition reveals, “Since childhood, Gregor Turk has been endlessly fascinated by maps. However, this appeal is less about the actual geographic information communicated in maps and more about what that information tells us about ourselves as individuals and collectively as a culture.” Like the intricate Micronesian ocean charts which are so highly nuanced that only their makers can effectively use them, Turk’s diagrams subvert the concept of a map as universally symbolic and legible (as they are presumed to be); rather, he presents them as a tool to assess one’s personal sense of place—the glowing “You Are Here” sticker carried around in our consciences.
Turk’s more personal attitude toward place is revealed through the Fetish series, which is, according to his artist’s statement, “an attempt to understand the burden of place—to reconcile the conflicted sentiments of revered sites.” These collected pieces of wood, bandaged together with inner tube, appear like a smattering of chromosomes or lopsided crucifixes along the rightmost wall of the room. Like the leaves in Metronesian Replacements, their exes mark the spot. But because the exes are made from bound wood gathered at a memorable site for Turk, each signifies a place of importance within the mark itself, instead of suggesting a treasure buried underneath.
Each ex, wrapped in rubber save for one, varies slightly from its neighbor, implying the various weight of each memory. The more foreboding works have nails struck vigorously through them, sometimes clustered entirely in the center where the wood meets; in others the nails neatly line the crossbars. Perhaps these identify more painful recollections, or ones that Turk feels require recollection the most. Or maybe, at a certain point, memories start folding together like a deck of cards being shuffled and therefore need placeholders to separate one from another in the mind. The nails also exemplify the burden of place as a concept we feel indivisibly attached to because it maintains memory by providing it with a setting. As the car plates with the ambitious titles like Explorer and Legacy elucidate, place is often glorified as the position we would like to occupy in the future. Venturing into unknown territories, using a map stamped with familiar landmarks of the memories associated with a place, reveals how where you have already been facilitates and influences where you will go.
Solidifying past occurrences by pairing them with the location in which they were made also contrasts with the concern with forging new memories represented by the rubber tubing repeatedly used in Terminal Velocity. Another universal experience of living in a driving city that Turk alludes to with his semiotics is the dreaded nail-in-tire problem. They symbolize the purposeful, mental obstruction that occurs when you reminisce about a place; connecting that spot to a single incident can limit any alternate meanings the destination could hold. Turk’s tubing, on the other hand, is meant to insulate the idealized sense of possibility that accompanies traveling to a new destination. These two constructs of place are bound to clash for the viewer, if where you’ve been—the nail—prevents you from getting somewhere else on your rubber-wrapped map.
Terminal Velocity presents place as inconsistent despite our best attempts to cement locations and the memories associated with them. When we’re stuck on a highway in Atlanta, as Turk’s maps show, place is the destination we are trying to reach, not where we currently find ourselves. The place we mark in our minds as important means more than the place we occupy. But maybe we have only a certain amount of space in our heads to file away these places, and thus their flexibility is a virtue. Selective mark-making forges cultural as well as personal identity, in such a way that I can read Turk’s map of Atlanta but not his memories, though neither represents a less legitimate location for him.
Gregor Turk is one of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia’s recipients of the Working Artist Project award. His exhibition Terminal Velocity will remain up for viewing through Saturday, July 14, 2012. MOCA GA is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10AM to 5PM.
Published: May 10th 2012, Atlanta Journal Constitution
Text: Felicia Feaster
You could say that artist Gregor Turk has two fixations: monuments and mapping. Over a long career working in the city’s art scene, the Atlanta native has often focused on the kind of historical markers that identify Civil War sites or landmark Atlanta buildings. Other work has focused on the kinds of strange icons that dot maps and provide reference points to roads or water features.
But in his solo show at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, “Terminal Velocity,” Turk has brought those two strains of his work together into a far more satisfying whole. Call it the advantage of time, space and an infusion of cash. Turk is the third recipient of this year’s Working Artist Project award, which affords local artists an exhibition at MOCA GA, a studio assistant and a stipend.
Part of the immediate appeal of Turk’s show are his materials of choice: rubber inner tubes and the metal car plaques that identify a car as a Cherokee or Mercury. Those materials conjure up a very specific modern reality, one defined by passive visions of exploration, historical touchstones, cars and the Atlanta highway system that reappears many times as a visual motif in “Terminal Velocity.”
In three works in his “Metronesia Series,” Turk has created maps of the Perimeter and its intersecting roadways. The first map is composed of those metal car plaques arranged to form the Perimeter; the second Perimeter is composed of inner tubes and the third of fall leaves. What remains overwhelming in those pieces is a sense of everything, nature, progress, even the rhythms of life defined by that highway grid. In a driving city like Atlanta, “Terminal Velocity” will hit many of us very close to home.
Turk has boiled down the fast-paced, modern world into something elemental and stark, akin to hieroglyphics or cave drawings.
The strangest, and also the funniest, pieces in the show are the monuments -- also constructed of tire rubber -- that Turk has placed in the gallery’s four corners. Like the Washington Monument, Turk’s obelisks sport that familiar spire-form but have all been rendered in black rubber. “The Aggrandizer” is a sad, partly deflated rubber obelisk attached to a bicycle pump for a quick infusion of air. The piece offers a funny riposte to the proud, unassailable obelisk form. Turk takes a similarly humorous road in a series of four works on paper formed from rubbings of those metal car plaques. “Cosmos” for instance, forms its perimeter shape from Pioneer, Aries and Mercury car plaques. “Menagerie” is formed from metal signs for Pinto, Lynx, Bronco and Colt.
Turk’s point is that for all that talk of animals, exploration and wild, open vistas in those aspirational car names, we are contained and cosseted explorers, locked within perimeters, stuck on our asphalt tracks.
While all parts of the show don’t always gel perfectly, there is an ambition and a grappling with big ideas that marks this as a significant step in Turk’s career.
Bottom line: A clever, visually appealing expansion of the artist’s fixations.
Everything is Illuminated
Gregor Turk’s sculptural line of lamps really shines
Published: June 2010, Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles
Text: Elizabeth R. Ralls
Photos: Erica George Dines
Landscape and topography have always influenced Gregor Turk’s sculpture, photography and paintings, but decorative arts were never quite on the artist’s radar. Yet, just last December, the Atlanta native debuted a line of pictogram-inspired tableware called PlaceMates. The display- and dining-worthy ceramic plates and bowls bear the stamps of the now ubiquitous symbols for men and women plucked from restrooms around the world.
But it’s the artist’s newest home design venture—intricate, hand-sculpted earthenware lamps that are as tactile as they are beautiful—that at once reveals a glimpse into Turk’s patient, multilayered approach and renders these pieces exhibition-worthy works of art. Called Tatoosh, the collection features contoured lines that pay homage to the topography of Washington’s Tatoosh Buttes mountain summit.
The lamps’ layered format is simply an extension of two of Turk’s earlier works, primarily a freestanding sculptural series called Atlas that he says consists of large, book-like forms that “explore the absurdity of trying to contain the Earth in a book.” Because the artist wanted to explore alternatives to freestanding sculpture, Atlas soon inspired him to “bring it to the wall.” The result? A series of convex ceramic tablets called the TopoTablets, created in a similar vein.
Each Tatoosh lamp boasts a hand-sculpted, of-the-earth feel; variations in shape include rectangular and round forms as well as short-and-squatty cubes. After firing, glazing and wiring the pieces at his Westside studio, Turk tops them with silk drum shades in pebble or platinum hues.
“The lamps have an earthy feel, but there’s a sleekness to them that makes them very adaptable,” Turk says. “They’d be just as at home in a beach house as they would in the mountains or in a contemporary setting.”
Likewise, the white glaze Turk has chosen for the lamps keeps their interpretation open-ended. “It could be water currents, fingerprints, wood grain or convoluted contour lines,” the artist says. “If you go much darker, you lose sight of the lines and it becomes more about the earth and strata.”
Already turning heads at Mecox Gardens in Palm Beach, Florida, and 14 Feet in Healdsburg, California, the Tatoosh collection may be sourced locally through Turk’s studio.
Plates and bowls start at $20. Lamps start at $500 with the majority, such as the tall ones at left, costing $900-$1,000. Gregor Turk, gregorturk.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Gregor Turk's Limits
Text: Felicia Feaster
Published: April 26, 2006, Creative Loafing Atlanta
Artist Gregor Turk has long been consumed by maps. Maps of Georgia. Maps of New York. Symbolic map icons indicating bodies of water or winding roads. Maps as a means of establishing order and territory.
The thrill of Turk's most recent project, Limits, lies in how much it goes off the map, both for the artist and for the very notion of control and stability a map implies.
Turk took inspiration for Limits from the map markings that indicate political or geographic boundaries. But his squirmy, icky sculptures hardly look like anything so functional and human-defined.
Turk's 22 ceramic sculptures, clinging to the walls of his gallery/studio, are scary little beasties. About the size of a bloated baguette, they have the look of something that has just slithered out of a flesh-gash in a David Cronenberg film. Their worm-like bodies twist and writhe in postures of pain or aggressive burrowing.
The pieces conjure up a variety of associations. Some resemble tuber-shaped ferrets with their bellies turned up to the sky. Others look like leeches or eels propelling themselves through water with their ribbony, finlike projections. With the deep grooves cut into their surface, some evoke tree branches. Tree branches, mind you, about to mutate into hairless albino puppies with dozens of tiny, stubby legs.
It is their ambiguity that makes them so unsettling. The tension between their soft-belly vulnerability and their grab-your-musket parasitic threat ratchets up the anxiety factor even further.
In an unintentional, but relevant way, the setting of Turk's studio only enhances the eerie and appealing Limits. Turk's creations dwell in a slip of industrial-meets-residential zone called Blandtown, tucked between acres of kudzu and wild Georgia topography, and the ramshackle incursions of the human, including free-range dogs and toilets in back yards.
Kudzu and garbage flow and encroach. The creatures threaten to escape their lab. And an artist's examination of physical geography begins to blur the border between the conscious and the subconscious.
Limits: Opening reception April 28, 5:30-9 p.m. Through May 10. 1334 English St. Mon.-Sun., noon-6 p.m. 404-351-1463.
The peripatetic artist and art advocate slows down- briefly- to provide a glimpse of where he’s headed next
Published: May 2006, Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles
Text: Lisa Kurzner
External Link: http://www.atlantahomesmag.com/article/gregor-turk
I am dressed in sneakers, jeans and fleece, ready for a sprint through downtown Atlanta with Gregor Turk, for an overview of public art monuments tucked in and around the skyscrapers and government buildings. At one point, we duck into the local police station to view the obscure Zero Mile Post, marking the center of the city, while Turk recites the political and geographical history of the area with ease. Then it’s back to the studio for tea and discussion of his recent projects.
A native of Atlanta who knows the city intimately, Turk is one of the most widely traveled artists in town. After a two-year Peace Corps stint in Africa, this inveterate bicyclist rode along much of the US-Canadian border collecting material for his ambitious 49th Parallel Project. From outdoor billboard projects to intimate ceramic maps (Urban Tablets) and street rubbings of historical markers, the land and its social and topographical history defines Turk’s artistic practice. He has received public art commissions from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and has also advised the airport art committee in locating art sites in its new terminal. He was recently awarded a summer residency in South Africa to work with master printers at the prestigious Caversham Press.
Luckily for Atlanta, he feels a strong sense of community and gives much of his time to teaching and advocating for public art in Atlanta. A member of Mayor Franklin’s Public Art Advisory Committee (PAAC) and the Metropolitan Public Art Coalition (MPAC), Turk serves on the boards of several art institutions in town. One is as likely to find the artist in a dinner jacket at a gallery opening as running through industrial areas with a backpack carrying tools for making urban sign rubbings. When he hosts an open studio—the next is May 5th—it seems the art, architecture and design communities all convene in his renovated bungalow off Huff Road, now positioned at the crossroads of in-town development and the Beltline along the city’s Westside.
At the moment, Turk is preparing for several forthcoming projects. He will make works for a group show titled “Space” at Solomon Projects in May. In the fall, he brings environmental concerns to a group show at the Spruill Gallery. There he will install several works in the rooms of the historic farmhouse that reflect the site and its development over time. Turk refers to himself as a “responder”, an artist who is attracted to the environment and landscape as a draughtsman is drawn to the blank sheet of paper. Using maps and signage as tools to interpret his surroundings, Turk will create mixed media environments that will pull his audiences towards a sensitivity and understanding of the land, specifically this land, in 2007.
Open Studio ( with other Westside studio artists): Saturday May 5, noon to 5: 1334 English Street, Atlanta, Ga 30318. www.gregorturk.com
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