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Source: (consider it) Thread: The Faith and its arts
Hilda of Whitby
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quote:
Originally posted by Pomona:
I'm surprised nobody has mentioned leftist Catholic art of the 60s and 70s, such as Ade Bethune and Fritz Eichenberg's work for The Catholic Worker. Much of it wouldn't look out of place in a modern zine. I'm also a big fan of Enid Chadwick and her beautiful Anglo-Catholic illustrations, particularly a gem of a children's book called My Book Of The Church's Year, which I long to have come into print again.

What impact does an artist's personal life have? For instance I love Eric Gill's sculpture, many examples of which are Christian - most prominently the Stations in Westminster Cathedral. But his personal life was utterly un-Christian in some particularly abhorrent ways. Yet I wouldn't want to erase the art of his that exists.

Thank you for mentioning Ade Bethune and Fritz Eichenberg and the artwork they provided to the Catholic Worker. I have a lot of books about the CW; the CW paper would have been a much poorer publication without their beautiful and moving illustrations. I subscribe to the CW and there are still good illustrations by new artists and also older illustrations by Bethune and Eichenberg.

I had never heard of Enid Chadwick [Hot and Hormonal] So I Googled some images. I agree; her work is beautiful. I am grateful to you for bringing her to my attention.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Pomona:


What impact does an artist's personal life have? For instance I love Eric Gill's sculpture, many examples of which are Christian - most prominently the Stations in Westminster Cathedral. But his personal life was utterly un-Christian in some particularly abhorrent ways. Yet I wouldn't want to erase the art of his that exists.

Possibly just me, but knowing that Gill made something completely turns me off from it, I have a visceral connection in my mind between him and the work. I would absolutely erase his art from anywhere connected to a Christian place of worship.

Of course I don't know all the hands who have been involved in all the little bits of art in Westminster Abbey (or anywhere else), but suspect that if I did know that they were disgusting people that may well affect how I perceive them as well.

It seems like there is a tipping point in my appreciation of art, sometimes I prefer to know nothing about the artist - or am able to compartmentalise their (usually horrible chauvinism or worse) from their work, but in Gill's case he just seems to have gone far too far for me.

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Baptist Trainfan
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That's a really tricky one. On the one hand our knowledge of the artist may impinge upon the value we may place upon their work, on the other hand we recognise the creative gift placed within them by God.
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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by Ricardus:
Art is valued (at least in part) because it expresses That Which Cannot Be Told In Mere Words, which is kind of what religious experience is all about.

A sermon is good for many things, but it is easier, I think, to hear the numinous in Thomas Tallis than in a sermon. In that sense, the music of Tallis isn't an adjunct to the Gospel - it is the Gospel.

I don't disagree - but Nonconformism has often encouraged a philistinism towards the arts, possibly due to a fear of "popish" idolatry, possibly through a desire to be populist, possibly through a wish to concentrate on (verbal) evangelism.

But in so doing they have tended to ignore a whole swathe of human spirituality and even an important facet of God himself.

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Enoch
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quote:
Originally posted by Pomona:
... What impact does an artist's personal life have? For instance I love Eric Gill's sculpture, many examples of which are Christian - most prominently the Stations in Westminster Cathedral. But his personal life was utterly un-Christian in some particularly abhorrent ways. Yet I wouldn't want to erase the art of his that exists.

Though Mozart was nothing like Eric Gill, nor his own portrayal in the play and film, that dilemma and the tension Mr Cheesy alludes to, is a fundamental motif of the plot of Amadeus.

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Baptist Trainfan
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Many years ago my wife worked at a "Christian" school. As far as classical music was concerned, any that was listened to had to conform to two criteria: it must not be "depressing", and the composer had to have lived a "moral" life.

Basically that left only Mendelssohn and J S Bach (they loved "Messiah" but my wife took a certain pleasure in showing how Handel would not have met their exacting standards).

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SvitlanaV2
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Baptist Trainfan

I think you have to accept that Nonconformity didn't take root among the educated, sophisticated classes, and it wasn't designed to satisfy the tastes of that group.

But those congregations that grew prosperous did engage in art - by building grand churches with stained-glass windows and impressive huge organs, by employing well trained organists or choirs. I'm sure that many upwardly-mobile members privately cultivated an appreciation of poetry and Shakespeare, if not contemporary writing.

The most sophisticated descendants of those upwardly-mobile Nonconformists tended to leave Nonconformism behind, of course, so their tastes didn't permeate whole denominations.

Otherwise, I've found that educated Methodists, particularly those with degrees in the humanities, are no less appreciative of the arts than anyone else. Educated Baptists can't be that different, can they? Baptist worship does leans more towards the contemporary popular style, though, which may not seem very 'artistic' to you!

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Brenda Clough
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It is well known in fandom that the writers are never quite as wonderful in person as the books they produce. If they were, they probably would not have gone into writing; they'd be on the stage.

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mr cheesy
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There is the apocryphal story of Welsh miners debating the merits of Greek philosophy and poetry in their work-breaks. Which might be an exaggeration, but the numerous miners libraries of South Wales did include books about history, philosophy and the arts. How many were read, I have no idea.

I think it is a bit of an exaggeration to claim that these non-conformists at least were uneducated and unappreciative of the arts.

I agree with SvitlanaV2, the chapels in this area were usually not built in the Gothic architectural style and are not filled with great works of art as we might recognise elsewhere. But they are, despite that, built to a certain version of neo-classical style and with grand artistic ambitions.

And, again, the style of pillars, multiple balconies, pulpits etc has a certain artistic flair, don't you think?

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Gamaliel
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The Trellwyn Methodists have built a church,
Its front looks like an abbey,
But thinking they can fool the Lord,
They've left the back bit shabby.

(Old Valleys rhyme)

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Stetson
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
There is the apocryphal story of Welsh miners debating the merits of Greek philosophy and poetry in their work-breaks. Which might be an exaggeration, but the numerous miners libraries of South Wales did include books about history, philosophy and the arts. How many were read, I have no idea.

I think it is a bit of an exaggeration to claim that these non-conformists at least were uneducated and unappreciative of the arts.


I'd imagine that might be the basis of this Monty Python skit.

[ 19. March 2017, 16:29: Message edited by: Stetson ]

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Gamaliel
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To be fair, there was a certain autodidactical thing going on in the South Wales Valleys, as Mr cheesy has noted - and that was a feature both inside and outside the chapels.

So, yes, whilst it's an exaggeration to say they were debating the finer points of Greek philosophy they were relatively well-read thanks to the 'Stutes and the libraries - mostly on political issues and some of the popular classics.

That said, by the time I was growing up it had become cool to act as if you were thick.

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:


I think it is a bit of an exaggeration to claim that these non-conformists at least were uneducated and unappreciative of the arts.

I don't know how widespread the culture of British working class intellectualism was. I imagine it was quite patchy, depending on local circumstances.

Also, I assume that Welsh Nonconformity was already past its best when the libraries were in their ascendancy. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that in some ways the autodidactic culture you describe replaced chapel culture rather than walking hand in hand with it. But I could be wrong.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:

So, yes, whilst it's an exaggeration to say they were debating the finer points of Greek philosophy they were relatively well-read thanks to the 'Stutes and the libraries - mostly on political issues and some of the popular classics.

I don't think there is much doubt that there were miners who were learning about philosophy and the arts, see here my doubts are that it had got to the point where it was socially acceptable to talk about it in the mine.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:


Also, I assume that Welsh Nonconformity was already past its best when the libraries were in their ascendancy. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that in some ways the autodidactic culture you describe replaced chapel culture rather than walking hand in hand with it. But I could be wrong.

I think the things were very closely associated; mutuals and unions are associated with non-conformists in general and Methodists in particular. Libraries and educational classes developed in the 1880s through to the 1930s.

I'd say the peak of library building was around the turn of the 20 century (both miners libraries in this town (not sure why we had two, but anyway) were built around 1905 IIRC) and of course that is around the time of the Welsh revival and is clearly associated with a lot of chapel building.

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Gamaliel
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I think they overlapped, SvitlanaV2 and there were synergies between the two. There were similarities with The Potteries and other heavy industrial areas where there was a strong emphasis on civic pride and mutual improvement.

There was more to non-conformist than evangelical revivalism and pietism.

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Adeodatus
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
Utter cobblers.

You do know I wasn't giving an opinion there, don't you? I was speaking as a professional and telling you how it actually works in practice.

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Enoch
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My suspicion is that the 1944 Education Act largely finished off that tradition. After that, those who would have been autodidacts became 'Lucky' Jim Dixons, Jimmy Porters and backbenchers in Harold Wilson's government.

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:

There was more to non-conformist than evangelical revivalism and pietism.

So the question is, what happened to all those self-taught, working class Nonconformists with their appreciation of culture?

Did they lose their Nonconformist allegiances first, or their good taste?

(Maybe the answer is in Enoch's post.)

[ 19. March 2017, 21:52: Message edited by: SvitlanaV2 ]

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
I wouldn't be surprised to learn that in some ways the autodidactic culture you describe replaced chapel culture rather than walking hand in hand with it. But I could be wrong.

Well, in terms of time period you are ignoring the elephant in the room in terms of social movements that were around at the time springing from the ideology that shall apparently not be mentioned. Some of these things are over-determined, so they don't necessarily spring simply from the energies of evangelism/non-conformism directed elsewhere.

Autodidacticism went wider then the Welsh valleys, there's quite a tradition of working class auto-didactism in the UK as a whole.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by chris stiles:
Well, in terms of time period you are ignoring the elephant in the room in terms of social movements that were around at the time springing from the ideology that shall apparently not be mentioned. Some of these things are over-determined, so they don't necessarily spring simply from the energies of evangelism/non-conformism directed elsewhere.

Please assume we don't know what you're talking about in the above. I'd be interested to know what the elephant was that you speak of.

quote:
Autodidacticism went wider then the Welsh valleys, there's quite a tradition of working class auto-didactism in the UK as a whole.
Mmm. It seems quite patchy from my observation.

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mr cheesy
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Taking a wild guess, are you referring to Communism (or possibly fascism)?

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
Taking a wild guess, are you referring to Communism

I wasn't trying to be deliberately cryptic - but yes, movements for communism, socialism, unions etc did lead an emphasis on continued learning, education and a certain respect for auto-didactism which has now mostly vanished leaving behind a few traces like those libraries you mentioned.
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Stetson
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by Pomona:


What impact does an artist's personal life have? For instance I love Eric Gill's sculpture, many examples of which are Christian - most prominently the Stations in Westminster Cathedral. But his personal life was utterly un-Christian in some particularly abhorrent ways. Yet I wouldn't want to erase the art of his that exists.

Possibly just me, but knowing that Gill made something completely turns me off from it, I have a visceral connection in my mind between him and the work. I would absolutely erase his art from anywhere connected to a Christian place of worship.

Of course I don't know all the hands who have been involved in all the little bits of art in Westminster Abbey (or anywhere else), but suspect that if I did know that they were disgusting people that may well affect how I perceive them as well.

It seems like there is a tipping point in my appreciation of art, sometimes I prefer to know nothing about the artist - or am able to compartmentalise their (usually horrible chauvinism or worse) from their work, but in Gill's case he just seems to have gone far too far for me.

I seem to be one of the few people these past few days who hasn't been able to read certain obituaries without having the phrase "...and he liked to watch unsuspecting women go to the bathroom" immediately spring to mind.

That said, those more-or-less proven allegations never prevented me from enjoying the man's music, and I'm basically the same way with the films of Roman Polanski, or, indeed(from what I've seen of it) the art of Eric Gill.

The one case where my ability to separate the art from the man DOES seem to have met its match is Bill Cosby. Can't say I really enjoy listening to his routines anymore, knowing the allegations against him. I guess that's because, with a stand-up comedian, especially one who does "personal" material based on his own life, the act depends to a large degree on a perceived personal rapport established between the performer and the viewer. I might be more amenable to Cosby's humour if he had simply been a backroom writer, turning out jokes that were delivered by other comics.

[ 20. March 2017, 14:03: Message edited by: Stetson ]

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Pomona
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quote:
Originally posted by chris stiles:
quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
I wouldn't be surprised to learn that in some ways the autodidactic culture you describe replaced chapel culture rather than walking hand in hand with it. But I could be wrong.

Well, in terms of time period you are ignoring the elephant in the room in terms of social movements that were around at the time springing from the ideology that shall apparently not be mentioned. Some of these things are over-determined, so they don't necessarily spring simply from the energies of evangelism/non-conformism directed elsewhere.

Autodidacticism went wider then the Welsh valleys, there's quite a tradition of working class auto-didactism in the UK as a whole.

Indeed to a certain degree English Nonconformism and education reform have a huge amount of shared history, including the education of women. In many ways the Restoration harmed the status and education of women which the Puritans, for all their faults, were fairly strong supporters of. If have a faith which relies heavily on an individual response to God via reading the Bible, you will naturally be pretty keen on literacy for the masses as a cause.

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Gamaliel
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I think Enoch answered the question, SvitlanaV2.

It's not a question of 'good taste' or 'bad taste' so much as energies being re-directed to other causes and issues.

As I've said before, there's only so long you can stand in a draughty chapel singing 'Here is Love vast as the ocean' over and over again.

It's hardly surprising Evan Roberts burnt himself out within 18 months.

As for the influence of socialism and communism - and yes, fascism too in some parts - such as The Potteries where Oswald Moseley had quite a following ... that ran parallel to what was happening in the chapels and the friendly societies.

It's still possible to come across old-fashioned working-class autodidacts and in my experience they tend to come from either the hard Left or the hard Right. Indeed, I can think of a chap round here who started out on the extra-Parliamentary Left as a young man and who is now scarily extra-Parliamentary Right in his views.

Autodidacticism will take you so far ... but it can lead to fairly unnuanced positions. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing and all that.

On one level, it's the kind of populist mindset that Trump is appealing to in the US.

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Arabella Purity Winterbottom

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quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:

But if you separate art into "high" and "low", then bow and scrape when you next meet a duchess or baron, stand aside when anyone in a higher income bracket approaches; because it is all the very same thing.

Yep. I don't know if you're familiar with the term "musicking" coined by Christopher Small (a great musicologist), but he suggested that doing music is important - doesn't matter what music, but getting into it and finding out what its like doing it with others. He was a huge influence on our family's musical life. We would have, 30 years ago, been "high" art musicians. All bar one of us has abandoned that pedestal, and I know I now take open ears wherever I go. Which has meant attending my boss' gigs (fairly terrible rock), the local primary school's kapa haka (Maori cultural) festival, a local folk duo (guitar and fiddle and absolutely brilliant), as well as going to choir and orchestra concerts. My ears don't open quite as well for Katy Perry or Taylor Swift, but I've liked Adele and Lady Gaga.

In terms of Adeodatus' OP, I am always reminded of the comment of (the Catholic theologian) Jaroslav Pelikan that you could recreate Luther's theology if all you had were the cantatas, masses and Passions of Bach. The marriage of words and music is almost perfect, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually (and if you're singing or playing, physically).

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Gee D
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quote:
Originally posted by Arabella Purity Winterbottom:

In terms of Adeodatus' OP, I am always reminded of the comment of (the Catholic theologian) Jaroslav Pelikan that you could recreate Luther's theology if all you had were the cantatas, masses and Passions of Bach. The marriage of words and music is almost perfect, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually (and if you're singing or playing, physically).

And indeed, who needs that Athanasian Creed when there's Messiah? Messiah's not that much longer, and vastly more enjoyable to listen to. Article VI of the 39 could quite properly be amended to substitute Messiah for Scripture.

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mousethief

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Pelikan was a Lutheran. (He converted to Orthodoxy late in life.)

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:

It's not a question of 'good taste' or 'bad taste' so much as energies being re-directed to other causes and issues.

As I've said before, there's only so long you can stand in a draughty chapel singing 'Here is Love vast as the ocean' over and over again.

It's hardly surprising Evan Roberts burnt himself out within 18 months.

As for the influence of socialism and communism - and yes, fascism too in some parts - such as The Potteries where Oswald Moseley had quite a following ... that ran parallel to what was happening in the chapels and the friendly societies.

It's still possible to come across old-fashioned working-class autodidacts and in my experience they tend to come from either the hard Left or the hard Right.

I wouldn't argue with any of this response to my last post. However, it does take us away from the issue that I wanted to discuss with Baptist Trainfan above.

Our focus was not so much on other interests taking over from church involvement (which obviously happened for many who got involved with left wing politic, etc.), but on the engagement of church members with the arts (and other intellectual pursuits).

Even if the question of taste is irrelevant to people who distanced themselves from Nonconformity, it's always been relevant to those who remained, and it certainly is today, IMO.

I wonder what kind of Nonconformists Baptist Trainfan claims are rejecting the arts. My experience is that they might be well be interested on a personal level. They'll support their children who are artistic or otherwise creative. Musical skill, of course, is particularly useful to the church.

But Baptist Trainfan seems to be talking more specifically about certain kinds of Christians privately failing to consume a lot of secular art.

[ 21. March 2017, 17:01: Message edited by: SvitlanaV2 ]

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Arabella Purity Winterbottom

Trumpeting hope
# 3434

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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
Pelikan was a Lutheran. (He converted to Orthodoxy late in life.)

You're right. I think it was his extensive writing on Catholic doctrine that fooled me.

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Hell is full of the talented and Heaven is full of the energetic. St Jane Frances de Chantal

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lilBuddha
Shipmate
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quote:
Originally posted by Arabella Purity Winterbottom:
I don't know if you're familiar with the term "musicking" coined by Christopher Small (a great musicologist),

I hadn't been, but I did a search and find him interesting. I shall have to read his work.

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And I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had

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