Picking up the Slack: Ware:Wolf:Haus and West Dallas

no wave

A No Wave performance, one of the inspirations for West Dallas’ latest art outpost.

A couple of years ago, before the Calatrava Bridge was even finished, I wrote about the artistic hope the other side of the bridge in West Dallas presented as a working-class area full of mostly vacant warehouses that seemed ripe for artists to intervene somehow, as artists historically have in similarly neglected but interesting neighborhoods everywhere. At the time that I wrote that piece in 2011, the conversation surrounding the West Dallas development was tense because of the likelihood that new development would push out long-time residents of the largely Hispanic neighborhood surrounding Singleton Blvd., the main strip the bridge feeds into. But so far, thanks to efforts by groups like Brent Brown’s urban archiving studio, BC Workshop, which catalogued stories of the La Bajada neighborhood last year, support of the old community has galvanized, making the issues at hand less fraught. Two years ago, in the heat of the debate, there wasn’t really anything new by way of retail or restaurants on the other side of the yet-to-be-finished bridge, and save for a few occasional pop-up shows, there wasn’t much happening by way of art interventions either.

Now, with the once pristine and white Calatrava bridge now sullied with eighteen months of exhaust stains, the other side of the bridge looks decidedly different. Thanks to the deep pockets of a team of developers, called  West Dallas Investments, headed by restaurant mogul Phil Romano (of Eatzi’s and The Macaroni Grill, among others) the area has seen a boom of restaurants, including the “restaurant concept incubator,” Trinity Groves.  And thanks to the Dallas Contemporary’s penchant for street art, the once drab faces of many of the warehouses are now bedecked in with colorful mural commissions by the likes of Shepard Fairey and, most recently, the graffiti duo Faile.  Plus, by way of heralding the signs of a boom, a new traffic light was installed near all the new development a couple weeks ago, much to the surprise (read: screeching-to-a- halt) of this frequent area commuter.

Deadbolt Studios

Deadbolt Studios

Matt Clark's studio inside Deadbolt Studios (Nathan Green's paintng hangs to the right).

Matt Clark’s studio inside Deadbolt Studios (Nathan Green’s painting hangs to the right).

But for all of the food hoopla and infrastructure adjustments, apart from the Dallas Contemporary’s mural commissions there has been little evidence of any artistic infiltration in the neighborhood, at least not out on the surface. But anyone moderately involved in the Dallas art scene will  know that a group of artists —  Arthur Peña, Nathan Green, Matt Clark, and Brian Ryden — share a warehouse studio together just off the Singleton Blvd. drag. They call it Deadbolt Studios. The crew pulls in a steady stream of friends and associates to the place, where guests can marvel at the carpentry, electrical and plumbing finesse of the artists, who largely outfitted the space to meet their needs all on their own. The building that is Deadbolt Studios is owned by the same investment group, WDI, that owns the Trinity Groves complex and most of the other colorfully painted warehouses that line Singleton and its side streets. WDI, under the guidance of member Butch McGregor, in addition to incubating food concepts, is also keen on drawing artists to the area to add to its retail and cultural viability. McGregor is the go-to guy when artists in Dallas have an idea that would involve a big empty space: he’s lent buildings for many pop-up shows over the last few years.

George Quarz performing at Ware:Wolf:House. Image courtesy Thrwd Magazine.

George Quarz performing at Ware:Wolf:House. Image courtesy Thrwd Magazine.

Inspired by the No Wave music and performance art scene of the 70s and 80s which operated out of abandoned warehouses and storefronts in downtown New York, often for little or no rent, Arthur Peña recently opened up a warehouse space called Ware:Wolf:Haus — a nod, perhaps, to the vampiric, fly-by-night nature of the No Wave scene — where he hosts experimental art shows and concerts.

“I found myself in a situation where the space was available,” says Peña, and it would have been irresponsible of me not to do something with [it].” Irresponsible, perhaps, because like many area artists of late, he sees a need to encourage non-commercial art activity, “something that isn’t directly tied to a market,” he says. Not being “tied to the market” universally means not being told what to do, and Peña thought he could navigate some pretty interesting waters with just such a carte blanche space, producing some art/music hybrid performances and shows that could push the needle on Dallas’ exposure to new things. “ Those shows NEED to happen,”  says Peña, understanding that pushing the limits of the status quo can allow for newer innovations and therefore more cultural growth. “All I am doing is tapping people that I think are doing interesting things, handing them the space, and all I ask of them is that they do whatever they want as long as it pushes their limits, whatever that may be,” he says. ”The great thing about WWH is that it is not a gallery, it’s just a warehouse with track lights and some bathrooms. So, immediately the context opens the conversation and broadens the content.”

Peña would really like to engage the area universities as well, pulling from their on-campus talent: “Those garage band, internet dwelling, synth groups need is a place to play that isn’t some dank, dark bar. WWH can be that place. That’s what it’s for.” He is also in the process of creating an alternative to Denton’s music festival 35-Denton, a “dragon-west coast-vampire-genderless-noise-sludge core alternative to it.”

Top-Tarantulas at Ware:Wolf:Haus. Image courtesy Tim DeVoe and Miriam Ewers.

Top-Tarantulas at Ware:Wolf:Haus. Image courtesy Tim DeVoe and Miriam Ewers.

Most recently, Peña handed the keys to artist team Tim DeVoe and Miriam Ellen Ewers, who created an interactive installation involving a van, a skateboard-ramp-cum-landscape, and some sculptures scattered throughout the space. The artists were able to get discounts on the materials they used from a local lumber yard, forming a retail alliance that Peña sees as part of the success of the project. And getting art world names like Nasher Sculpture Center director Jeremy Strick to come see the show was also a testament to the fact that effort and energy are valuable, no matter the art market cache. “All of this comes from just asking,” Peña says, and “I’ll say this to my dying day: everything is so much easier when people say ‘yes!’”

Even given the creative expansion the space could push, Peña doesn’t imagine running Ware:Wolf :Haus forever; in fact, he thinks the faster and more intense its lifespan the better. “It needs to be like the Chappelle Show: around for about three years, produce some quality material and then peace out.”  His dream show, though,  is “to have DNA and Sonic Youth play a show on opposite sides, with a cat farm in the middle, with lots of fog and lasers happening that are bouncing off of Gerhard Richter’s mirror-robot paintings from DIA: Beacon,” so I hope that at least he stays open long enough to finagle that David Lynch-y action. After that, let’s say, “it will be up to others to pick up the slack,” says  Peña, “and I hope that’s what happens.”

Picking up the slack is the great hope of renegade projects like these — creating a kind of artistic progeny that, through imagination and ingenuity, draws the unseen art boundaries out farther, gathering more people within it.

Like the great musician and producer Brian Eno said about the No Wave movement at the time: “What they do is a rarefied kind of research; it generates a vocabulary that people like me can use. These… bands are like fence posts, the real edges of a territory, and one can maneuver within it.”

Deadbolt Studios will be holding an open house on Sunday, October 13, 2013, from 3-8 p.m.

also by Lucia Simek

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33 responses to “Picking up the Slack: Ware:Wolf:Haus and West Dallas”

  1. I’m confused. None of this adds up.

  2. Oh great another incestuous article about Pena and his need for constant attention. These writer/critics in DFW toot each others horn to death and it’s transparent to those who know the art scene and it’s players. Pena is looking out for Pena, don’t be fooled. If you know him it’s not too hard to pick up on.

  3. you seem a bit jelly.

  4. If you write about art in DFW then you have a very high percentage of getting anything you do covered nicely in print or online by a friend/coworker. Writers love to write about other writers work that they know, as if they are trading favors. How can one write an objective piece on a friend/coworker, I don’t believe it’s possible, conflict of interest to say the least. Their is no denying this. With Pena’s work I find this to be especially true. If you put tired deconstructionist rehash with a dash of hanging threads on the wall it usually doesn’t get this much attention…unless you are a writer/critic who hob knobs with all the other working writer/critics in town. I believe this is what we have here. It’s also happening in the Houston art scene. Nice call Slick Rick, transparency is desperately needed in this arena, for the good of all artists and critics alike.

    1. Calls for transparency from anonymous commenters are the best!

      I support transparency and frank discussion of who is scratching who’s back. Hell I might think that these social dynamics are more interesting topics for discussion than lots of contemporary art and criticism, but would love for people who desire this same transparency discussion to reveal their biases and personal back scratching club memberships. If the internet is a tough place to have this discussion find me in person, I’m the fat, bearded, really handsome guy at art openings in Dallas.

      That said I’ve got no dog in this fight as I barely know (am facebook friends with) Arthur Pena and do not know Lucia Simek (have 49 facebook friends in common; The art world a small place.) and have no clue who the person behind Slick Rickey is. Also I cant believe I’m writing in the comments.

    2. It’s hard to argue your point Brick Layer. The artist and critic overlap causes confusion to the integrity of the response. An objective response is needed to be able to have the required perspective, especially when it’s published. The only people I could imagine would be against the kind of transparency you speak of would be those who are already on the take.

  5. Transparency called for when you are using a pseudonym. Pretty funny. & both these comments complaining about peña are probably the same person. Probably a stuckist. Probably not getting the attention they think they deserve.

    1. Lets stay on track here without the attempts at deflecting the subject being brought up by Slick Rickey. Instead of being concerned with the identity of internet comment posters, lets keep the attention on the obvious back scratching that is happening in the contemporary Dallas art scene? Your missing the point of the slumping integrity within the ranks of the top DFW Art publications. The coverage should be totally objective, where the writer is as impartial as possible. Do you really believe this is happening here? I’m not so sure it is. The problem is that the inner circle of writers in Dallas covers their own ilk, how can this be impartial coverage? Also, does the amount of coverage warrant the actual impact that these writer/artists are actually making? Or are many talented artists being overlooked because they are not able to break into the bubble. When will you see actual criticism of Pena’s work coming from Simek? Unfortunately the answer is never, and this is the result of a clear conflict of interest.

      1. I wasn’t deflecting the subject just pointing out the hypocrisy. I think you have an overly naive and simplistic view of how things function in the “Dallas Art World.” I would love to see your list of who you think is talented and or deserving of this attention. Also why not be proactive and write about these artists yourself. Simek and others began by writing for blogs or other outlets. I can’t help but feel that you have a strong sense of entitlement. Peña is a hard working mofo.

        1. …So your solution is not to fix the way the largest art website in texas assigns their writers to cover other artist/writers. Your solution is to have me begin writing my own pieces in competition to glasstire, DMagazine, Art+Culture Magazine, etc. You realize that will change nothing right? I have a feeling you are solidly inside the bubble, and possibly benefiting from connections to writers. It’s clear that you are biased against a level playing field. Your opinion is worthless now.

          1. Glasstire has always had an open-door policy for writers. We’re always looking — and sometimes begging — for good writers for the site. So if you know of any, please feel free to send them our way! Staff emails are on our contact page. We’re not hard to find.

          2. You have to start somewhere and as Rainey suggests glasstire is always looking for writers. I double dog dare you to write but I have a feeling you just want the keys to the city without putting any work in.

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CI779D2tLyk

  6. Slick Trick, I have a very small interest in writing, but I provided a sample of what it might look like (grammar errors and all). But only because you double dog dared me :-)

    Now where are the keys to the city? Just kidding.

    Have a great weekend everyone.

  7. I would personally feel a great deal more comfortable with the articles that I read on glasstire if each author offered the following disclaimer regarding every artist that he/she mentions:

    # of common facebook friends
    # of artist’s tweets favorited
    # of photos of author in artist’s instagram feed

    Without this data I’m not sure if I can take another article on this website seriously.

  8. TO ALL THEM HATERZ AND COMPLAINERZ:

    SHUT THE FUCK UP

    IF YOU’RE MAKING WORK THAT IS NOT BEING COVERED THEN TOO BAD. IT PROBABLY SUCKS, THE WAY YOU INSTALLED IT SUCKS, THE WAY YOU TALK ABOUT IT SUCKS, THE PLACE YOU EXHIBITED SUCKS AND YOU SUCK. IF ALL OF THE PREVIOUS QUALITIES WERE FALSE, THEN ATTRIBUTE THE LACK OF ATTENTION TO YOUR NOT SO SHITTY ART TO THE FACT THAT THERE HAPPENS TO BE A LITTLE TOO MUCH TO COVER BY VERY FEW PROACTIVE ARTS WRITERS IN DALLAS. AND YES, GET IN THE ‘SCENE’ AND TALK TO PEOPLE AND CONNECT. DON’T FORGET WHAT KIND OF POLITICAL SYSTEM EXISTS AND HOW FEEBLE YOUR ATTEMPTS TO CHANGE IT ARE BY BURP-VOMITING LITTLE BITCHY COMPLAINTS ABOUT IT. IT’S NOT GOING TO CHANGE. YOU HAVE TO KNOW PEOPLE AND CONNECT SO THEY —– KNOW YOU. EVEN THEN, ITS PRETTY INCREDIBLE WHEN ARTS WRITERS HAVE THE DECENCY AND RESPECT FOR AN ARTIST TO PUT TOGETHER A THOUGHTFUL, SUBSTANTIAL, BUT NEGATIVE REVIEW FOR SOMEONE. PLEASE, LET’S DO THAT A LITTLE MORE. IT NEEDS TO BE DONE. TOO MUCH BACK PATTING. BUT HONESTLY, LET’S GIVE CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE. AND THIS ARTICLE IS ABOUT WARE:WOLF:HAUS NOT PEÑA’S OWN ART WORK. HE HAS BEEN A PRIME EXAMPLE OF A STRAIGHT UP HARD WORKING GUY, IN ALL ASPECTS OF ART MAKING, INCLUDING MARKETING, IF YOU WILL. YES, I AM FUCKING BIASED, BUT THOSE ARE THE KINDS OF PEOPLE I WANT TO BE AROUND. PEOPLE GETTING SHIT DONE. EVEN IF THEY HAPPEN TO BE STAPLE PAINTINGS THAT SURPRISINGLY PISS PEOPLE OFF. HAVE THEY NEVER SEEN A CONTEMPORARY ART HISTORY BOOK SINCE 1960… IM SURE THE PEOPLE COMPLAINING ABOUT HIS WORK STILL GET OFF ON THE FACT THAT THEY RENDERED SOMEONES LUKE WILSON NOSE WITH ELEGANT GRACE AND SKILL UTILIZING THE RICH AND SERIOUS MEDIUM OF OIL PAINT ON PREMADE CANVAS OR GET MAD THAT JEFF KOONS DOESN’T PHYSICALLY WORK ON ANYTHING. WHERE IS THE ARTIST’S HAND!!??? sorry, i didn’t notice my CAPS LOCK was on. Art Peña has been gracious enough to utilize this amazing space and be a host to the incredible projects that have happened and will continue to put together the things he would like to see happen in Dallas. What is not to love about that? I’m sure your jealousy hurts and it shows in your eyes. It’s an open door at Ware:Wolf:Haus. This venture for Peña is a gift to Dallas, among all the rest of the other great things going on. I leave you with this youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8JiV5Mj9hQ

    1. Oliver Francis, it’s clear that you will not be mistaken for a writer anytime soon. I’m embarrassed for you.

      If you will notice in the above comments, not one person said a bad thing about Ware:Wolf:Haus, in fact it was never mentioned at all by anyone who was submitting negative feedback. Or as you so eloquently put it,”HATERZ AND COMPLAINERZ.”

      I’m sure that the actual truth about the aesthetic you support is a hard pill to swallow. It’s your eyes that somehow can’t see the obvious, that the easy to assemble conceptual artworks you display do cultivate a response that has a bitter flip side. One that is very different to the praise I’m sure you are used to hearing.

      The thoughts do cross the viewer’s minds, that pieces from the artists you exhibit (such as Curtis Jackson Davis, who puts a rock under a toy monster truck in your gallery) are a slap in the face to artists with actual skills that they have honed through years of work. Anyone artist could think of these dumb concepts, we just choose not to approach this form of work because its so idiotic and far beneath our abilities. This is one of the points made in the comments above and believe me, it crosses the minds of basically everyone who has regrettably spent their time and thoughts viewing the rubbish in your so called art space.

      Actual skill matters, and in my experience, those that proudly display “a piece of wood with a thousand staples in it” as serious piece, were the ones that just couldn’t draw, paint, or sculpt in school. They were the ones that had work that “SUCKS” (as you pathetically wrote). And they therefore scurried into your cult of impostors that deep down wish that they could have been the artist with great skill. Instead they are jokers like you and pena who become similar to a T.V. televangelist, trying to sell you a load of b.s. so that they can keep pursuing their selfish sham art of a pursuit. Like the rise of the tea party, you are like the Ted Cruz of the Texas art whirl. Spewing bs with your band of fakes behind you. Infiltrating and destroying the landscape of integrity that we are trying to make germinate.

      The people who are commenting here are not the kinds of artists that are doing pencil portraits of Owen Wilson’s nose, or his brothers awesome jaw. They have great skill across many mediums, and would probably like to clear a path in the Dallas art media to make space for better artwork to cover. It would just be so much easier to do without the monthly piles of poo you leave for us to navigate around with each of your openings.

      1. If Oliver is Ted Cruz, then you must be Hitler.

        While you begrudge degenerate art, your friends, compatriots, and peers are patronizing it behind your back, rescuing something potentially important from your ruinous grasp.

        Also, by reminding me a lot of people who sat in art outside the art school fuming that no one wanted to talk about their chiaroscuro self portrait. And later tried to destroy it all.

  9. I love a good flame war, but this is really silly. John, you and others really have to get over this idea that “skill” or “effort” are the only measures of good art.

    Since we seem to be stuck in the 19th century in this discussion, I’ll quote the great Dziga Vertov, who helped bring us out of that period almost 100 years ago: “The Arena is small. Come out, please, into life. This is where we work–we, the masters of vision, the organizers of visible life…This is where the masters of word and sound, the most skillful editors of audible life, work.”

    Please, let’s inhabit the present moment, that moment in which we supposedly have an expanded understanding of aesthetics that include the conceptual, the social, the cinematic, the minimal, the performative, appropriation, irony, sincerity, and any other tool an artist can think of. Please, please, try harder. Try harder as a viewer. Try harder as a student of art. Try harder as a producer of art. Try harder as a promoter of your own art and the art of others. If you don’t like the way it’s being done, take it as an opportunity to do something different. Is that not exactly what Art Pena and Kevin Jacobs are doing?

  10. Just to throw a little gasoline on this fire, Here’s Donald Barthelme on conceptual art. (I would pay good money to see railroad cars full of Donald Barthelme’s conceptual art, if it existed.)

    ————————————-

    BARTHELME: Conceptual art isn’t something I’m overly fond of. It seems to me entirely too easy…
    RUAS: Why would you say it’s easy?
    BARTHELME: Well, because it is easy.
    RUAS: To be able to delineate concepts and have people understand the concept?
    BARTHELME: Yes. I think as art it is entirely too easy.

    BARTHELME: Had I decided to go into the conceptual-art business I could turn out railroad cars full of that stuff every day. My younger brother, who is a writer, Frederick Barthelme, was very interested in conceptual art at one time, and was as a matter of fact in a Museum of Modern Art conceptual art show, and he was friendly with Joseph Kosuth, who was sort of the papa of conceptual art. So I’ve listened to endless conversations about conceptual art, more than I wanted to hear about it, until my brother–who did it very well–finally stopped doing it and turned to prose on the grounds that there was not enough intellectual excitement in conceptual art. [from an interview with Charles Ruas and Judith Sherman, 1976, reprinted in Not-Knowing: The Essays and Interviews the Essays and Interviews by Donald Barthelme]

    1. True enough, but intellectual excitement is also rare in contemporary literature.

  11. Ware Wolf Haus deserves positive reinforcement. The recent advent of it’s programming here in Dallas has far from detracted from the quality of life here. (for smart people only)

  12. Yo Dallas y r u arguing…build up your scene dont tear it down from within…like this article matters wether its objective or not… the whole art world is as much an inbred mess as yours

  13. LOL OLOLOL AT THESE COMMENTS ABOUT CONCEPTUAL ART

  14. Why do some people seem so mad at Arthur? Arthur is a great guy (and so is Kevin). So his art isn’t up your alley, big effin deal. So he got more press than you did, quit whining!

    This article is about his warehouse space and the art and music shows there. If you don’t like it then quit complaining on a Texas art blog and open up your own gallery like Arthur(and Kevin)did.

    You could be happy that places like Ware:Wolf:Haus and Oliver Francis Gallery exist here at all, but some peoples’ jealousy can never be satisfied.

    “Instead glasstire occupies their limited word count to once again glorify something so dumb and easy as a stapled piece of wood.” – Is the internet running out of room? Limited word count? This is a website, one of billions. Don’t like it? Make your own. Hate conceptual art? Fart in your latte and put it on display.

  15. Robert Boyd is correct. Conceptual Art is weak sauce. It’s not that someone is Hitler for saying that there could be less of it. No one is saying to completely vacate the scene of all conceptual pieces like Adolf did in Europe. They are just saying that it’s very quick and easy, and that almost anyone can do it. It is different from most other forms of fine art in gallery spaces in this way. Nearly all other forms of art take much more time and skill to execute properly. Conceptual art can be done in three minutes with only what is laying around the room. Their are clear differences that highlight how conceptual art gets too much press in Dallas and I believe those were discussed at length and with valid points.

    It is not that Kevin or Arthur are bad guys. No one would say that. We appreciate all art to a point. But, at some level it must be called to the carpet for it’s weaknesses and overexposure (especially by critics, and critics who are exhibit their work and are being covered on Glasstire by friends). There is no integrity in that, and that point was very clearly made.

    To say that you must be “smart” to get conceptual art is such a cop out. We “get it” but we refuse to say that all forms of art are always equal. I saw the Pena piece that is “just a board with a thousand staples in it”, and yes, I walked away thinking that it was mildly interesting but ultimately just a crude piece that anyone could think of and execute with zero training. My friend is a medical student and often jokes with me by taking two or three random items and quickly constructing a “piece” from them. He then tells friends at a party what it means (or the perceived concept of the piece)in a very accomplished yet vague manner. It’s a dead on impression of what I see monthly in Oliver Francis. In other words….its basically total B*ll S*it in it’s essence.

    I’m not saying it’s worthless and should be shunned completely, but to think it’s as celebrated as it is….is essentially hilarious to many people.

    The blow back that Pena has received in this thread is apt. It shouldn’t be attached to this article, that much is true. Yet, the response you see here is because the distaste of the readers is palpable and it’s because the critics/artists who are friendly with each other like Pena and L.Simek is totally gaming the system. No real challenge of the work will arise because of these conflicts, and we are now officially overexposed by the Oliver Francis “sham art pursuit”. Of which this analogy is harsh but not inaccurate. Glasstire should work more on being impartial and actually challenging the artwork once and a while (especially the artwork that my med school friend, who knows nothing about art, can recreate in a new york minute).

    p.s. no one is jealous of the coverage, it’s not about that, it’s about staying true to reality as well as staying open to all possibilities in Art. It’s about remaining grounded in some sense where you can think objectively and with integrity.

    1. The reason I’m so skeptical of these complaints (I hesitate to call them “critiques”) about Art’s work (being that this article doesn’t have anything to do with that, why would we be talking about this? seems pretty personal to me, and that wreaks of jealousy….) is that his work, specifically, doesn’t seem to be the issue. The notion of “conceptual art”, at least as it’s being discussed here, seems to be up for judgement, which also speaks to me of under-formed or lazy aesthetics for an art scene conversation in this kind of space. Sure, some art, whether under the banner of “conceptual” or not, is lazy or bad or derivative or boring or overly theoretical or not thoughtful enough. But the way we’re talking about it here is to question whole modes of artistic production. That’s why it’s such a silly and ass backwards conversation.

      Even the claim of nepotism, which could be a valid concern (though I think in this situation it’s far overblown), is totally undermined by this other argument which seems to say “well, how else would so and so be successful since the way they work is totally invalid!” If the real concern is that it’s too “insider-y” here, let’s talk about that, and on a more substantive level.

  16. Sometimes I think we confuse Conceptual Art with Art that has a concept… two different things.

  17. More plz.

    So so Sorry I missed the first, second and now I fear the next wolf shows. Must be something worthy if all these folks have such strong opinions…I’m just really more excited about the new Ben and Jerry’s flavour: vanilla artist blocks…crunchy.

  18. SATURDAY NOVEMBER 23RD
    WARE:WOLF:HAUS
    DDM PRESENTS
    KNIFIGHT (ATX)
    CUTTER
    DEF RAIN
    HEX CULT
    TAYLOR EFFIN’ CLEVELAND (DJ’ing between sets)
    9PM-1AM
    $5
    WEAR SHADES TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM THE LAZERS

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