WEEKLY QUESTION No.3 - Progress in art.

edited December 2021 in General Discussion

Can there be progress in art the way there is progress in other fields of human endevour such as science?

I can think of at least a couple of changes in western art in the past that might be construed as progress. But is progress still possible?

Comments

  • Folks

    I think the many notions of ‘progress’ will set the hares running in this thread. Art cannot proceed to something better in the same way as science - idea, observation, thesis, experiment, analysis and report on universally true, verifiable and ideally falsifiable phenomena. However, all is not lost. Art is just a different way of proceeding to something better, through an evolving consciousness. Art history documents the changing styles, methods, materials and techniques that artists (music, literature, painting etc) employ to create/present thoughts and ideas into behavioural expression. In turn these artistic works influence thinking and behaviour in society and cultural and so change the world to a new level of conceptual understanding. New cycles of artistic expression are thus influenced and progressed.

    Denis
    Abstractiontassieguy
  • Thank you, @Dencal

    I agree. Perhaps art makes a different sort of progress; qualitative rather than quantitative and therefore more difficult to pin down, but progress nonetheless.
  • edited December 2021
    There have been a couple of late responses to Weekly Question No. 2 and so it went to the top of the queue again. This post should put Weekly Question No.3 back up the top.  :)
  • I think of Art as like people… we each see different things in each other and we are each  attracted to different things.  And, because we ( people) are such a interesting, creative, thinking creation … we can like and dislike things through out our lives or even through out generations.  So to me it seems like the process of Art is more of what each enjoy or find fulfillment in while science is more directive to curiosity and the common good or new Tech toys for my husband.. which ever comes first. 

    Abstractiontassieguy
  • Well, I think yes If I consider early primitive drawings on cave walls then digital art on an electronic screen and everything that has gone on between those.

    Unless I misunderstood the question (which I am good at)

     :) 

    I consider art as inherent in human nature and, though some may disagree, I guess we have made some kind of progress.

    Science and art are one and the same.
    tassieguyAbstraction
  • Absolutely. Technology in the form of the computer has and will change art forever. We recently have had the ability to display images on monitors that are photo like in quality and this ability to see an image and zoom in on it to see the detail has improved the maximum realism quality of rendering in art. Similar advances were made with the use of lens and the development of the camera.

    Image manipulation of colours, lighting and cut/pasting of elements has created an alternative way for artists to plan a painting compared to preliminary drawings and studies.

    Computer rendering has become more sophisticated every year. You only have to see the latest CGI in films to see how well they can create complicated images with realistic looking materials and effects like water, fire, movement of fabrics etc.. All these can be used in a multitude of ways when creating a painting. Just one example, trying out different clothes on a computer model rather than dressing a mannequin (or a real model). It's not just realism too, computers can create imaginary scenes, objects, buildings and creatures far beyond what we can visualise in our heads.

    Finally in the last few years we are starting another revolution in computer imaging. This is the rise of neural network artificial intelligence. Already we can enlarge a photo using these techniques and create believable detail. We can also use this technology to change faces, or animate still images in realistic 3 dimensional ways. We are already seeing the start of using these neural networks to try to change an image into a painterly style. That is only going to get more effective in time but will allow us to simulate a scene to paint in a computer more easily than ever before.

    On it's own it doesn't make 'art', but it expands the tools we have available to create art far beyond what artists had in the past.



    KingstonFineArttassieguy
  • tassieguy said:

    Can there be progress in art the way there is progress in other fields of human endevour such as science?

    I can think of at least a couple of changes in western art in the past that might be construed as progress. But is progress still possible?
    Progress, if progress is the word, Is defined by many societal forces. How art and technology grow together. How 'progress' as defined some what by the elite. The museums, major galleries, universities and the art media define such things as art progress. Artists through their always aggressiveness push things forward. At higher levels it is competition.There is always lag time though for changes to become evident to society in general. What rises from the always chaos of the 'market' takes time.

    Over the past two hundred years 'art' has moved at a blistering pace of change. Driven by competition, industrialization and ever growing freedoms for artists and individuals in general. It seems odd to pose this question as if art hasn't evolved at pace with other 'endeavors'. I might suggest it changes too fast.
  • Thanks, @MichaleD and @Richard_P

    You have both pointed to the technology underlying image making and you are right about the developments in that area. And maybe progress in art has always been tied up with technological/scientific progress. Leonardo Da Vinci saw art as science - he said painting was the greatest of the sciences. 

    I said in the question that I could think of examples that could be construed as progress in art. The development of perspective to represent 3D space on a 2D surface was one example of the sort of progress I had in mind. But I guess that was tied up with developments in science and technology, too. 

    There are other examples I can think of but I suspect someone else will bring them up so I'll wait and see.  :)
  • Art has slowly progressed into digital art in terms of medium of expression. Possibilities are now endless. Music went electronic in the 50s and 60s. But art of painting took some time in this. Democratization of art happened with it's good and ill effects. But overall, I feel it should be good for the society. All you need is a cellphone and a stylus for communicating. Expressions were limited to very few people in the past.

    This is the best time to communicate. Think how many artists in the past have died without even making a name. We only know the names of a few top people. But today everyone can communicate.

    For 'real' fine arts, We are going back very slowly to the past. Going back to the past is not at all bad. This has happened before many times. Today, we have the knowledge of 20th century modernity and of the past. Horizon has broadened exponentially. So, a common style would become irrelevant.

    Today's art needs to be more communicative and more impactful (if not provoking). We are in an age where we are questioning the rules of the past that are not so good and also eager to embrace the good things of the past. But this is the only thing that I feel is less communicated.
    Abstractiontassieguy
  • Yes, I agree, @KaustavM. The past wasn't all bad. There are some things worth holding onto. I think traditional oil painting is one of them.  :)
  • MichaelD said:
    Science and art are one and the same.
    Can you expound on your thought? That's a counter-intuitive view and yet stated quite emphatically, so I'm interested to hear.
    MichaelD
  • @Abstraction,
    I will try. Perhaps I should have added `in my opinion`  :)

    The old `What is art` chestnut of a question springs to mind which continues, as I am sure it has for centuries, to be debated.

    If I consider this googled definition of science…..

    “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.”

    In my mind there is not much of a leap, if any, that art is the activity encompassing those same things ie study of structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation when we interpret , record, emulate those observations via whatever medium we use in art.

    If that makes sense.

     :) 





    Abstractiontassieguy
  • I can think of one technology that progressed art… the spray can.   It’s fast application and portability and cheap cost made if possible for a broader freedom of expression.  
    AbstractionkaustavMtassieguy
  • I can only relate to painting  and I don't see how much it can progress. 
    Traditional oil painting that we all admire mostly created in the past. how many times Rembrandt or Sargent have been mentioned here on this forum but I cannot name one digital painting or digital painting artist. 
    Many kinds of contemporary visual art wouldn't probably exist without all this IT technology,  so I would say the science progress make it easier for people to create new art forms. 
    joydeschenestassieguy
  • @MichaelD Yes, it makes sense. I wasn't intending to make you feel defensive - I sensed you were reading art in a profound way and I wanted to appreciate your viewpoint. The tendency to define reality through physics alone be like this...

    "Einstein once said that a symphony is very different to an air pressure curve. A physicist would measure a symphony as a movement of waves of pressure in the air. If you were a garden slug, Mozart for you would be something like an air pressure curve. A slug has the ability to know vibrations but not to know language and certainly not music, and not beauty, and not the kind of yearning and creativity that animated a composer like Mozart. So a slug cannot know about Mozart.

    For me one of the haunting questions is, are we like slugs? Does reality keep going up? Does it have richness of new levels above us so that we're like slugs - and there's stuff like Mozart beyond us," Charles L. Harper. 

    GTOMichaelDtassieguy
  • CBGCBG -
    edited December 2021
    Preface:  I say what I think, and so I will dispense with reminding the reader that "I think" what I am about to say.  I also do not think I am always right, but I always only say what I think is right.


    Science, being at once those special valid methods to obtain knowledge about the identity and nature of things, about the reality in which we find ourselves, and the body of knowledge thereby obtained, is something uniquely absolute and objective.  Methods which are ineffective at gaining such knowledge and any purported knowledge which in fact does not reflect reality are thus, by definition not within valid science.  Consequently, by definition, science can only progress and grow, building upon the firm and solid foundations of valid knowledge gained beforehand, and anything on the contrary, whether a method or accepted truism, by wish, feeling, consensus, politics, or religion simply do not adhere to the scientific edifice which is built inexorably upward, they simply are not part of science.  The sum of human knowledge may be forgotten or rejected but whatever highest level of knowledge humankind had reached, it always will have reached it, even if we are no more.

    This aggregation of truth which is science, this unavoidable growth like some conceptual crystal or stalagmite, is not to be seen in subjective arenas.  Ethics, politics, art, many social constructs have gone through periods of decline, have devolved, and or lurched in very "regressive" ways, at many points in history.  Certainly the techniques, the technical prowess, and the science (and yes mathematics) used to assist the artist have progressed, but the culture gives rise to the artist and the artist is responsible to use these things to produce art.

    There was a time when humans did not understand perspective, or lighting, or how to make paint, but once we learned these things, we still have to choose to use them.  All the resources for art have and will continue to progress dues to science, technology, and our ever expanding knowledge, and arguably even mankind's knowledge of man (psychology and sociology etc) may also increase, but the soul of art is in the soul of humankind the culture or person who generates it, if either forget what that is or how to tap into it we loose art, and in many ways now and in the past we have lost it.  The cultural idea of what art is can rise to heights of nobility and purpose, or sink into the mire of hopelessness, senselessness, purposelessness, and nihilism... art on a social scale is cultural and art on a personal scale is individual... as different are the Gestapo and the Founding Fathers, and a serial killer and a great inventor, so are the falling and rising tides of what is and can be art in the art scene and in the mind of the artist.


    But as with all things there are those brave and insightful individuals who stand against the elements, against the mob when it goes blind, and rise to true heights, lifting us all up, and although progress in art cannot proceed "in the way" there is progress in science, I have no doubt that no matter how bright or dark the world becomes, or how bad the art scene gets, there will always be great artists.
    Abstractiontassieguy
  • Thanks, @CBG. That is a wonderfully thought out and written response. I need time to re-read it and will then comment further on it because you have raised some very important issues that go to the heart of the question posed.  :)
    CBG
  • edited December 2021
    @MichaelD Yes, it makes sense. I wasn't intending to make you feel defensive - I sensed you were reading art in a profound way and I wanted to appreciate your viewpoint. The tendency to define reality through physics alone be like this...

    "Einstein once said that a symphony is very different to an air pressure curve. A physicist would measure a symphony as a movement of waves of pressure in the air. If you were a garden slug, Mozart for you would be something like an air pressure curve. A slug has the ability to know vibrations but not to know language and certainly not music, and not beauty, and not the kind of yearning and creativity that animated a composer like Mozart. So a slug cannot know about Mozart.

    For me one of the haunting questions is, are we like slugs? Does reality keep going up? Does it have richness of new levels above us so that we're like slugs - and there's stuff like Mozart beyond us," Charles L. Harper. 

    Its fine, in no way did I feel defensive about it. You were right to say that I had stated what I had emphatically, and I am glad you asked because it got me to think more about what I meant, and why I said it.   :)

    Thats what I like about the forum is that we can share ideas and opinions and question.

    I enjoyed reading your Einstein quote (trivia Alert—my grandfather spent a few hours with him).

    It made me think that though slugs may not know language, beauty, music or about Mozart, but clearly they can still be affected by his music, even if it is via air pressure rather than the usual auditory route.



    tassieguy
  • @MichaelD do you know what your grandfather and Einstein talked about?  Just curious.
  • @MichaelD that’s a cool story.  During the thirties I think they would have talked about quantum mechanics and whether separate particles could be “entangled”.  Or maybe whether light is a particle or a wave. 😀
    tassieguyMichaelD
  • When Einstein drove away from the university he looked up from the car at your grandad and gave a particle goodbye.
    MichaelD
  • edited December 2021
    Wow, @MichaelD, your grandad met and chatted at length with Einstein, one of my scientific heroes! He came up with it about a hundred years ago but  I'm still trying to get my head around relativity.  :)
    MichaelD
  • edited December 2021
    I agree with @MichaelD in regards to the similarities of science and art at a fundamental level.

    I think, quite simply, that yes, art can progress.  To what extent, I am not sure.  Look at the earliest Madonna and Child paintings, and look at the baroque cathedral paintings.  That is progress in the sense of realism, drama, and lighting. That's just one example.

    (edited to correct tag)
    MichaelD
  • edited December 2021
    Progress is the difficult word. If it means forward in whatever direction we're moving, then art will always progress in the way society does. Including on the cutting edge.
    Without detracting at all from @MichaelD 's point - I think philosophy a better association with art than science. As society changes, Schaeffer observed that the philosophers often pick up the ramifications first, followed by it being reflected in art - literature, visual art, music, theatre... and then finally into general society. That's why cutting edge artists are rarely understood in their own generation. Post-modernism and existentialism are good examples.
    Progression of technology opens new mediums. Changing society provokes new expressions and reactions or responses. Some art reflects what society is. Some art reflects what is missing in society that the artist feels. Art will always express aspects of being deeply human that many sense but can't quite express - whether deep aspiration or longing or scream inside or wonder or bewilderment or reaction.
    KingstonFineArttassieguyMichaelD
  • Yes I agree with @Abstraction that ‘progress’ is a tricky blighter to pin down. I think that art can certainly progress in all sorts of ways. Technical progress is obvious and probably able to be measured in some cases (longevity of supports, proportion of toxic pigments in the toolbox,…). Other less tangible aspects like changes in the fashions of subject matter, conventions in lighting, etc may or may not be progress, but those sorts of philosophical deliberations are beyond my ken. 

    On the question of the relationship between art and science (and speaking as a scientist and a pretend painter) I have to say I see great similarities in both endeavors (which probably drew me to both of them to start with). To me they are both all about identifying and solving problems in a methodical way, and they are both inherently creative pursuits. Carl Sagan has a great quote on creativity in science that I’ll try and find and add here. 


    tassieguy
  • @roxy

    Is making art problem solving? Or is it expression and feeling. Art moves people. Changing the way code is interpreted doesn’t. Or the properties of a metal, or how improving a medicine to increase profits. 

    Art is expression of feeling. Feeling is not science. We express feeling using old and new ‘tools’. Color. Composition. Geometry. Story (subject matter). Light. Mood. Psychological visual triggers. Cliche. 
    allforChristAbstractionjoydeschenes
  • edited December 2021

    Thanks to all for your thoughts on this week’s question. At the risk of jumping in too soon and being proved wrong, I’ll have a bash at it myself.

    Leonardo Da Vinci said painting was the greatest science. In his day, science was still ill defined and part of philosophy - it had not become a distinct discipline separate from other areas of study. Therefore, we can excuse Leonardo's conflating science and art. Whilst it is true that science and art are linked, to my mind, they are fundamentally different enterprises, and I can’t see how there can be objectively measurable progress in art the way there is in science. 

    There have been advances in technique in realist art (the development of linear perspective for example) and I guess one could argue that this development was progress of a sort if one of your criteria for good art is the realistic rendering of form in space. There have also been advances in the materials used in art. The advent of tubes made paints easily portable and made it possible to paint quickly from nature en plein air, and new, light fast pigments strengthened and broadened the artist’s pallet. But these stemmed from developments in science and technology rather than progress in art per se. Mass-produced tubes came out of industrial development and the new pigments came out of chemistry rather than art. Similarly, today, with digital technology it is possible to render form more realistically than ever, but again, although art makes use of the technology, the progress has been in science and not in art itself. Moreover, art isn’t only about how realistic something looks. What about abstract art which has nudged realism from center stage? What would progress look like there?

     

    If we ask whether there can be progress in music or literature an answer seems to be similarly difficult to formulate. There has been technological progress in the way music is produced but the question of whether there has been progress in music itself doesn’t seem to have an answer. For there to be progress in music or art or literature, the works produced would have to be somehow better artistically than what was produced before them. And how do we judge that objectively? How can we say objectively that one great musical composition or one great painting or one great novel is, artistically speaking, better than another? There have been masterpieces produced in all the arts in every age and in every culture. But there is no objective metric one could apply across the board to works of art to measure progress.

     

    So I find it hard to see how we can talk about, much less measure, progress in art the way we talk about and measure progress in science. It would seem to make more sense to talk about change in the arts rather than about progress.

     

    I agree with @Dencal, @CBG and @Abstraction that it’s difficult to talk about progress in subjective areas like art the way we can talk about progress in science. They both change but they change in different ways. Scientific truths are always provisional – more work leads us closer to what is true, to a better understanding of the universe, and this spins off into improved technology.  Art changes, too. It changes to reflect, or perhaps even herald, social and cultural shifts, it’s a barometer of the zeitgeist.

    Changes in art will go on happening because we and society are constantly changing but there will never be an arrival at aesthetic perfection, just as there will never be an end to science because it will never arrive at the final and complete truth about the universe. In this way, art and science are alike. 


    Art and science are ongoing but different enterprises. Progress in one is objectively measurable. In the other there is only change. 

    Art and science will be here, doing their different things, for as long as humans are around.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    This is just my present take on the question but I have an open mind. Therefore, if anyone wants to argue that there can be progress in art like there can be in science, I'd very much like to read what they have to say and may change my mind on the matter.


    AbstractionanweshaMichaelD
  • CBGCBG -
    edited December 2021
    tassieguy said:

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    This is just my present take on the question but I have an open mind. Therefore, if anyone wants to argue that there can be progress in art like there can be in science, I'd very much like to read what they have to say and may change my mind on the matter.



    Any conclusions to questions about art, qua art, will fundamentally depend upon what the concluding person holds art itself to Be.  And because the answer to the question "What Is Art?" is so crucial and fundamental, any other question about art can often be taken over and bogged down by this conceptual conundrum entirely.

    "Progress in art" cries out for an answer to the question of just what are we talking about when we refer to "art" which we are to opine upon the progress or lack thereof?

    What is Art?
    Are there forms of expression which simply are not art, notwithstanding claims, beliefs or so-called "consensus", to the contrary?
    Is there such a thing as bad art?
    What makes art bad... is bad art still Art?
    Does Art have a purpose?
    Is Art really entirely subjective?
    Can Art be assessed according to Objective Esthetic criteria?


    I'm by no means attempting to change your mind, but merely wish to point out that taking art to be something, and identifying what things qualify as that something (and which do not), can greatly affect any answer to a question regarding its "progress". 

    Just as one example, if one takes art itself to be purposeless and entirely subjective, having no identity to which any standard could apply: "bad art" and in fact anything claimed by anyone as art still qualifying as Art, then any attempt at a definition, of a standard of "progress" in art becomes untenable, irrational, and incoherent. On the other hand if one takes a view that art can (and should) be judged by an objective standard, that it has a purpose, and that not everything claimed to be art is art, then perhaps progression (or regression) at least is identifiable and measurable, in the context of individual artists and/or the culture at large.

    The above are rather extreme examples to illustrate the range of the spectrum, more simply put, if one believes there is such a thing as good art (by some standard), then it logically follows that progress in art is possible.  Equally, if one believes that any identification or measurement of the progress of art is impossible, then logically speaking that person has presupposed (is implicitly adopting the position that) there is no standard by which to judge art, i.e. there is no such thing as good art.


    PS:  Just to clarify my answer to the OP above, your question implicitly is two fold... the first aspect to your question is with respect to whether the nature of art admits of any standard by which one could say there is or is not progress, i.e. Can art progress (or regress)? and the second aspect (which is a separate issue) to your question regards whether that progress (if any is possible) progresses "in the way" science progresses.  It may have not been clear, but my answer to the first aspect is "Yes" and my answer to the second aspect is "No", at least not for art, qua art.



    Anyway, your question is a really a BIG one... I'm just ruminating here...


    EDIT: corrected double negative

  • edited December 2021
    CBG said:
    tassieguy said:

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    This is just my present take on the question but I have an open mind. Therefore, if anyone wants to argue that there can be progress in art like there can be in science, I'd very much like to read what they have to say and may change my mind on the matter.




    ... if one believes there is such a thing as good art (by some standard), then it logically follows that progress in art is possible.  Equally, if one believes that any identification or measurement of the progress of art is impossible, then logically speaking that person has presupposed (is implicitly adopting the position that) there is no standard by which to judge art, i.e. there is no such thing as good art.





    Anyway, your question is a really a BIG one... I'm just ruminating here...


    EDIT: corrected double negative

    Thanks, @CBG

    The problem I see with this is that "good" means different things to different people. There seems to be no objective standard, on which all would agree, against which to measure "goodness" in art.  In science, however, we can say, for example, that Einstein's theory of general relativity is a better description of gravity than Newton's theory. And we can show that it's better by pointing to the more accurate measurements it allows. Our GPS that allows some of the functionality of our smart phones wouldn't work unless relativity were taken into account. So Einstein's theory is demonstrably better than Newton's and it represents objectively quantifiable progress. But it is not clear to me how we can show in similarly objective, quantitative  terms how art today has progressed so that it is better than what went before.  I find it difficult to see how can we demonstrate progress in art? 

     However, I can imagine possible ways in which progress could be demonstrated. I have said that art reflects or heralds the cultural zeitgeist. If it could be shown that today's art does this measurably better than yesterday's art, then, yes, that could be construed as progress. But is reflecting the cultural zeitgeist the goal of art? And what metric would we use to demonstrate that today's art does it better than what went before? 

    It's a thorny question. Which is why I posted it.   :)
    CBG
  • It's easiest for the super-realists they can just compare how accurate the painting is to the source photo! ;)
    tassieguyAbstractionanweshaMichaelD
  • Richard_P said:
    It's easiest for the super-realists they can just compare how accurate the painting is to the source photo! ;)
    I know it was a joke - but in my current painting I've learnt so much about the way cameras distort that I've decided good super-realism should adjust all those little distortions to capture the more nuanced vision of the eye.
    [The distortion of perspective of off-centre rounded objects by cameras was the one that blew me away. But there are many others.]

  • Its good to read all the different input.

    To revise my earlier post of “Sciences and art are one and the same”, having reflected on that it is perhaps more accurate or clearer to say that Science can be considered an art and that art can be an expression of scientific knowledge.
  • Thanks, @MichaelD

    I think it's safe to say there is something of the other in each of them.  :)
    MichaelD
  • edited December 2021
    @tassieguy Just to reiterate I am glad you started the Weekly Question, its something I look forward to, adds a bit of life, spice and variety to the forum.

    Its food for thought and something that I enjoy partaking in a snack or the whole buffet. 

    Thanks again.

    :-)
    tassieguy
  • Cheers, @MichaelD

    I'm hoping there'll be as much interest in Weekly Question No.4.  It's more down to earth, less philosophical. And it's about this place.   :)
    MichaelD
  • I like these questions too!
    tassieguy
  • edited December 2021
    CBG said:
    ... the first aspect to your question is with respect to whether the nature of art admits of any standard by which one could say there is or is not progress, i.e. Can art progress (or regress)? and the second aspect (which is a separate issue) to your question regards whether that progress (if any is possible) progresses "in the way" science progresses.  It may have not been clear, but my answer to the first aspect is "Yes" and my answer to the second aspect is "No", at least not for art, qua art.



    Anyway, your question is a really a BIG one... I'm just ruminating here...


    Thanks @CBG.  I think this is a really accurate and concise exposition of the problem(s) posed by the question. 

    The answers you give are spot on, too, IMHO.  

    I agree that there can be good and bad art and that art does not "progress" in objective, quantifiable terms like science. 


    Of course, we may be wrong.  :)
    CBG
  • edited December 2021

    Thanks folks. Gosh, it’s Saturday afternoon already! Time to wrap this one up.

    Here is what I could draw from the contributions:

     

    There are those who believe that there cannot be progress in art the way there is progress in science, or at least not the same sort of progress. Others believe there can be, but that such progress is tied up with progress in science and technology. Similarities between art and science were pointed out by several contributors.

    All the posts were interesting, and the divergence of opinion probably stems from conceptual difficulties with the word “progress” and the qualitative and subjective nature of art as opposed to science which is quantitative and objective.  

    That’s the best I can do in terms of summarizing responses to the question. Since posting the question I’ve searched online for scholarly articles dealing with the question but, from what I could see, there seems to be a divergence of opinion there, too, so it’s not surprising there was no consensus here.

     

    Thanks again to @Dencal, @joydeschenes, @MichaelD, @Richard_P, @KingstonFineArt, @KaustavM, @Abstraction, @GTO, @ArtGal, @CBG, @allforChrist and @Roxy

    Weekly Question No. 4 will be posted shortly.  :)


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