about

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David Burns is a researcher, curator, and artist based in London. His research intersects architecture, photography, and politics. David is a regular commentator on the intersections of architecture and art and has organized and participated public programming for Kaldor Public Art Projects, Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, and Arts Centre Melbourne. He has curated and contributed to exhibitions on architecture, art, and design in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. He co-founded the curatorial collective N in 2010 with Sam Spurr and Adrian Lahoud. In 2016 he established N Editions to publish limited edition books, art, and music.

David holds a MSc in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Tennessee. He has worked as an architect and designer for Asymptote Architecture, the Guggenheim Museum, and Holabird and Root. Since 2001 he has taught at universities in the United States, Australia, and the U.K. in faculties of design, art, and architecture. He began his academic career in 2001 as the Paul Rudolph Visiting Assistant Professor of Architecture at Auburn University. From 2003-2007 he was an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon University and from 2006-2007 served as a Visiting Professor at the CMU Entertainment Technology Center.

In 2008 he relocated to Australia to be senior lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney School of Architecture. In 2009 he was hired to initiate and direct the new Photography and Situated Media degrees in the UTS School of Design. He served as Director, Photography and Situated Media from 2009-2015.

David currently works at the Royal College of Art School of Architecture where he is Coordinator, Media Studies and teaches into ADS7 alongside Platon Issaias and Godofredo Pereira. David is also PhD candidate at the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London.

projects

Two Tints

Two Tints was exhibited in the group show "What Destroys What"
Firstdraft Gallery, Sydney, NSW Australia
21-25 November 2013

Sponsored by the Experimental Curators Program at Firstdraft Gallery and the Centre for Contemporary Design Practices at UTS.

Catalogue published by Firstdraft Gallery and N Editions.

Two Tints 3 Two Tints 1 Two Tints 2



Group show installation photographs
Two Tints 4 Two Tints 5 Two Tints 6

Two Crosses

Two Crosses was exhibited in the group show "Todd McMillan, Michael Moran, David Burns: New Work"
Carlton Street Project Space, Sydney, NSW Australia
6-22 November 2014

Two Crosses 1 Two Crosses 2 Two Crosses 3 Two Crosses 9 Two Crosses 10 Two Crosses 11 Two Crosses 12

Bifurcation

Bifurcation 1 Bifurcation 2

Modernism insisted that form and function were symbiotically intertwined, neither existing without the other. Art, therefore, existed as a necessary accoutrement for the modernist skyscraper. The examples of this phenomenon are many: Alexander Calder’s Flamingo (1974) outside Mies van der Rohe’s Federal Plaza and Picasso’s untitled sculpture (1967) at Daley Plaza, both in Chicago, and of course Calder’s Crossed Blades (1974) at Sydney's Australia Square. These sculptures, constructed of architectural materials and at an exaggerated scale, served as monumental decoration; placed deliberately in our line of sight to break up the repetition and severity of the architecture behind.

However, the recent proliferation and success of architecture biennials, the prolonged pattern of signature architectural commissions, and the reemergence of the architecture pavilion, suggests an evolution of this tacit agreement. Did architecture and art swap sides? Has architecture evolved into the ultimate public art commission?

This proposed architectural installation — Bifurcation — exists simultaneously as a reference to the epic public art commissions of the past and as an acknowledgement of architecture’s evolving role in public discourse. It addresses the austere radial plan of Harry Seidler’s Australia Square by bifurcating the lobby with two symmetrical towers constructed of standard scaffolding. The new horizontal towers suggest a transitory state through a conflation of material heft and formal transparency. The scaffolding appears to puncture the glass curtain wall extending the lobby to the courtyard plinth beyond. As the sun sets on the opening night, the glass will mirror the towers to create visual indeterminacy, allowing for a literal reflection on the state of architecture and public art.


Bifurcation 3

Six Planes

Six Planes was exhibited in the group show "Co-isolated: Orange", featuring new work by Richard Goodwin, Michael Snape, and David Burns.
Wentworth Mine, Lucknow, NSW Australia
14-17 April 2012

Presented by Orange Regional Gallery, curated by Alan Sisley and the artists

Six Planes 1 Six Planes 2 Six Planes 3 Six Planes 4 Six Planes 5

Two Planes

Two Planes was exhibited in the group show "Co-isolated", featuring new work by Richard Goodwin, Michael Snape, and David Burns
South Sydney Corporate Park, Sydney, NSW Australia
16-19 April 2010

"Aesthetic k-hole", Adrian Lahoud — excerpt from the catalogue text

David Burns is a junkie for repetition; his work is an aesthetic k-hole.

Ketamine is an anaesthetic; pharmaceutically speaking it belongs to the class of drugs known as dissociatives which operate by blocking signals to the brain. According to frequent users, the slight overdose called a ‘k-hole’ is the closest one can get to death without actually dying, its effects include an inability to think, extreme tunnelling of vision and an overwhelming sense of cold dread. If ecstasy is a ‘tactile temptress’ full of baroque intricacy, ketamine is pure Miesien box.
Towering.
Lights on.
No one inside.

David Burns is a junkie for repetition; his work is an anaesthetic for the ecstasy generation, a generation hooked on sensational intensity.

There is something terrifyingly destructive about insistent repetition. It lays waste to our sense making apparatus, annihilates coordinates of reference and etherizes the self to the point of oblivion. In this infinitesimal calculus of sensation, cold mechanical repetition reveals itself as nothing less than the affective DNA of modernity itself.
The thin white lines.
The cold corridors.
The rectilinear banks of fluorescent light.
No one inside.

It’s the closest you can get to death.

Two Planes 1

Two Planes 8 Two Planes 9

Two Planes 06 Two Planes 7 Two Planes 7

Partial Architectures

Gallery 103, Knoxville, TN USA
18 January - 17 February 2012
Curated by Matt Hall

EDGE studio Gallery, Pittsburgh, PA USA
3-24 February 2012
Curated by Anne Chen

Partial Architectures catalog published by University of Tennessee College of Architecture and Design Press.

Partial Architectures 2

Partial Architectures 1 Partial Architectures 3

Partial Architectures 5

Tripoli

Tripoli 1 Tripoli 8 Tripoli 5 Tripoli 3 Tripoli 2

Tripoli 7

Triptych

Triptych was originally exhibited in the solo show "Triptych 01"
DAB LAB Research Gallery, Sydney, NSW Australia
12-27 March 2009
Curated by Aanya Roennfeldt

Triptych 4 Triptych 5 Triptych 6

Point of View

Point of View was exhibited in the group show "Gestures"
The Mattress Factory Museum of Contemporary Art, Pittsburgh, PA USA
5 June – 31 July 2005

Curated by Michael Olijnyk and Graham Shearing

POV1
POV2 POV3 POV4

End on End

End on End was exhibited in the solo show of the same name
Future Tenant Gallery, Pittsburgh, PA USA
29 January – 25 February 2005

End on End 3 End on End 1 End on End 5
End on End 2

research

How to be a good witness: The Architecture Curator - Routledge

Chapter abstract:

To criticize means to call into crisis.1

Barthes’ definition of criticism describes an act of disturbance, the rupturing of a contemporary condition that might open the space up to new ways of working; or, as Roland Champagne’s translation clarifies, the performance of criticism is the inciting to crisis. This ‘call-to-arms’ comes at a time of dire need for the discipline of architecture fighting for its value in the contemporary world. The massive transformations of our built environment wrought by climate change, the social unrest of spiraling inequality, and the mass migrations of our global population (both forced and otherwise), demand a much greater engagement from our spatial practitioners to more actively engage the complex systems that influence and create the built environment. The scope of these issues is too vast to be address in the design of a building, or even of a city. A possible and active response is that of curation, which may be posited as an ideal performative mode in which to argue against the conventions of architectural practice, bringing together multiple disciplines in the critical engagement of space.


  1. Roland Barthes, ‘Writers, Intellectuals, Teachers’ [1971] in A Roland Barthes Reader, edited with an introduction by Susan Sontag (London, Vintage,1982), 379. ↩︎

The Eyes Have It and the Eyes Always Will - e-flux

In 1977, Susan Sontag observed that situations were increasingly being mediated by, or in fact created by the camera. Despite their disparity, events become unified by the camera for the sake of the photograph. Sontag called it a “chronic voyeuristic relation to the world”. The pervasive eye of the camera becomes self-fulfilling; seeing the event, being seen by the event, and ultimately creating the only remnant of the event. The eyes have it and the eyes always will.

Substitute tweet for photograph and Sontag seems to have predicted the phenomenon that Boris Groys calls “self-design”: the impulse to create a deliberate, idealized online personality. What Sontag could never imagine is the level at which twenty-first century power, celebrity, and economics would rely on the successful creation of an online persona and the distressing results achievable to those with the greatest ability. Capitalism has metastasized such that the production of tangible material is no longer necessary; simply mastering Twitter is a viable business plan (or political strategy). And while many critics have voiced clear warnings about online celebrity, peak self-design seems nowhere in sight.

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The Pacific Solution - Disegno Journal

In August 2001, the Australian government was reeling. In the run up to the November federal elections, polls had revealed a slim lead for the opposition Labour candidates and John Howard, the prime minister and leader of the centre-right Liberal party, became desperate. As if on cue, on 24 August, an Indonesian fishing boat overloaded with people seeking asylum – the Palapa 1 – became stranded in the Indian Ocean, feeding concerns over border protection. The situation worsened following the September 11 attacks and the climate of fear and suspicion that spread throughout the west. Then, on 6 October, another boat, designated SIEV 4 (Suspected Irregular Entry Vehicle 4), appeared close to Australian waters. The Australian navy claimed the passengers on this ship were throwing children overboard to force passage to Australia. Howard had the ammunition he needed and hastily drafted a series of amendments to migration laws: strict punishment for those arriving by sea, retroactive immunity for the government’s actions and automatic mandatory detention in offshore camps. The Pacific Solution was enacted.

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Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation: Culture + Ideas for Trifolium

N curated a conversation at Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation on issues surrounding the 2014 Fugitive Structures pavilion, Trifolium by AR-MA.

The event examined the current phenomenon of architecture contributing to, and acting as public art. Urtzi Grau of Fake Industries Architectural Agonism joined N directors Sam Spurr and David Burns to trace the emergence of the architecture 'folly' to the contemporary fascination with the 'pavilion' through the lens of public art.

Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Sydney, NSW Australia
16 September 2014

Sherman 1

Malleable and Mortal

The integration of the arts in Modern architecture has always been called a good thing. But one did not paint on Mies. Painted panels were floated independently of the structure by means of shadow joints; sculpture was in or near but seldom on the building. Objects of art were used to reinforce architectural space at the expense of their own content. The Kolbe in the Barcelona Pavilion was a foil to the directed spaces: The message was mainly architectural. The diminutive signs in most Modern buildings contained only the most necessary messages, like LADIES, minor accents begrudgingly applied.

In the opening pages of the canonical Learning from Las Vegas, architectural theorists Denise Scott Brown, Robert Venturi, and Steven Izenour attack the Modernist attitude towards art. They note that while art was common in Modern architecture, it was always an overlay, a non-intrusive affectation, secondary to the architecture. In the quote above we see not only a critique of Mies and his Modern cohort, but also a not-so-subtle comment on the old boys club of Modern architecture. Begun as research for a design studio at UCLA in 1966 by Brown, Learning from Las Vegas caused instant controversy and heralded the end of Modernism with a renewed interest in the discussion of the symbolic in architectural design.

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Precious Inhabitants

Mies van der Rohe once said, “I don't want to be interesting, I want to be good". This simple statement describes the unease that many feel inside his iconic buildings. His architecture is one of vast, uninterrupted spaces, possessing an emptiness that he understood as universal promise. They lack the saccharin atmosphere that contemporary architecture often presumes. They are not interesting. This overwhelming emptiness is apparent in a drawing by Mies of the German Pavilion (1928-1929). It features no people, no evidence of inhabitation, only space and material rendered with a bare minimum of marks. The drawing is an insight into Mies’ desire for architecture without the human, architecture as a discrete object serving only itself. The focal point of the drawing is a lone column in the center of the composition. The column is drawn as two parallel lines, originating and terminating at an assumed floor and ceiling that Mies chose not to represent. For Mies the column was the figural manifestation of his design, a single precious inhabitant independent of the architecture.

Michael Moran’s work flirts with architecture. It borrows from the lexicon, perhaps subconsciously. He describes his work as possessing an anti-aesthetic. He speaks of materials, space, construction, and movement. He sees infinity in his work. His language would be familiar in any architecture studio or classroom.

In “Corporate Foyer”, Moran delicately arrays thirty-one crudely manufactured columns, rising from rectilinear steel foundations. The columns populate the field of the gallery in an attempt to re-order the space. They reach for the ceiling in a futile attempt at structural support. They are freehand pencil lines, actualized in copper.

Moran’s columns may suggest architecture, but they are not architecture. They are closer to a drawing, an incomplete description of a situation that questions our understanding of the gallery. They suggest a subtle non-human inhabitation. They are Mies’ precious inhabitants.

  • Originally published in the gallery sheet for the exhibition "Corporate Foyer" by Michael Moran, Firstdraft Gallery, Sydney Australia

The Political Image

Photography, it would seem, is changing. Political upheavals, natural disasters, and self-organising political movements are now witnessed through the unmediated eyes of the participants. This rise in citizen journalism marks the end of the traditional photojournalist who can no longer be trusted to convey the actual life of the city and cannot be expected to understand the minutia of events on the ground. This is a healthy shift. Not only does it reflect an emerging democracy in the witnessing of events, it entrusts a greater responsibility on the viewer to consume and synthesize the information in the process of forming an opinion. This is, of course, problematic. With a flood of first person, non-verifiable information, the potential for misinformation is obvious. However, is it any more fraught with moments of contagion and corruption than contemporary news media?

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To See the City

To See the City by N

To see the city, to really see the city I had to remember 1916. This is harder as the years go by, I wasn’t even born yet, but couldn’t help feeling that year had left the city with scars.

You could say the innocence of the city was damaged that year. Polio ravaged the children of New York. Killing thousands. Leaving so many disfigured. Some say the machines of that age are skyscrapers, dams, train stations. What I remember are rooms of cylindrical steel drums, nurses pressed white uniforms and rasping breath. Those “iron lungs” like pressurized cabins for unformed bodies. Machines to mimic life for bodies that had forgotten how to breathe.

I remember that year, the year the East River disappeared. I went to bed in Brooklyn and woke up in Manhattan. They said it was about land values, something about taxation and the growth of the business district. I said it was about safety and protecting all those the city had failed. The city was quarantined. Travellers applied for permits to enter. It wasn’t enough of course; it was as dangerous to let people leave, as it was to let them enter. When the schools and movie theatres began reopening at the end of the year, we realised it was better for everybody if we kept things as they were.

They always spoke about Utopia. It looked great in newsprint but never seemed to make sense. I think the answer is still hiding in those hospital wings, encased in metal.

To See the City was exhibited in the group show "Past Futures, Present, Futures"
Storefront for Art and Architecture, New York, NY
6 October 2012 - 12 January 2013

Dissonance - Arts Centre Melbourne

Presented by the Arts Centre Melbourne, the Audio Architecture 24hr Design Camp attracted a diverse group of architecture, art, design, and sound students for a rigorous design charette over July 28-29, 2012.

Written and directed by Sam Spurr and David Burns of the Sydney-based curatorial collective N, the camp was a spatial study of “dissonance”. Over an intensive 24 hours, students explored the creative and collaborative intersections of sound and architecture through workshops, discussions, performances, and design experiments. The provocation was to create a space in tension, oscillating between harmony and discord, an analysis centering on states of instability and their inherent dynamism.

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Public programming for Kaldor Public Art Projects: Thomas Demand

N collaborated with Kaldor Public Art Projects on a series of events to coincide with "The Dailies" by Thomas Demand with support from the UTS School of Design.

N organized Sylvia Lavin and Charles Rice to travel to Sydney to participate in the two keynote lecture events alongside Thomas Demand at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

In addition, N curated two of Kaldor Public Art Project's "Parlour Projects". On Thursday April 5 and Thursday April 19, N organized panel discussions, model-making workshops, architectural interventions, film screenings, and student interaction and exhibitions.

pedagogy

Royal College of Art School of Architecture

Media Studies - core subject in the School of Architecture (2016-present)
Architectural Design Studio 7 - with Platon Issaias and Godofredo Pereira (2015-present)
MRes Architecture Pathway (2016-17)

Full RCA details online soon.

University of Technology Sydney School of Design - Director, Photography and Situated Media

Director and Senior Lecturer, Photography and Situated Media (2009-2016)

Full UTS PSM details and student work online soon.

University of Technology Sydney School of Architecture

Senior Lecturer, School of Architecture (2008-2009)

Full UTS Architecture details online soon.

Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture

Adjunct Assistant Professor of Architecture (2003-2008)

Full CMU Architecture details and student work online soon.

Auburn University School of Architecture

Paul Rudolph Visiting Assistant Professor of Architecture (2001-2003)
Rural Studio Thesis Advisor (2003)

Full Auburn Architecture details and student work online soon.

curation and publishing

N Editions: Fables for the Drone Age by Richard Goodwin

Catalogue for Australian artist and architect Richard Goodwin, published in 2017 by N Editions (David Burns).
Full details at the N Editions website.

Richard Goodwin 1 Richard Goodwin 2

N Editions: Prayer Flags LP

Debut LP by Nashville band Prayer Flags.
Full details on the N Editions website.

Prayer Flags 1 Richard Goodwin 2

RCA Research Folios

2017-2018
RCA RCA RCA RCA RCA RCA RCA RCA RCA RCA RCA RCA RCA

2016-2017
RCA RCA RCA RCA RCA RCA RCA RCA RCA

UTS Photography and Situated Media Catalogues

Honours - End of Year 2014 (7 individual books)
PSM PSM PSM PSM PSM PSM PSM

Subtext - End of Year 2014
PSM PSM PSM PSM PSM PSM PSM PSM

Situations - End of Year 2013
PSM PSM PSM PSM PSM PSM PSM PSM

End of Year 2011
PSM PSM PSM PSM PSM PSM PSM PSM

UTS Photography and Situated Media Exhibitions

Jill Daves, Natalya Hughes

Full details on the Collective N website.

Jill Daves, Natalya Hughes

What Destroys What

Full details at the Collective N website.

Instead of causing us to remember the past like the old monuments, the new monuments seem to cause us to forget the future.1

"What Destroys What" was an exhibition that sought to create a condition of constructive enmity. Six exhibitors (three artists, three architects) were invited based on the alchemical transmutability identified in the conceptual, material, and formal realities of their work. These states of oppositional transference are productive, provocative, and opportunistic: material evolving into time, space transforming into concept, structure devolving into air. Slow, invisible, irreversible.

Exhibitors: Todd McMillan, Nadia Wagner, Frank Minnaërt, Ms&Mr, Justine Varga, David Burns

Catalogue essay by Jaime Tsai

Firstdraft Gallery, Sydney, NSW Australia
21-25 November 2012

What Destroys What

  1. Robert Smithson, “Entropy and the New Monuments” ↩︎

Prague Quadrennial: How to be a good witness.

Full project details and images at Collective N website

Australian contribution to the "Architecture Section" of the 2011 Prague Quadrennial
Australian National Curator: Lawrence Wallen
Curators: David Burns, Adrian Lahoud & Samantha Spurr
16-26 June 2011

Communication is an invitation to misinterpret the other. Linguistic translation circles around this possibility - caught between verisimilitude and sense, it attempts to reconcile both knowing it cannot fully capture either. The space between different languages is mirrored in the gap between different forms of artistic and spatial practice. These practices form out of the broad array of objects, tools, procedures and discourses that accumulate like sediment in the body of the respective disciplines. Translating across these different worlds involves work. Making a map between a diverse and heterogenous series of things and their different intents; drawings, photos, performance and texts, is never a simple matter, while the map that emerges resembles the cartography of unexplored continents, filled with blank spaces and riddled with blind spots.

This art project - first presented at the Prague Quadrennial in June 2011 and redeveloped for the Gwangju Design Biennale - is a game of chinese whispers at the scale of the city. This game is structured around the impossibility of making a map of the city and its streets, between people and their artistic practice. The blank spaces between are not understood as empty zones to be bridged, rather they are overfull with productive potential. They become spaces for a type of translation based in fantasy and speculation.

At the largest scale, the project is a machine for procurement, recording and distribution. Its object is the scenographic potential of the city. At the scale of each node, a single participant is installed in the machine and caught in a circuit of invitation, translation and communication with their neighbours. Their objective is to make a singular point in the city.

Photography:
Jack Dunbar and Tosh van Veenendaal

Exhibited artists, architects and writers:
Andrew Benjamin
Barnaby Bennett & Byron Kinnaird
Robert Beson
Thomas Cole & Felicia Huang
Pia Ednie-Brown & Jondi Keane
Erik Escalante & Alina McConnochie
Chris Fox
Richard Goodwin
Tim Gregory
Sarah Hearne
Sarah Jamieson & Nadia Wagner
Adam Jasper
Eduardo Kairuz
Frank Minnaërt
Fernando Pino & Luke Tipene
Tina Salama
Sam Szwarcbord
Leisa Tough
Marcus Trimble
Jaime Tsai
Oliver Watts
Alexandra Wright

Gwangju Design Biennale: Networks of surrender.

Full project details and images at Collective N website

"Networks of surrender" was the Sydney contribution to the 2011 Gwangju Design Biennale
Gwangju Design Biennalle Artistic Directors: Seung H-Sang and Ai WeiWei
"Communities" section curator: Beatrice Galilee and Helen Hejung Choi
Curators: David Burns, Adrian Lahoud & Samantha Spurr
2 September – 23 October 2011

GDB

Surrender is the renunciation of control. When freely given it is an act of ultimate generosity; a leap into potentiality and the rapture of the unknown. A community is described in this project not by collective similarities but by an individual's willingness to surrender their ideas to another.

Over twenty architects, designers, philosophers and photographers across Sydney have participated in a series of creative conversations, which transform the image of this harbour city from generic postcard perfection to a set of multiplicitous, individual urban narratives.

These are networks of surrender, whose ambition is not the cohesion of a finished, consumerable product, but the construction of new communities for creative work.

Photography:
Jack Dunbar and Tosh van Veenendaal

Exhibited artists, architects and writers:
Andrew Benjamin
Barnaby Bennett & Byron Kinnaird
Robert Beson
Thomas Cole & Felicia Huang
Pia Ednie-Brown & Jondi Keane
Erik Escalante & Alina McConnochie
Chris Fox
Richard Goodwin
Tim Gregory
Sarah Hearne
Sarah Jamieson & Nadia Wagner
Adam Jasper
Eduardo Kairuz
Frank Minnaërt
Fernando Pino & Luke Tipene
Tina Salama
Sam Szwarcbord
Leisa Tough
Marcus Trimble
Jaime Tsai
Oliver Watts
Alexandra Wright

Index 2010

Full project details and images at Collective N website

Administration Building
26 Broadway, Sydney, NSW Australia
4 December 2011

The Index Forum was a round table conversation supported by the School of Architecture and the School of Design at the University of Technology, Sydney. There were six seats at the table; two were occupied by invited guests Charles Renfro and Eva Franch i Gilabert, three seats were occupied by the curators - David Burns, Adrian Lahoud, and Sam Spurr. A sixth seat was used to call upon a changing roster of guests to make contributions to the conversation.

Agenda 2008

The projects and essays contained in this book constitute an agenda, a curated cross-section of a moment in transition. The book is an attempt to analyse and interpret the present condition of disruption through a diverse range of speculative projects that propose a reshaping of our cities, our environment, and our aesthetic sensibilities. It is an agenda that outlines a series of intelligent, creative and risk-taking tactics about our future, while maintaining a sober understanding of the magnitude of what is at stake.

Agenda 2008 was published by UTS DAB DOCS.

Agenda Agenda

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