Towards a Free Revolutionary Art

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Re: Towards a Free Revolutionary Art

Postby American Dream » Thu Jul 12, 2018 4:35 pm

Yes, loud and clear...


dada » Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:02 pm wrote:It isn't the content of the video that concerns me, but the form. The "NYTimes art video." I guess you might say that I'm, as Ben Watson puts it "allergic to the power-relations involved in commercialism. For [me], to countenance using something as imbalanced as the mass media to put over a "progressive message" is to agree with manipulation, setting up the artist in a hierarchy above the audience. In other words, "Bad form, or reactionary, derivative treatments are not something that may be excused by a 'progressive' message."

I should probably clarify here, what I see, or rather don't see, as "Free Revolutionary Art."

It isn't (to me) propaganda in support of a revolution. I think this sort of platform-based, soap box art runs counter to the 'spirit' of free revolutionary art. Art is never ('never' is perhaps too strong a word, I know) revolutionary in itself. It becomes revolutionary when the artist that creates it has fully assimilated their politics. These politics cannot be found anywhere on the surface, or (most importantly) hidden somewhere inside. Meaning there's no moral, no lesson to be unpacked. It's an art that is revolutionary by being an example of creativity unfettered, not by making overt or covert overtures to the viewer. The danger to the social order, the revolutionary potential isn't in its message, but by the very fact of its existence.

This idea extends, for me, right back to the present moment, as I sit here typing on the internet. I've been trying to get away from the preachy style of writing. The "I'm an expert, you're an expert, everyone is an authority in something or other, so let's all take turns playing at being ring-master/spectator in the bleachers" method of social interaction. Seeing us reduced to these barely-sublimated-to-not-even-trying-to-hide-it dominance/submission games, I can't escape the feeling that what we call culture and society are nothing more than the acting out of sexual repression.

Yet how difficult it is, to communicate without preaching! For me, at least.

As for Rosemont surrealism, to be honest, it was Franklin's book "Jacques Vache and the Roots of Surrealism" that turned me off to the whole project. Franklin somehow manages to turn the irreverent, pretension-deflating belly laugh of Vache's 'Umor' into pretentiousness itself. Someone should have explained to Franklin, that is what happens when you explain a oke.

The book turns out to have very little to do with Vache. Reading it was an experience not unlike watching a 'based on a true story' Hollywood blockbuster while Rosemont sits in front of you wearing a tall hat. As a bonus, Rosemont instructs us on how to be good nonconformists and revolutionaries by making constant appeals to authority.

So that's what my opinion of Rosemont surrealism hinges upon. What a book. Not that it's the only thing I've read coming out of that scene. But it was the one that opened my eyes. I'm glad Rosemont (and Kerr) republished some of T-Bone Slim's writings under the title 'Juice is Stranger Than Friction,' (although I could do without Rosemont's introduction.) I have no problem with Penelope.
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Re: Towards a Free Revolutionary Art

Postby dada » Fri Jul 13, 2018 6:12 pm

The revolutionary energies in out-of-fashion dresses and restaurants are to be found by stripping them of sentiment, viewing them with an eye for the expired hopes and desires they represent. It's the critical reading of the rubbish of commercialism and commodities itself that releases the potential.

I think that Andrew Joron may be looking for an actual mystic force in the kitsch and clutter of the outmoded, as surrealists are wont to do. Some sort of negative-fetish power, maybe. He took his ectoplasm-meter to the salvation army, but he didn't get a reading from the racks. Therefore he's skeptical, thinks Benjamin may have been just kidding around.
Both his words and manner of speech seemed at first totally unfamiliar to me, and yet somehow they stirred memories - as an actor might be stirred by the forgotten lines of some role he had played far away and long ago.
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Re: Towards a Free Revolutionary Art

Postby American Dream » Fri Jul 13, 2018 10:08 pm

That is utterly compatible with a Marxian analysis. Except for the part about an ectoplasm-meter, I think.


dada » Fri Jul 13, 2018 5:12 pm wrote:The revolutionary energies in out-of-fashion dresses and restaurants are to be found by stripping them of sentiment, viewing them with an eye for the expired hopes and desires they represent. It's the critical reading of the rubbish of commercialism and commodities itself that releases the potential.

I think that Andrew Joron may be looking for an actual mystic force in the kitsch and clutter of the outmoded, as surrealists are wont to do. Some sort of negative-fetish power, maybe. He took his ectoplasm-meter to the salvation army, but he didn't get a reading from the racks. Therefore he's skeptical, thinks Benjamin may have been just kidding around.
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Re: Towards a Free Revolutionary Art

Postby dada » Mon Jul 16, 2018 2:45 am

American Dream wrote:That is utterly compatible with a Marxian analysis. Except for the part about an ectoplasm-meter, I think.


Yes. That's why Walter Benjamin was cast as the star of the hit TV series "My Favorite Marxian." Little known fact. I'm so full of useless trivia.

---

I've been thinking about how I arrived at my current unapologetically anti-authoritarian political perspective. I've decided that it hasn't been a progression, a development over time, as much as it has been a long process of testing a perspective I hit upon a long time ago. The perspective hasn't evolved too much, but my confidence in it has.

This makes me curious if others can remember their key formative political moments. Might make for an interesting thread.

My key moment wasn't a moment, and it wasn't actually "political." It was a band I had. A musical group, I mean. There were three of us. The dynamic was such that I was the natural leader of the group, but as leader I informally instituted a policy of 'no leaders.' I felt that the chemistry between the three of us was too good to stifle it with the usual hierarchical games that bands play. (I'm putting words to previously unarticulated feelings as best I can, here)

The no leader policy brought out the best in all three of us. The drummer didn't quite realize what was happening - he was a drummer, afterall! haha - but he could feel it instinctually. I remember him tentatively testing, and as he slowly realized that the usual boundaries and bs he'd had to deal with in other bands really weren't present with us, seeing the freedom unfold in him. It was a glorious thing. The bass player knew exactly what I was doing, and went with it. He was a rare individual.

The band wasn't a democracy, majority didn't rule. And it wasn't an authoritarian anarchism (may seem like a strange concept to some, but it is actually the basic anarchic form. Just picture a pyramid with no capstone) it was a very casual anarchism, if it was anarchism at all.

This extended to the musical dialogue. The communication between us crossed the supernatural border. I attribute this to the fact that none of us were driving the ship, we were listening, very, very carefully, to each other, and to something else that was shaping the music, since none of us were, which I still can't quite explain or put my finger on.

This was not chaos, though, there was a high level of order requiring precision and dexterity. We experimented with lots of different time signatures, played in all kinds of modes, both traditional and custom. The bass player wrote intricate, difficult music, melodically and rhythmically, we learned that. Whatever we were working on that week in our own private practice sessions was the jumping off point for the next group music session.

We worked together intensely for about six months, before life got in the way. But the experience transformed me. I'd seen the liberating potential of the anti-authoritarian view, and I was hooked. I felt the incomparable rush and high of throwing away my alpha status like the trash it is. Most importantly, I saw how it changed the others, brought things out of them that they didn't even know were in there.
Both his words and manner of speech seemed at first totally unfamiliar to me, and yet somehow they stirred memories - as an actor might be stirred by the forgotten lines of some role he had played far away and long ago.
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Re: Towards a Free Revolutionary Art

Postby American Dream » Mon Jul 16, 2018 10:29 am

That's a great story. I feel like I've always had anti-authoritarian tendencies, since before I could really talk about them coherently. I still do vibrate in sympathy with Autonomy, non-hierarchical collectivism all that sort of thing. Throwing objects through windows is neither inherently "good" nor "bad" to me but I think we should pay a great deal attention to who or what is on the other side of the glass.

Anyway, I'm thinking also about the "Cop in the head", or even the (personal) Will to Power. That's somewhat harder to acknowledge and resolve.
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Re: Towards a Free Revolutionary Art

Postby Elvis » Mon Jul 16, 2018 6:03 pm

dada wrote:There were three of us. The dynamic was such that I was the natural leader of the group, but as leader I informally instituted a policy of 'no leaders.' I felt that the chemistry between the three of us was too good to stifle it with the usual hierarchical games that bands play.


This definitely can work with three people, but can that be scaled up to, say, a 70-piece orchestra? By then, a conductor is generally needed, someone to select the repertoire, administer whippings, etc.

It's very interesting question. The 'ideal' group or village size is what, 150? and there is usually a chief of some some kind, if only to settle disputes. A 'democratic' Greek city-state like Classical-era Athens operated without leaders as we think of them, with authority invested in the assembly, the law and the courts. Jury duty was a regular, ongoing part of a citizen's life, but today, who has time to attend long trials every week?

Scaled up to a nation of millions, or a nationless planet of billions, leaderless organization might work given good tools for popular referenda. Ideally, production would me mostly local, limiting the need for extensive organizational administration.
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Re: Towards a Free Revolutionary Art

Postby dada » Mon Jul 16, 2018 7:04 pm

Well, you can just have a robot as conductor. (google it) Also robots can play the classical music very well.

I can't really look to some bright past as if it were better than now. Primitive and Classical cultures obviously didn't prevent the mess we're in, and may have done an awful lot to contribute to it.

Good point about 'good tools for popular referenda.' Points to something I was going to get at in a future post: I think the full and total wresting away of technology from the technocrats might prove to be a pivotal moment in the emancipation of Homo Sap. Toys need to be taken out of irresponsible hands. Not the only one who thinks this, of course.

---

American Dream wrote:I'm thinking also about the "Cop in the head", or even the (personal) Will to Power. That's somewhat harder to acknowledge and resolve.


I think the Cop in the Head can be retrained for a more productive role. Instead of self-censor, an internalized extension of external oppression, it could be a personal editor. God knows, people could use better inner editors. (Mine's is also trained as Ninja.)

Personal Will to Power may be retrained as well. More difficult, though, because corruption is so beautiful and alluring. Got to throw it away first, show it who's boss. It will put up a fantastic fight. Successfully sublimating it is an incredible rush, though there is no indication of that until it happens. Very, very difficult.

--

What do you think?

where are the conditions for revolution? In the changing of attitudes or of external circumstances? That is the cardinal question that determines the relation of politics to morality and cannot be glossed over.


Morality as in "being well behaved."

The answer is 'External circumstances,' obviously.

But hold on a minute: If a person thinks it's all about a change in attitude, just stay positive, lsd in the water supply, they'd have to change their attitude to come to the Profane Illumination that the conditions are material. This is trickier than it first seemed.

Is possible, of course, that the attitude that "the 'feel good' attitude is where the revolution is at," can not be changed from without. Which means that ain't my responsibility, ain't my job, good luck to ya.
Both his words and manner of speech seemed at first totally unfamiliar to me, and yet somehow they stirred memories - as an actor might be stirred by the forgotten lines of some role he had played far away and long ago.
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Re: Towards a Free Revolutionary Art

Postby Elvis » Mon Jul 16, 2018 8:08 pm

dada wrote:Well, you can just have a robot as conductor. (google it) Also robots can play the classical music very well.


Yes, and have you seen the robot metal band? :rofl2 Anyway, you see the problem with robots, i.e. in this case artificial intelligence, conducting a society, here—

Good point about 'good tools for popular referenda.' Points to something I was going to get at in a future post: I think the full and total wresting away of technology from the technocrats might prove to be a pivotal moment in the emancipation of Homo Sap. Toys need to be taken out of irresponsible hands. Not the only one who thinks this, of course.


I so agree. Recent discoveries in AI show that the problem might not be wresting control from irresponsible humans, but from the artificial neural networks who (did I say "who"?!) invent their own new ways of thinking that are inscrutable—invisible—to us. Passing authority to a superconnected AI very well might not yield the kind of 'rational,' objective and beneficial results imagined by many. The key seems to be always to include a (real live) human factor.

(Have you read Theodore Roszak's 1969 The Making of a Counterculture? It's not a history, as such, but does discuss the development of various ideas. He defined 'technocracy' for me, and predicted these problems, in that and other books.)

I can't really look to some bright past as if it were better than now. Primitive and Classical cultures obviously didn't prevent the mess we're in, and may have done an awful lot to contribute to it.


I'm not citing Athens as a "bright" past—not at all. But it's absolutely a past worth studying. (The Greeks had their own version of a mythical "Golden Age" when everything was wonderful.) Our ways of thinking are unavoidably affected by the writings of Plato and Aristotle, et al. (another good topic for a thread), some of which may have kept us out of certain messes, but which also have kept people in shackles (figuratively and literally) for centuries. Athenian citizens (a relatively small portion of the state's total male population) had the leisure time to fully participate in self-government largely because they had slaves, a practice completely accepted and defended as perfectly natural by both philosophers. Not a good trade-off, in my humble opinion.

Getting back to revolutionary art—in Plato's ideal republic, certain instruments were banned from the city, only music in certain scales (modes) were allowed (minor keys are too depressing, and the lowlife masses need to be kept in a cheery frame of mind), songwriters and poets had to have their material approved by grand acquisitors, and on and on. And this is the guy so revered in Western thinking. (George Will's hilarious struggle to keep his hard-on for Plato is a good example.)
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Re: Towards a Free Revolutionary Art

Postby dada » Mon Jul 16, 2018 11:23 pm

I was just pointing out that technology can perform the menial tasks. Classical musician, Death Metal guitarist, etc, etc.

When I'm space alien overlord, I won't ban human classical orchestras. Come on, what kind of monster do you think I am?

I read that article about the secret robot language. I know the tone of the article was "be afraid," but I'm not seeing the threat, there. Secret languages are fine with me. I'm just not feeling threatened by Artificial Intelligence. It's good for what it does, but as Henry Corbin said, I "have available a cosmology of such a kind that the most astounding information of modern science regarding the physical universe remains inferior to it."

But that's a discussion for the Questioning Consciousness thread

And I wouldn't pass authority to anyone or anything. I think I've made that pretty clear by now.

Edited to add: I should add that I think small cells are the best we can do. Three people, maybe ten at most? I don't see why it needs to be extended to seventy people, or billions. I don't think any model will work at these levels.

edited again to add: I should be clearer. All grand social engineering visions seem to me foolish and probably dangerous. Better to work to prevent people with these pictures in their mind from implementing them, and let the damn thing take it's natural course.
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Re: Towards a Free Revolutionary Art

Postby Elvis » Tue Jul 17, 2018 2:10 am

dada wrote: I should add that I think small cells are the best we can do. Three people, maybe ten at most?


You may be right. Image
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Re: Towards a Free Revolutionary Art

Postby American Dream » Sat Jul 21, 2018 7:39 am

"Is Art a Currency?" An Excerpt from Duty Free Art

In this excerpt from Duty Free Art, Hito Steyerl questions the emerging role of contemporary art as currency in the age of planetary civil war: an era marked by rising inequality and rapid technological change.

Image

Is art a currency? Investor Stefan Simchowitz thinks so. He wrote with uncompromising clarity about the post-Brexit era: “Art will effectively continue its structural function as an alternative currency that hedges against inflation and currency depreciation.” Have silver paintings become a proxy gold standard? How did it come to this? During the ongoing crisis, investors were showered with tax money, which then went into freeport collections, tower mansions, and shell companies. Quantitative easing eroded currency stability and depleted common resources, entrenching a precarious service economy with dismal wages, if any, eternal gigs, eternal debt, permanent doubt, and now increasing violence. This destabilization is one reason the value of art looks more stable than the prospects of many national GDPs. In the EU this takes place against a backdrop of mass evictions, austerity, arson attacks, Daesh run amok, and Deutsche Bank scams. Results include child poverty, debt blackmail, rigged economies, and the fascist scapegoating of others for widely self-inflicted failed policies. Art is an “alternative currency” of this historical moment. It seems to trade against a lot of misery.

Meanwhile, reactionary extremism intensifies in many places. I won’t bore you with specifics. There’s always another attack, election, coup, or someone who ups the ante in terms of violence, misogyny, snuff, or infamy. Derivative fascisms continue to grow, wherever disenfranchised middle classes fear (and face) global competition—and choose to both punch down and suck up to reactionary oligarchies. Ever more self-tribalized formations pop up that prefer not to abolish neoliberal competition—but instead eliminate competitors personally. Derivative fascisms try to fuse all-out free trade economics with, for example, white nationalism or an extreme conservative religious group identity, by promoting survival of the fittest for everyone except themselves. Authoritarian neo- liberalism segues into plain authoritarianism.

A permanent fog of war is fanned by permanent fakes on Facebook. Already deregulated ideas of truth are destabilized even further. Emergency rules. Critique is a troll fest. Crisis commodified as entertainment. The age of neoliberal globalization seems exhausted and a period of contraction, fragmentation, and autocratic rule has set in.


https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/3938-i ... y-free-art
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Re: Towards a Free Revolutionary Art

Postby dada » Mon Jul 23, 2018 6:23 pm

Currency stability is so relative, though. Saying "the art market is a stable 'alternative currency'" seems like wishful thinking, with the hope it becomes self fulfilling prophecy. Statements like that serve a purpose much like Jim Cramer.

How stable can the art market be, really, when there's no system of quantification to be standardized. How many dead labor certificates, tombstones with wings, how much misery is any given piece of art-product worth? What gives a piece of art-product its currency value?

Obviously not aesthetic beauty. There is plenty of aesthetically pleasing art-product that can be bought on the cheap or gotten free. Same for aesthetically ugly art. And dull, boring art. And it isn't the amount of effort put into making it. Some of those pixel gif artists put in endless hours of painstaking labor and don't charge a thing for the pictures. The only money you need is for your device, and your internet connection, if you can't get on the internet for free.

Personality cult of the artist is being traded against, something like that? But what we'd be saying then, is that it's just basic consumerism at play. What's hot, what's not. Fickle trends, academic and media endorsement. Supply, demand.
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Re: Towards a Free Revolutionary Art

Postby American Dream » Mon Jul 23, 2018 6:37 pm

I know somebody who used to sell art for Basquiat. They would go sometimes to a fancy Italian restaurant mid-town or uptown and buy very expensive food with multi-hundred dollar bottles of wine but Baquiat went dressed as a racist caricature of a black person, replete with braids standing out and a clownish costume.

All the fancy people at the other tables- rich lawyers and members of the Bourgeoisie etc.- of course stared and were uncomfortable/gawking or whatever. At the end of the meal (I don't know what they may have inhaled before, during or after, if anything), Basquiat would magnanimously offer to pay the check for snotty rich people at other tables. And that was his response to it all.
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Re: Towards a Free Revolutionary Art

Postby American Dream » Mon Jul 23, 2018 10:24 pm

The Great Camouflage

"We must dare to point out the Caribbean stain on France's face, since so many of the French seem determined to tolerate no shadow of it."

Image
Mount Pelée, Martinique, 1912

In the 1930s and 40s, Francophone Caribbean intellectuals critically engaged French surrealists across a series of publications. Refusal of the Shadow: Surrealism and the Caribbean, edited by Michael Richardson and published by Verso in 1996, collects key texts from this exchange, beginning with the first and only issue of Légitime défense, the journal of the Sorbonne-based Caribbean Surrealist Group, published in 1932.

Among the readers of Légitime défense, which was quickly banned by French authorities, were Aimé and Suzanne Césaire and philosopher René Ménil. All three would return to their native Martinique, where in 1941 they established Tropiques, a publication central to the development of the concept of négritude. The journal, Michael Richardson writes, "would function simultaneously on three ideological levels: as a focus for a developing black consciousness in Martinique; as a covert locus for the anti-Vichy struggle (during the war Martinique was ostensibly administered by Vichy); and as a journal of international surrealism."

The editors of Tropiques were drawn to surrealism from different perspectives. For [Aimé] Césaire it was essentially a poetic tool, a means to use language, and a moral sensibility. Surrealism affirmed something he had long felt; it was, he said, "a confirmation of what I had found through my own reflections." For Ménil and for Suzanne Césaire, on the other hand, surrealism was more of a critical tool, a means of reflection that would provide them with a critical foundation from which to explore their own cultural context.

Below we present Suzanne Césaire's "The Great Camouflage," published in Tropiques nos. 13–14 in 1945, a remarkable lyric essay on the history of the Americas and the African diaspora and the social relations of race, color, and class in Martinique.

Crammed against the islands are the beautiful green blades of water and silence. Around the Caribbean Sea is the purity of salt. Down there in front of me is the pretty square of Pétionville, planted with pine and hibiscus. My island, Martinique, is there, with its fresh garland of clouds prompted by Mount Pelée. There are the highest plateaux of Haiti, where a horse is dying, struck by lightning in the ageold murderous storm of Hinche. Nearby, his master contemplates the land he used to believe was solid and generous. He does not yet realize that he is participating in the islands' absence of equilibrium. But this outburst of terrestrial insanity illuminates his heart: he starts thinking about the other Caribbean islands, with their volcanoes, their earthquakes and their hurricanes.

At that moment a powerful cyclone starts to swirl in the open seas off Puerto Rico in the midst of billows of clouds, its beautiful tail sweeping the length of the Caribbean semicircle. The Atlantic flees towards Europe in great ocean waves. Our little tropical observation posts start to crackle out the news. The wireless is going mad. Ships flee — where can they go? The sea swells, this way, that way, with an effort, a luscious leap, the water stretches out its limbs as it gains greater awareness of its watery strength; sailors clench their teeth and their faces are streaming wet, and it is reported that the cyclone is passing over the south-east coast of the Haitian Republic at a speed of thirty-five miles per hour as it heads for Florida. Those objects and beings still just out of reach of the wind are gripped with apprehension. Don't move. Let it pass by...

In the eye of the cyclone everything is snapping, everything is collapsing with the rending sound of tumultuous events. The radios fall silent. The great palm-tree tail of fresh wind is unfolding somewhere in the stratosphere where no one will follow its wild iridescence and waves of purple light.

After the rain, sunshine.

The Haitian cicadas consider chirping out their love. When not a drop of water remains on the scorched grass, they sing furiously about the beauty of life and explode into a cry too vibrant for an insect's body. Their thin shell of dried silk stretched to the limit, they die as they let out the world's least moistened cry of pleasure.

Haiti remains, shrouded in the ashes of a gentle sun with eyes of cicadas, shells of mabouyas, and the metallic face of a sea that is no longer of water but of mercury.

Now is the moment to lean out of the window of the aluminium clipper on its wide curves.

Once again the sea of clouds appears, which is no longer intact since the planes of Pan American Airways pass through. If there is a harvest in process of ripening, now is the time to try to glimpse it, but in forbidden military zones the windows remain closed.

Disinfectant or ozone is brought out, but it hardly matters, you'll see nothing. Nothing but the sea and the confused lay of the land. You can only guess at the uncomplicated loves of the fishes. They stir the waters, which give a friendly wink to the clipper's windows. Seen from high above, our islands assume their true dimensions as seashells. The hummingbird-women, the tropical flower-women, the women of four races and dozens of blood ties, have gone. So too have the canna, the plumiera and the flame tree, the moonlit palm trees, and sunsets seen nowhere else on earth ...

Nevertheless they're there.


https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/3936-t ... camouflage
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Re: Towards a Free Revolutionary Art

Postby dada » Wed Jul 25, 2018 12:46 am

Is a good book.

"If we think we can recapture the image of us that has resulted from colonial culture and use it for our own benefit simply by reversing its colours and qualities, we are making an error... We are not the 'opposite' of our colonial image, we are other than this image." -Rene Menil

Has some voodoo in it, too. Literally and figuratively.
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