DOCS: Middle Class Taste - All In The Best Possible Taste With Grayson Perry Ep. 2

for the past year this man has been watching what you do he's been traveling around Britain to the events and social rituals where you reveal the most about yourselves tell me about your loom come show me your little more interested in your Lu he's been looking around your houses inspecting your possessions your de call and your cars he's been watching what you wear and even dressing up like you do because he believes that gives him an insight into who you think you are his name is Grayson Perry he's one of Britain's leading artists a winner of the Turner Prize his art explores the details of modern life and the truths those details reveal about ourselves and that's why he's decided to tackle the subject of British taste taste has always fascinated me I look at the world may see people how they're dressed how they'd have their clothes how they do their houses and I wonder what is behind their choices in this series Grayson Perry goes on safari through the taste tribes of Britain not just to observe your taste but to tell you in his biggest artwork yet what he thinks it means he's making six huge panoramic tapestries his personal interpretation of the taste of 21st century Britain they were made for the lord of the manor and they would depict great mythical battles of the know Hannibal crossing the Alps or some fantastic nation changing event and I'm using that same context to depict whether people shop at IKEA or whether they go to Waitrose in this program I make two tapestries about middle-class taste my model is william Hogarth one of my favorite artists I love the way is paintings of 18th century life galvanized every detail every gesture every costume into a portrait of a class a place and the times and that's what I aim to do with the taste tribes of Britain today I'm starting my journey to the heart of middle-class taste in a newest day 40 miles from Tunbridge Wells in Kent I've come to a development called Kings Hill 16 years ago this was an abandoned airfield now it's a community of some two to three thousand homes and I'm looking for modern middle-class tastes in a recent survey more than two-thirds of Britons identified themselves as middle-class when only 25 years ago two-thirds of us said we were working-class in the last program I made two tapestries about working-class tastes and I realized that the important story for me was the relationship between our tastes and our own class journey in life so King's Hill seemed the perfect place to understand the taste of Britain's new upwardly mobile middle-class suppose our middle class myself I mean I live in Islington I think I'm a fully paid-up member of the chattering classes and I feel kind of uncomfortable here they looked like the houses that middle-class people live in but they're cleaner there's no litter there's no mess I feel like an anthropologist who has wandered into a different tribal territory here's how I work as an artist I take a lot of photographs and I use them to make the sketches which will form the basis of my tapestry designs my first social engagement was a Sunday afternoon pink champagne and cupcakes party which I was told is typically Kings Hill I wanted to understand the taste decisions my new host made so I enlisted locals Lucy and Caroline to help me dress for the occasion I don't know what these sort of people be expecting me to wear they'll be expecting you to wear something that is a known designer brand but not blatantly having the label flashed or later so it's subtly money but it's not blatant the type of thing will be appropriate see something like with this lining yeah something like this that shows that something obviously has cost a decent amount of money yeah it's the detail you're kind of giving off signal it's like the little kind of birds in the forest they're going yeah you are giving our signals to your social group that you're I'm one of you and this is our detailing ah this is that way yeah because look see how had the marble be another likely moment inside right you've got lilac detailing yeah we're going for that one here as well is that good detail absolutely perfect are your dust bag for the shoe very important yeah then you can take the day in perfect for driving in you're not going to damage the hair what kind of car would I arrive in mind sport yes okay so how do you feel curiously I feel a bit more kind of corporate I feel sort of like I'm holding too many sort of the brand thing is troublesome to me but you've still got the hair at the moment if it unkempt head of a creative on a Kings Hill man's party my hostess for the party was recruitment consultant Kate who moved to Kings Hill five years ago I haven't yet worked out what my future colors gonna be so I've just kept it silver at the moment color wise I wanted I wanted a color that was gold and silver and so myself and the lady in the interior design shop came up with the word Gilver everything I was looking for was a bit of Gill of a wallpaper and Gilver fair brainer so it's sort of half and half so it's not that sort of it's a bit metallic yes so it just had that sort of glamorous sort of you know Sheen to it what have you bought into here teasing it's just got that sort of village type feel to it that's because it's a destination everybody's come here so everyone's bought into that so it's an interesting sort that idea that everybody's chosen to be here yeah nobody's born here no we all came and saw right so you've got to keep the gardens quite tidy and you've got to keep your house quite nice and that yeah I can I can buy it so people that we've got a vested interest to make it work we're all the same people in blue water all together buying the same thing you're all middle-class yeah I'd say so it was Kate's cupcakes that kept catching my eye I could see why they were sent true to the party they signaled in control on-trend middle class domesticity we didn't have to eat them it was just clear that that's what they meant what do you think is iconic representative of middle-class tastes what make what makes a choice middle-class Shirley middle classes you have aspiration aspiration to what to live a life better maybe than you did when you were growing up what do you think there's just middle-class or do you think there's upper middle class and lower middle class well how would you describe upper middle class and lower well I I think to be honest I'm moving towards the upper middle classes and purely because of my income actually because why what I can afford to buy you know in terms of cars and holidays and houses it's just about income they're getting to the upper middle class I think personally I think so this yeah that's a significant factor if you're successful you can afford to choose the car that you want rather than didn't have the car that you need so I think I do opens more doors it's about being able to yeah have more choices it's not about taste I wouldn't want to have a car that was overstated if you know what I mean actually so what's up the car will be overstated well certainly something like a Bentley or something something like that actually but you know around here you know I mean Range Rovers a 10 a penny to be honest yeah but anything more than that to me is is not appropriate for this area I was realizing my peoples taste was for brands here it wasn't because they were any greedy or possessions than other people it was because they wanted to get it right so they liked the clarity of meaning that a known brand could convey the priorities I saw of the people that lived in Kings Hill were different from what I expect of I suppose my Islington tribe I think people are struggling to find out how do you become middle-class what do you demonstrate that people would desperately wanted quite tight rows and you could see in their houses and the cleanliness of things and the perfection of things and the symmetry of things and the neatness of things but the most revealing taste which shall I attended in King's Hill was the Jamie at home cookware party that's when I saw what all the brands were really saying still find him very aspirational a lot of our products are sort of aspirational products that look pretty that you can cook with and serve with as well if you bought like Tupperware in the past or in the 1970s now the idea was that you had everything in your kitchen that kind of matched but that's not the same anymore why do you think that is I've individually picked it out very classy items and made them all look like they're supposed to be there but he's actually created it so you could buy all your Jamie Geer yeah it would look like yourself picked it up a little bit in the French yeah and a little bit in kind of Conran a little bit in a car boot sale yeah and I've just got an eye for tasteful items around my house except I have them it also weighs I've all come from Jamie you think it's that sort of middle-class taste is filtering down or is it a reaction against working-class tastes a bit of that actually so it's a reaction it's working faster I think that's my fillet yeah and I think we're almost always looking all the time to be a little bit different to them because I think it's now so easy for people to copy very very quickly Jamie could come up with something for example and then you know three weeks later you can get it in the pound shots or yeah in Georgia exactly so I think kind of tastes and it kind of always trying to be a little bit different ahead of the game if it can you just come over to the table with all the cookware because I want to ask you a question about what would represent British middle-class taste that's on this table different from what though you vowed to do absolutely succinctly I suppose what my summing up is it he's an interesting phenomenon in the context of what I'm doing in this class tasting because part of his brand is the class during totally me now he's a Iza who's actually more tasteful ahead of a lot of middle class people what I saw in Kings Hill they were caught I suppose between an idea of showing off how much you had and that you had certain brands which were easily identifiable and then not wanting to show them off so there was this sort of tug-of-war I think we saw it in the middle of one of the roundabouts this tug-of-war between wanting to be you know I've got a car but all I know it's not quite right to have that car and baby that's the kind of that they were on you know they want their people on the cusp between what we would call the the good burgers of middle class and the aspirational purchases but it was when I met Jane that I understood what Kings Hill was really offering Jane bought the show home and all its contents and moved in she even served the crackers they'd left in the cupboards here was a welcoming and comfy paradise where you could stop worrying about your taste decisions and by middle-class tastes ready-made obviously it's a trying a lifestyle and I just thought I could live here I could fit into that it was like moving into a hotel really because all I bought was my handbag it was all done I'm really struck by this idea that they're doing the choices for you because for many people all the joy of life is in having those choices but there is also anxiety about those choices as well and so to kind of rest in this kind of aesthetic duvet of a kind it's like falling back into a lovely soft pillow of where there's no choice and you kind of know it's okay it's a kind of okay choice they've made for you yeah it's restful for a lot of people the idea of moving into Kings Hill and especially moving into a show flat would be kind of really weird I think with the show flat thing I think new homes couldn't be quite scary for people because there are blank canvas and they don't want to get it wrong Jane had even made her own picture fit the taste of a show home rather than the other way around a lot of people haven't really got an idea of what they want until they see it so people are buying their dreams now people have been sold other trains I think I think it's really potent I think this place is really potent example of what's happening in society and I'm not saying it's a good or bad thing because do you know I think people really love living here but I think it's amazing symptom of modern capitalist hyper-consumption you know and the hard-working middle class is what they have to do to be happy it was in Jane's show home but the first idea for my tapestries began to take shape Kings Hill was a startup area for Britain's new middle class where the taste rules were shared and it was clear what not to do but I also knew there was more than one taste tribe out there in the middle class jungle and that the others took a very different view about taste time to head up the road to Tunbridge Wells I was making an artwork about taste in Britain and I decided to embed myself with the middle classes of Tunbridge Wells the people I'd met in nearby Kings Hill had assured me that middle-class taste was all about the right brands but I was thinking about how it might feel to leave that certainty behind and enter the territory of the other middle-class tribes at the Tunbridge Wells vintage Fair I met the anthropologist Kate Fox so Kate if we are in Tunbridge Wells which I'm assuming is a very middle-class place how do we know it's a very middle-class place apart because we've all heard it's the quintessential middle-class place but I think in terms of sort of what defines or identifies the middle classes it's not what most people think it's not judged or identified by either your income or your occupation there's absolutely no point asking people how much they are no relevance at all really virtually none it's actually all judged on speech manner and taste lifestyle choices clothes what you eat what you wear your children's names the pets you keep do be intuitive we do we have this inbuilt or GPS class radar system and how do they develop be aware of it I think from a very young age the middle classes are almost by definition it's the class that does not know its place and therefore is likely I mean it's originally the sort of merchant class you know they weren't the workers they weren't the landowners they were the self-made people all of the middle classes if you go back one maybe two three generations a sort of self-made you know they've struggled they've got where they are their parents or grandparents have got them where they are that why the middle classes they don't they're unsure their place they're unsure of their place so they want to appear more sure of their place so they try too hard and they also want to appear good virtuous respectable that they deserve their place I put Kate's ideas to the test by snooping around some of the more established middle class houses of Tunbridge Wells serene Norman have lived in their Victorian villa for more than 50 years these we bought 40-something years ago the funny exhibition in Hampstead it's a sense of duty of respect if friends gives us a piece of pottery we will respect it and put it on display and a lot of our friends more conventionally Tommy Chong's would say you have funny sue to go Gary and your health print you see is my father bought that in 1926 when he went to Cambridge and that's only about thirty years after it was painted that's interesting his name yes you know and he loved and had it every when it's grown up with me I just love it I like this painting on this wallpaper very much forgotten his name it was long ago back at Trinity this is this William Morris wallpaper it is what sue in Norman's taste spoke of to me wasn't money but a different kind of capital cultural capital the sum of all the knowledge education and culture that worked so hard to accumulate we have Jimmy funny things like these these have just arrived from TK Maxx of course 799 I think just the thing on that's interesting and the fact you say that they're from TK Maxx is very telling it's kind of like love taken but you say it to me says you have the confidence or maybe you even want me to know that you have the confidence to say that they have you you can shop from TK Maxx we feel completely confident we about what we choose to say and the cot in the terms of which we put I don't hesitate to I was learning something crucial from sue in Norman the important taste divide in British life wasn't between working-class and middle-class tastes it was within the different tribes of the middle class itself between Kings Hill on the one hand an old Tunbridge Wells on the other took the Berlin Wall of British tastes on one side of the divide clear rules and brands on the other the need to show you could play around with the rules once I started to see it that way every single object in middle class houses seemed freita dwith an awareness of which side of the divide it was on well I suppose you could get one that would look right but I'd always know it was DFS it's very confusing I thought what I'm I don't know whether I did like something before it became fashionable or whether it's the validation that makes me realize I like I don't know Amanda's house is a temple to modern retro vintage she made me realize that cultural capital isn't something the middle classes inhabit effortlessly they worry away at how best to demonstrate it one knowing juxtaposition of objects after another is that an ER culture no Danish Danish teak I found in a charity shop how much did you pay for that I haven't told my husband yet and how would you think you would characterize your style because it is very distinctive well it's what I like where do you think you're like comes from in it I don't I really I really don't know and I get a lot of stuff comes in and I think that just that was a terrible mistake and why did I buy it and it goes straight out again so I don't necessarily know until I get it back whether it is gonna work I do know it's a mistake yeah and what make what how do you know it's a mistake well it's maybe a bit naff actually what's doing kitsch you've got kids toys there yes they're not any old kids toys are they what that one is what one this one the one hiding behind that the ripsaw they've got a very lovely Wendy house out there did did they choose the color no take a picture of you I mean it's a lot it's one of the most tasteful windy houses I've seen in a long time tell me about your loo come show me your loo quite interested in your loop tell me about this these I think they called Daruma dolls if we put these out we have absolutely have to do it but it's interesting that the yeah we all know that anybody comes to our house they usually will go to the loo and usually people put up like their you know their degree certificates or like a map of their estate that's quite an interesting spin on it it's very retro things in here do you get from a closing down junk shop in Scotland on holiday yeah and was it important to you that you found them yeah it does mean a lot that it's found and it's cheap it is a thrill when I'm looking through living etc magazine oh I see they've got a chair that I've got any sort of think no it's a validation yes was it what are they validating by having the same chair issue do you think my taste I suppose Persie saying you're right it is nice and everybody else thinks it's nice well no kind of thing the vintagey nature of her things was important to Amanda because it proved that she wasn't just shopping it was more like curating by a lighting on things she was bestowing her individuality apartment amanda was giving me the idea for my second tapestry about middle-class taste it was going to be still life where every object would be pregnant with the emotions behind middle-class taste what I needed to understand now was what those emotions were it was clear from my time in Tunbridge Wells that middle-class taste was about so much more than Farrow & ball paint and caskets and bags those were the outward symbols but I wanted to understand what was behind them if her Victoria middle-class person wanted to prove they were good citizen they went to church in the 20th century they had the WI and a Rotary Club now in the 21st century the upstanding modern middle-class person does the ritual of the farmers market they come here to prove their organic credentials so many modern middle-class tribal affiliations are about food every increasing numbers of them tell you they've become intolerant to the basic proletarian substances like milk and bread but I don't think it's all just a fad I think it's a key to a deeper truth about modern middle-class tastes incredibly chubby people careering around eating super enriched sweet biscuits processed pies and food you know have they been sold to until they think I want to write to me 35 buns and sit back and watching date and telling Julian owns a chain of local gastro pubs after we had foraged for our locally sourced lunch I asked him what he thought Tunbridge Wells people were trying to say about themselves through their taste decisions about food is that an ironic pork pie I see in terms of the look of the gastropub is sort of interesting there's a kind of puppy element to it now they're shiny black seems to feature quite a lot in a gastropub yeah because it seems to suggest old okie puppy thing going there let's cut through it may be shiny modern as well so there's a little bit of this is a lovely old pub but we've got modern values here it looks shabby in lovely but actually though the wallpapers you know colfax and file or all the chairs are beautiful and lovely and have been reconditioned tell me about your sofa a handmade bar effect like in Norfolk but does look 80 years old that was stress than a he's at our age do you want it would you save a sort of tribe that you cater for our less consumerist save people that live in a place like Kim's hell no were as equally consuming as any other as any other class but maybe our badges are slightly different and we like to think our badges are slightly more hidden a bit more clever a bit more knowing what we stand for and what we you know what we choose to do we think they're not easy you know Ghosh's the the what used to be referred to as the lower orders you know they're all doing something which is entirely money driven and were pretending to do something that's entirely knowledge driven well actually they're both you know the inner they're both equal but they're you know what they're equal in different ways aren't they this group seemed more confident in their taste than the kings here one but there was self-doubt here as well they were proud that they weren't brand consumers but they felt guilty that they consumed just as much Claire was hosting the local MCT mother and baby get-together that week I wanted to explore the anxiety I was sensing with the group it seems to me like quite an anxiety Laden business being middle-class are things I'm giving Alok toxic for him that's one thing that you know talk about organic baby clothes because pesticides and cotton yeah we had you think these things are marketed at they kind of what they suspect our middle class the anxieties if you therefore a seen to be purchasing and using these green products that all has a bit of kudos yeah yeah it makes you look like your middle class anxieties petty feel ooh your Gertz Florence loves them and I think they're brilliant and then I looked at the sugar content and then last night my husband and I were researching on the internet the best yogurts and from our food I mean how ridiculous is that yeah as a middle class person I anger know is over taste decisions no like for instance I agonized over what to wear to present this TV project I spent the whole day going search at the right jacket oh I don't know is that guilt for wrong signals or is that too flashy or that detail that's a bit trendy and you know I was obviously very successful because it looks like I just threw it on Wow and that therefore I have accomplished middle-class person so I have agonized over looking effortless every single taste decision these people made they scrutinized with an internal CCTV that's why they went to the vintage fair not DFS their choices had to make them feel like authentic individualist s' and for them individuality came from recycled old things at markets not from branded new things in consumer stores I couldn't quite see why one was better than the other but it was striking how much they saw taste in moral terms but there was one ritual I had to undergo if I was to understand this group I was invited to a dinner party that evening for drinks when they come in I'm thinking pink bubbles to get everybody a bit sort of party part you know we're gonna have the goat's cheese starter tap an art as well there please I often like to explore my transvestitism in my work and as I had already dressed as Kings Hill man the dinner party was an opportunity to see how it felt to dress like Tunbridge Wells woman could I get the taste decisions right Tunbridge Wells resident Amanda agreed to help me why is tarty so bad well um you don't want to be walking around looking like you're trying to sell yourself because it suggests that you're desperate in some way that's an interesting thing because often it's like you've got to look like you're not really trying absolutely that's very Jesse that would be very Tunbridge Wells Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf that's why I feel like I feel like a 1950's alcoholic housewife and it's not quite big enough there's nothing worse than going in something too tight especially before region whoa well I really like that idea maybe yes and it moves with you that honest a hundred percent honest how many courgettes did you get I've seen lot more time for two minutes about seven or eight I much prefer them for the allotment I particularly want to come to a middle-class dinner party because I think it is the central ritual of the middle classes I think it's a place where many anxieties and kind of rules of engagement I've been shopping in a chain what about my look I was trying to do so I've been judged and found wanting taste for the middle classes is about the vanity of small differences what do you think we know that I should pull on the middle-class temperature what is the sort of themes and specific things I should put on angst I think underpinning all middle-class tastes it's an unconscious attempt to project the idea that I am a good person and we all have different priorities and it might be I am doing alright I dragged myself out of the working class and I look I've got a lovely shiny house and a shiny car and a shiny wife or wherever all I'm saying look I'm a respectable member of the citizen I contribute and I know the rules or I'm groovy I know the rules but I'm going to kind of send them off up this you know is a different version of being a good person I want to save the planet for my children for all the for all the other people in the world so there's different versions of saying I am a good person my tapestries about middle-class taste were going to be a challenge if I got the slightest detail wrong this tribe wouldn't just think I'd been unobservant they'd see it as a moral lapse back from my trip to Tunbridge Wells it was time to distill the experiences I'd had and the people I'd met into the to tapestries I was making about middle-class taste I was going to echo william Hogarth and the story he tells in a rakes progress about a young man called Tom rake well and his journey through the Society of his day my hero is called Tim rate well but what is rise for the modern middle classes strike a chord with the people I'd met in Kings Hill and Tunbridge Wells the first place we went for the middle classes was King's Hill and my immediate impression of it of it was some modern commercialized utopia and people buying into it lock stock and barrel cuz they were all incomers to this utopia and of course the biblical story that immediately sort of came into my mind thinking about paradise was Adam and Eve being expelled from paradise Tim our character he goes to university to study computing and he meets his nice middle-class girlfriend there and they are expelled from paradise they passed through the rainbow into the traditional Tunbridge Wells drawing-room with the william morris willow pattern wallpaper and this fourth tapestry is the Annunciation of the sell-off and so I wanted to do an Annunciation as a classic biblical old master scene and so in this scenario his business partner who is like an angel has come to say yes we've sold the company to virgin for 270 million pounds for fronting centuries I have still-life of the upper middle classes the calf the air is the chalice if you like of the middle class religion is the central icon which is why it crops up in the Ben Nicholson picture in the previous tapestry and then next of that there are the penguin book mugs which I think exemplifies yes we read you know we know a bit retro bit game vintage is very much thing this is the class that are most aware of the meaning and status of the things they buy these are the people you know that the whole taste phenomenon is their most self-conscious about just leaving a scattering of children's toys was even a taste decision about what toys will be left lying around you know you know and they will desk but to me individuals that's that's the sort of tragedy of it really is that you know we all like to think we're individuals until we see that there's lots of other people there just as individual as we are I don't worry about this of holding up the sacred idea that everything has to be done with the human hand I don't want some little Afghan child in a tent weaving it I'm quite happy to come here to Belgium to a high-tech industrial unit and and see a modern grassman Wow well this is a readable as well that's brilliant although every all the little names in her jacket are readable yeah on the glasses I wanted to look like she had pink or purple lenses but on Photoshop is a fairly easy thing to do did they say you could just drop it you can just drop in a little filter over that area of the glasses so it looks like she's got tinted lenses then to weave that it's phenomenally subtle I mean there's dozens of different colors in in their area and they've all had to be toned down as if they're behind a filter it's bonkers for me digital technology has has thrown back on myself what I want because with Photoshop and with this amazing technology you've got to make a complete choice you can do anything and so it's made me come face to face with Grayson per meanness which is quite odd I think it's quite telling that when we've invited the people to come here and see these tapestries by far the greatest response was from the people of Tunbridge Wells the middle class is in many ways I had the most fun when I was making these tapestries because I didn't worry about denting the pretensions of the middle classes because they're fully aware of them themselves a lot of the time so therefore I was I felt quite free to lacerate and enjoy every little nuance of organic knick-knacker II knew that was going on [Laughter] have a party yes people might recognize some of their knickknacks at here and other people might even recognize themselves yes and the Jamie Oliver misses Jamie Oliver the god of class mobility up I like you've gone for help pink t-shirt we go if I can you name them a my little heart from the hallway there obviously obligatory in film you recognize it the conversation I have with you really stuck with me when I asked you know why why people buy the show flat and you said well there's a lot of choice out there and this is okay nice to have it changed yeah and I thought that was a I thought that you summed up there in a got a moment at the whole kind of condition of the little passes and they're organizing and the thank you but as you become aware because as you travel up is where you come more and more aware of the choices you're making and that's a curse as well as a blessing sorry granny you recognize that somehow because this is based on your hallway I thought the combination of your kind of Nicholson s on that wallpaper it summed up cultural capital for me I knew that you wouldn't have those cushions I thought you'd never have had a beauty and Jack Christian I'm Oh bless you there is one in the front room is that yeah he's beautiful it's really beautiful validation well the thing I'm thinking knows is it is it there because you do like it or you because because you think it's really you know personified some of the classes in a terrible way you know I'm leading class so I kind of you know I took it on board I looked at these and I felt really like I've come home in some ways I find there's not enough turbulent act I don't you know I mean speaking honestly I don't actually identify myself when you're summing up the condition of this picture which is a desperation to be an individual well god this is actually yeah I mean I am yeah maybe that sir but that's a good that's a good condition to be suffering because you're gonna fail in the final program I travel to the Cotswolds and I make two tapestries about upper-class taste so what upper-class taste is is that what you have now well I know what Sunday's snobbish the whole possibly it is well I knew that I'm doing very much not what my father hoped I'd be doing did he ever buy any paintings no oh when he's got a collection of Hitler's speech you

  1. Wow , my worst nightmare to live amongst these jumped up tasteless steriotypes !! I prefer an old jeep and a run down old country house any day ! and Gilver as a color ? must look up where that is to NEVER go there !!

  2. Presenter is worried about looking "effortlessly middle class" yet has no issues with his crooked, yellow/brown teeth!

  3. This is very interesting. This began in an interesting way, the shop girl with her mid-drift showing vs the more classy Kate.

  4. I'd buy the model house with the furniture simply to save myself the time and bother of going furniture shopping. I cant think of anything worse.

  5. aspiration to bullshit … spend more than reasonable. Britain
    What if a 1999 Volvo v70 is the car you desire? You still go for the Range?
    It's all ready-made keeping up with the Joneses gone catalog mental.

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