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0 EUROPE: A BRIEF WALKING TOUR Melissa Soforic New College of Florida, 2008 ABSTRACT five countries in summer of 2007. While abroad I kept a journal detailing my experience s and immediate observations; the work in this exhibition stems from observations made in the journal, and is enhanced by my previous studies in foreign language and landscape painting. Classic European landscape paintings by Claude Monet and Claude Lorrai n are influential, as are the word images of Ed Ruscha and Barbara Kruger. The character and identity of these foreign locations vary significantly, yet certain similarities are inherent; themes of travel, language, and landscape all interact to create di stinct regional identities in the exhibition. The role of the tourist and the limited understanding afforded to them is also prominent in the exhibition. Juxtapositions of personal photography and stereotypical imagery interact in the space, abstractly rel aying my first experiences abroad to the viewer, occupying both the role of artist and tourist; one's familiarity of the imagery and languages present in the work affects their interpretation, alternately permitting or limiting personal projection into the work. Barry Freedland Division of Humanities
1 EUROPE: A BRIEF WALKING TOUR BY MELISSA SOFORIC A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Barry Free dland Sarasota, Florida December, 2008
2 Contents: Thesis Europe: A Brief Walking Tour 2 23 Figure List 24 29 Bibliography 30 32
3 Part 1: Background Context The work in this thesis collection is inspired by various observations made while traveling through Europe in the summer of 2007. While abroad, I visited six cities in three weeks: Moscow, Kassel, Berlin, Rome, Barcelona, and Amsterdam. No more than three days were spent in any given city, with several days dedicated solely to travel. It was my first trip out of the country; it also happened to be my first trip to any major city in the United States, with the exception of the tourist capital of Orlando, Florida, where I u sed to live and work. The fast pace of the trip is inherently reflected in the work, which also presents various superficial views or facets of these cultures that were founded in personal observation. The works either present my personal experiences as a tourist considered common and relatable, or cultural characterization and comparison. I had vague preconceived notions of these locations. To some extent, the abstract ideas I had of these locales shaped the trip as it was being planned. Several destinatio ns were selected because of my interest in the language. Others were chosen because of their significance to my studies, or personal interest generated through media depiction. Much of the work is documentary of my experiences and observations from abroad; this is natural considering the source material referred to throughout the exhibition. Personal photographs, a travel journal, and a collection of various regional brochures and tourist guides supplement the work.
4 While abroad I had my first experiences with many forms of travel and lodging. These experiences are thoroughly recorded in the travel journal featured in the exhibition. While in Europe, I took many pictures and kept a journal detailing my experiences. The collection of photographs functions as source material for various projects, including several paintings and drawings. The journal I kept serves as readily available material, functioning both as a sort of first hand recollection of the trip, and as a source of text to incorporate into selec t works in the exhibition. The journal is not necessary to appreciate the work; however, stereotype and iconographic imagery become more prevalent to the viewer's interpretation of the work when the journal is absent from consideration of the exhibition. I f one does take the time to peruse the journal, insight into various subtle inside jokes and travel references in the work may be found. The journal is prominently and openly displayed on a pedestal near the front of the exhibition space, inviting the view er to take a look. My personal experiences and observations as a tourist and an artist are in the journal, providing more context for the work than just the viewers own potentially vague preconceived notions of these locations. T he work explores four fun damental interacting themes: landscapes, tourist observation, language, and travel. It is ultimately intended to be displayed in six distinct sections, with one introductory section and five representative of each region visited. The introductory section specifically relays my experiences abroad, establishing the idea of travel. The other sections are more indicative of individual cultural observations. Personal
5 observations feature prominently in several of these works as well. Both knowledge of a region and time spent in a location affect the amount of work presented for each region. The themes of cultural and tourist stereotype appear subtly throughout the exhibition. In my work, stereotype is used to provide a cultural caricature. Caricaturization is u sed in this exhibition to invoke cultural comparisons between these locations and my home region, and often incorporate historical landmarks, souvenir items, or corporate logos. A highly superficial representative style is adopted, using culturally relevan t or significant imagery to stand in where more in depth knowledge of the people or region is lacking. A similar, though significantly hardened, conceptual approach to stereotype is taken by Barbara Kruger and Kara Walker, whose work is influential to the aesthetic created in this exhibition. Walker views stereotype as a display of notions concerning the formation of social identity as held by both whites and ruger views stereotype as a superficial stand in, intended to take the criticism of an absent figure. Stereotype functions in some areas of the exhibition as a stand in for a specific culture or group. Tourists, travelers, and even regional character are r eferenced in the work. At times, knowledge of these various groups is intentionally absent or ignored, and skewed in its presentation. This is a cultural parallel to the feminist notion of the stereotype addressed by Barbara Kruger. The significant lack of information also references the fast pace and
6 superficial level of investigation afforded to me on my walking street tour of Europe. In an interview with W. J. T. Mitchell, Kruger claims, embodied, or lives, is no longer there, there is a rampant sort of rushing in of caricature and stereotype and true, but since the body is absent, it can no longer be Kruger specifically addresses stereotype with regards to gender and economic issues. In this exhibition a similar ideology is held, but with specific regards to matters of cultural identity. Her statement regarding the smashing of stereotypes raises questions of what the stereotypes portrayed in this exhibition are exactly and whether they necessarily need to be smashed. I present classic representative views of these regions and groups, and my stereotypes are rooted in personal observation and cultural generalizations discerned through media depiction. Certain stereotypes referenced in the exhibition come from visitor's guides from these locations. In most instances when stereotype is considered in this exhibition, its previous associations are not necessarily smashed. Instead, they are emphasized for the viewer to conside r or even relate. Considering my role as an observant artist and tourist educated in the ways of the tourist, this focus on characterization and representation is understandable. When regional stereotypes emerge, they reflect how these regions stereotyped and characterized themselves.
7 The work in this exhibition relays personal experience and observations made while abroad. These observations are often based in comparison, which inevitably references a perspective distinct to the United States. Several wor ks have aesthetics paralleling cultural observations from abroad and observations from the United States. Intentionally sensationalized, touristy images are used in the exhibition to cement these locations' identities as tourist destinations; this is signi ficant, because that is explicitly the context in which I am familiar with them. Various cultural comparisons in this exhibition come from the blatantly tourist oriented city of Orlando, Florida. This is significant, because I lived in the Orlando area fo r several years, and worked for the Disney Corporation. I plan on returning there for work after school, as well. My personal experiences and perceptions of the tourist gained while in Orlando were reflected in my behavior abroad, and consequently, in the work as well. Because of my previous observations, while abroad I was able to observe the tourists, taking in their idiosyncrasies. I take the perspective of an aware tourist observer, as well as a tourist. The work guides the viewer through the exhibition space, from destination to destination, providing a tour of my experiences and observations from abroad. Part 2: Work Discussion by theme Various themes interact in this exhibition to create layers of thematic significance to the work. These resurf acing themes inadvertently reveal my
8 own personal interests to the viewer. Observation of regional landscape and language both recall my previous studies. The attention to tourist behavior reveals my interest in, and possibly my previous experience with t ourists. The street aesthetic of these locations interacts with travel imagery cohesively, representing the immediate experience abroad. In this exhibition, the street aesthetic incorporates street signs and architectural references to specifically referen ce personal observations made while walking through the streets. The installation layout and its relevance to the interpretation of the work are also critical, further tying the idea of travel through Europe to the exhibition. Tourist/Tourism Observatio n Works depicting tourists vary in their characterization. The behaviors and actions of tourists in my work draw from stereotype to exaggerate or illustrate comparisons or perceptions of tourists in the work. Tourist focused works are also useful for displ aying cultural norms and comparisons. In a way these representations function as social commentary on a very specific, yet at the same time varied, group of people. When considering the range of socioeconomic backgrounds of individual travelers, along with the various forms of international travel and lodging, a broad spectrum of people share the title of tourist. The stereotyping of tourist behavior is inherently a way to dichotomize my behavior as a tourist from other possibly negative perceptions of US t ourists abroad.
9 When considering the tourist, it is important to observe how the tourist destination is marketed. Several pieces present the viewer with how I felt these regions marketed themselves. The concept of the souvenir is utilized in several piece s to highlight cultural projections of character. These projects incorporate the postcard format and screen printing to reference the mass production inherent to the medium. Indicative of cultural comparis abstractly recreate a photo taken while in Red Square. In the photo, three men in Shrek, Mickey Mouse, and Spongebob costumes were dancing about, po sing for photographs for one hundred rubles each. These iconographic animated characters' appearance contrasted starkly with the more traditional Russian religious icon imagery; this is carried further in the postcards, which replace the traditional Rus sian Orthodox icon with contemporary U.S. pop culture icons Mickey Mouse, Shrek, and Spongebob Squarepants. The work strong socially upheld Orthodox background and the strongly poli ticized setting of Red Square contrast starkly with the apparent U.S. corporate cultural presence in the region. This piece presents the U.S. cultural influence in Moscow as inherently corporate, but with a cartoon face. In the postcards, the cartoon figur es have replaced those of the holy trinity, which is conceptually jarring, yet visually familiar.
10 The background setting of the postcard is composed of Andrew Moscow. (Lazarev 25) The bold colors and simplified forms of the setting interact well with the cartoon characters incorporated into the image. These images are being contrasted specifically because the photograph of these characters was taken in an area of Red Square th at was populated with religious iconography. The piece presents these cartoon characters as the unconventionally juxtaposed imagery is intended to surprise the viewer at first glance, perhaps cr eating a sense of mild unease at encountering the familiar in such an unfamiliar setting. work derivative of the traditional Russian souvenir, the Matryoshka doll. A pop culture twist i s put on the classic toy, in a sense playfully merging U.S. and Russian cultures through culturally representative toys. The piece consists of a personal collection of rubber ducks carefully cut in half and nested within one another. The ducks featured in the piece were, in fact, souvenir items acquired from acquaintances, family members, and random gift shops. They mimic the form of the matryoshka doll in an attempt make the object more Russian in character. The ducks are carefully split and arranged; thi s care removes any pretense of mutilation that may otherwise be suggested. The ducks, which were clearly bought in the United States, have
11 been slightly modified to become derivative of the Russian matryoshka doll. A simple transformation changes one souv enir art object to another. taken while in Moscow, further investigates the tourist destination, presenting a desolate view of a tourist attraction found in Moscow. The image is potent ially alienating to a viewer from the United States because of its stereotyping of U.S. culture. The Cyrillic alphabet indicates that the vision of attraction, located on a histo rically scenic street that was renovated into a tourist trap. The signs were in Russian; the restaurant was intended for either locals, or other, non U.S. tourists. They essentially marketed their view of U.S. culture for amusement. These references could be alternately amusing or alienating to tourists from the United States, depending on their temperament. The painting, which depicts the building front of the "American Uncle cult ure to tourists. The varying political and social stigmas that are widely associated with the U.S. citizen abroad are approached in this painting. Stereotypical iconography alluding to U.S. Aggression is incorporated. American flags appear repeatedly acr oss the building front, which could be seen as demarcating the zone. An especially domineering Uncle Sam adorns the cafe's neon sign, and a wooden cowboy stands out front. The campy characterization of the United States is potentially alienating to viewers from the United States. The figure of Uncle Sam is more exaggerated in his
12 surliness, the cowboy in front of the restaurant almost condescending in his jolly simplicity. The modified color and composition of the painting from the original photograph are i ntended to instill in the viewer a subtle sense of unease and hesitation. figures in silhouette, a male and a female in each frame. The blackening of the figure obscures identity and even permits the viewers to insert themselves into the landscape. These figures are postured to create to a loose didactic specifically, they take the form of backpackers. My brother and I inspi re the forms of these figures, the drawings representing our experience. These figures are oversized, traveling through the various landscape scenes carefully, adopting oftentimes catalog poses. Considering the cautious posturing of the figures within the landscape, along with their relative scale, it is clear that they are actively interested in their setting and conscientious of their environment. The posturing of the figures reflects my own temperament while abroad. Street Aesthetic/Travel The opening space to the exhibition nearest the entrance firmly establishes the concept of the travel experience as key to the interpretation of the exhibition. The idea of backpacking though the streets is explored in several works in this section. The travel journal is displayed on a pedestal in
13 the front of the exhibition, accessible for viewers to look through if they would like. It gives more insight and character to the exhibition, and contextualizes ries of drawings that explores the experience of travel, is mounted on the wall of the exhibition, the piece a reference to the sheer bulk and weight of the backpack carried whi le abroad. The weight suggested in this piece changes the viewer's interpretation of other works featuring backpack imagery, adding another dimension to the initial idea of rushing about abroad. The works in this area of the exhibition allude to the brief walking tours taken while abroad. This initial focus on the travel motif is more subtly reinforced in various works throughout the exhibition. This focus on travel suggests to the viewer that they should view the surrounding exhibition as a trip of sorts. They are tourists through my guided tour of perceptions from Europe. The travel motif is closely linked to street imagery in the rest of the exhibition, reinforcing the idea of a walking tour through the city streets. Street signs, maps, and train refer ences surface, reiterating the significance of travel to the understanding of the work. Several hand made street signs appear in the exhibition. They crudely replicate signs specifically not encountered while abroad. The street signs appearing in this exhi bition innocuously reference my personal experience abroad; they feature the names of streets where my brother and I got lost. The prevalence and positioning of these street signs in the gallery reinforces the idea of walking through a narrow street.
14 While the handmade quality of the signs is crude, their color palette is accurate. This permits intentional distortions of the form of the sign, without losing the immediate legibility of the form as a street sign. ore architectural the overall fragmented with age aesthetic of the structures and streets. This fragmentation of architectural fronts inspired a screen printing project, titled but imperfect, surface. The smooth wall surface is delicate and will likely scratch; any scratches reinforce the fragmented nature of the original surface being replicated. On the wall a series of four images that exemplify the Roman street aesthetic are repeatedly screen printed in the overall pattern of the Italian flag. A pub crawl flyer and two images of show horses were selected as a reference to the Roman aesthetic based in my pe rsonal observations of the region where I stayed. The piece stylistically replicates the aesthetic of the cracked and crumbling plaster walls. The wall is superficially overlaid with representative Italian street imagery to tie an aesthetic representation of the region to a structural representation. Language/Text Several of the works in this exhibition reflect my studies of foreign languages and cultures; the Spanish, German, and Russian languages are featured in pieces pertaining to their respective reg ions. The degree of
15 legibility, along with the featured language of texts, creates a more or less alienating effect based on each individual viewer. One's knowledge of a language, or lack thereof, gives the image a potentially different interpretation. Bot h the contextual and visual facets of language are paramount to several works. Text has a broad presence in the art community, and is considered by artists like Barbara Kruger and Ed Ruscha to be a medium. Kruger uses language in her art to inspire thought about philosophical or political matters, whereas Ruscha uses text and language in an ironic, even acerbic manner. Ruscha has made countless literal and pop culture references throughout his career, oftentimes observing these cultural staples from unique perspectives. For example, his screen prints observing the Hollywood sign from various angles and in disrepair raise serious implications of the state of art, its significance, influence, and permanence. (Ruscha, 209) He essentially uses the word as an obj ect in his work. Barbara Kruger uses text to approach the significance of feminism, and its misconceptions. In several pieces Kruger superimposes suggestive phrases with allusions to feminism or misogyny over banners that partially obscure a signi ficantly cropped or edited, yet recognizable, photograph. One of her most recognizable image, a straight on portrait of a classically beautiful woman, and divides the image, sug gesting some sort of inner struggle. She superimposes a red banner sporting a loaded yet ambiguous feminist statement. Her cropping of the image is intended to either disturb or invite the
16 viewer. Kruger's aesthetic is stark and simple. Her use of language ranges from subtle to explicit in the various incarnations of this image, which also appeared as a pro choice flyer in Washington DC in 1989. (Kruger, 58) The combination of iconic photographic image and leading text is appropriated in this exhibition, pr edominantly in the form of the souvenir poster. Edward Ruscha is another artist who works predominantly with text stylistic elements that relate to the literal definition of the word depicted in his word images. Most succinctly characterized in the second volume of his catalog raisonne, have a connecting link in continuity, spontaneity and humor, preferring to set problems for the viewer rather than explain things through storytelling. He respects the power of words yet urges us to accept them in a world of He also approaches foreign language in an illustrative, caricatural way. For example, his work "Adios" (1969) (fig. 8) is a depiction of the word "adios", which appears to be splashed across the canvas in beans, conversely a Hispanic culinary staple or derogatory reference. The work is rendered with professional graphic clarity. His literal approach to the depiction of terms is in various contextual suggestion of saliva. (Benezra, 132)
17 The use of text and language in this thesis exhibition is similarly descriptive and illustrative; it is also self referen tial. Much of the text used in these pieces originated from the travel journal. Works in this exhibition feature foreign languages as contextual signifiers. For example, the visual forms of the letters of the Cyrillic alphabet or the repetitive structure o f the German language carry significance in a piece in a separate manner than the literal interpretation of any given phrase. The interaction of the letters, words, and phrases create movement and form in several works. In this exhibition, handwriting is d typefaces, which are also hand copied throughout this exhibition Hand written text appears throughout the exhibition. However, the distinction between hand drawn fonts, creation and experimentatio n with letterforms, and hand written letterforms alters the intention of the work. Hand drawn fonts appear in several works that specifically reference a cultural aesthetic. For example, the Fraktur and Bauhaus fonts are specifically displayed in German wo rks, while the Arial font is used to replicate the street sign aesthetic. Hand drawn letterforms are referenced in screen prints, drawings, and several sculptural forms, creating a sense of the presence of the artist's hand. 12) incorporates the instructional approach to handwriting in the series' aesthetic. Executed in various foreign languages, this series of work features texts in German, Spanish, and Russian. The series consists of si x drawings with
18 accompanying text, two panels for each region featured. The drawings are taken from personal photographs, and paired with text in foreign language that is derived from relevant excerpts from the travel journal. The text retains an instructi onal aesthetic in written appearance; this is because these works are executed on the extreme wide rule paper children are given in elementary school. The wide set lines of the paper are ideal for inviting the viewer to closely inspect the quality of the a ppearance of the written word. Several panels feature experimental approaches to handwriting. Hand drawn touches are included to replicate a typeface or compliment a facet of the accompanying drawing. A series of six metal sculptures serve as exhibition markers. These word sculptures demarcate each section of the exhibition by city, each sculpture taking the form of a different cities name. The markers for Amsterdam, Berlin, and Kassel are made of steel rods and forged into the the forms of the letters have a more rounded appearance, replicating the Bauhaus typeface, and consequently alluding to the Bauhaus movement. Bauhaus is commonly regarded as a function forward, design heavy German art movement. Functionality was key to Bau haus designs, and this focus on functionality is reflected in the works intended role are forged and welded to replicate the Fraktur typeface, in homage to the history of thes
19 representation of the contraction I often used when writing, about Amsterdam The exhibition markers for Moscow, Rome, and Barcelona are cast in 14) cast in bronze, presents a stylized version of the Russian spelling of loop y aesthetic. A similar aesthetic approach to the Cyrillic alphabet is seen in other hand is a decorative recreation of my handwriting. The sign is fractured and fragmented, recalling the fr actured aesthetic associated with Rome in the hand written appearance, however, it subtly takes on the general form of the tilde. The shape of the tilde is featured both as a decorat ive touch, and as an allusion to this distinct visual form from the Spanish language. Landscapes Various views of landscape are seen in this exhibition. My expectations of the landscape while abroad were in a sense shaped by my previous studies of European landscape painting. These preconceived expectations of landscape are apparent in the work. Iconic views from nature are used in this exhibition to characterize a region. Landscapes are represented in traditional painting, representative drawing, and even abstracted collage. These differing interpretations of the landscape motif represent thematic
20 variations in character between these regions. Stylistic cues are taken from several iconic painters from the European landscape tradition. Jacob van Rui sdael, Claude Lorrain and Claude Monet subtly influence the aesthetic and ideological approach taken to landscape painting in this exhibition. The use of landscape in this exhibition is more contemplative than didactic. There are no figures to create a n arrative to the viewer; rather, they are presented with stylized, idealized views from nature. The viewer is shown what I, as the artist, value in a landscape. The idealization of these landscapes is significant, because the photographs and images fundamen tal to the compositions were taken in a relaxed, leisurely setting. The concept of the chiaroscuro of nature influenced my depiction of the landscape. John that evades artistic representation. When captured, it recreates the feeling generated in the artist by the scene from nature. (Andrews, 64) There is an inherent drama of shade and light that underlies all landscape compositions. This dynamic naturally surfaces in my paintings ; it is also explicitly explored two small compositions. The variety of textures and evocative forms in these compositions are attempts to display artistic skill. They are not necessarily symbolic, but rather, stylistic. The countryside and brisk clear at mosphere I encountered in Amsterdam recall Dutch landscapes from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The effect of brilliant golden light and reflection and refraction gave the woods an almost gilded atmospheric quality. The looming forests truly
21 rese mbled the depictions by van Ruisdael. This play of light in the landscape is explored in two small paintings presenting views from nature, taken from personal photographs. The scenic beauty of nature is presented in these 16 ), rendered in an abstracted composition. The original source photo presents an abstracted view of nature in an intentionally cropped style. The orientation of the original landscape is ambiguous. More expressive impressionist paint application further hei ghtens the abstraction of the paintings. The paintings are also influenced by French painter, Claude fractured surface, and bold colors and light effects. There is a heightened sense o f emotion and spontaneity behind the brushstrokes. The painting undoubtedly explores similar visual facets as the Bostel light studies. Roman landscape. The painting subtly stylisticall for exhaustively painting the Roman countryside; in a sense, the Roman landscape became a stylized commodity in his work. (Russell, 77) Upon first glance at the Roman landscape, its almost quilted, topographical quality was landscape sketches. This piece is a representation of my first real encounter with the Italian l andscape. It also references the experience of traveling on a train. The mobile view of the landscape while on the train inherently combines the focus on light
22 and the distinct topographical quality of the landscape. The painting frames the view of the lan dscape through a train window. In the painting, the source material of the photograph is alluded to by the incorporation a reflection of the camera in the window. These allusions are subtle, but intended to reference the immediacy with which I wanted to ex ecute the painting. Conclusion The broad variety of work featured in this exhibition, in combination with the suggested locations portrayed, emphasizes these locations' character. I project my perceptions of these locations for the viewer, with spec ific regards to language and tourism, and the viewer is left to establish individual conclusions based on personal experience or associations of the cultures portrayed. Throughout the exhibition, while a certain cultural character is alluded to with the us e of stereotype, ultimately the viewer is left to determine whether the specific associations made in my work are necessarily negative. Both the Dutch and the Russian sections explore major cultural differences as an overall motif, emphasizing the differe nce in public mentality considered in this exhibition derives from tourist guides, media depiction, and current social stigmas. For example, several pieces in the Moscow portion of the ex hibition juxtapose Russian and American imagery to either show an this. The cultural influence of the Dutch is most clearly reflected in landscape
23 in this exhibition. Overall, wh en viewed together, the works in the Amsterdam segment of the exhibition create a simple representational dynamic of inner city culture and local preserved nature. The other sections of the exhibition present my personal impressions of a region, highlig hting what I found to be particularly interesting or significant. The series of works representing Germany are spread across a section of the exhibition space representing Kassel and Berlin. Several of the works concerning Berlin are more language oriented while the works representative of Kassel almost exclusively reference the Documenta 12 exhibition. Most notable of Barcelona was the clear consideration of a public aesthetic and strong commercial presence. Consumer culture seemingly permeated the atmos phere in Barcelona. The work for the section designated for Rome explores my first aesthetic impressions of the region; it is also characterized as a historic location renowned for its art and inspiration The work in this exhibition covers a variety of to pics. But these topics intersect so frequently and so well, that they are displayed in a way that emphasizes the interactive nature of the work. There are several themes interacting throughout the exhibition; these distinct themes all serve as singular, ef fective investigations linking specific aspects of each of the cultures I encountered while abroad. These themes will reflect from section to section, making the viewer search through the exhibition to find like works. The exhibition will separate the work by region; the viewer is observing the superficial aesthetic similarities and differences of the work by region, while
24 simultaneously noting the underlying thematic similarities of the work between regions. When viewed by geographic region instead of by t heme, the work takes on a puzzle like quality. The exhibition space is fully utilized; each cultural exhibition features a variety of paintings, collages, sculptures, drawings, and more. Several continuous investigations are seen in the exhibition spac e; at times these works' competing streams of communication overwhelm the viewer. This sense of inundation is of key importance to this exhibition. The movement and flow from one work to another throughout the exhibition replicates the seamless bustle I ex perienced traveling from one destination to another. The viewer is presented with a glimpse of these various cultures, and left with a brief taste of each unique cultural experience.
28 print paper print paper print paper
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