Fad-Space

 

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Fad-Space as an exhibition epitomises my body of work this year. Through painting I have been exploring sites or areas which can neither be wholly defined as spaces of places due to their transient nature. The local and the universal have drawn closer together in the last few decades and this has led to an expansion of seemingly identical buildings worldwide. Commonly these architectural similarities exist in non-places from airports to supermarkets however this as expanded into other areas including exhibition spaces. Broadly speaking these are sites which ones passes through yet never actively occupies and therefore their spatial nature often goes unnoticed as one’s focus is on the current experience.

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I have been highlighting the spatial natures of such spaces by abstracting the buildings so that they are reduced to bare geometric forms. In a limited palette without any definable features the space itself becomes more apparent. There is a set archetypal prototype within the places I have been depicting with many modernist connotations. As a result, apparently identical buildings exist the world over so that what one viewer may identify in a painting as their local supermarket another may see as a garage many miles away.

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Chain, 183x123cm, Emulsion on canvas

As a final piece I have drawn on this notion in four paintings which are derived from two locations. They are local sites which the viewer may have passed through on the way to the exhibition and therefore the spaces should be recognisable if not wholly definable. As with the Bargehouse show I have used a gallery (university will be transformed into gallery at the time of show) and a commercial site. Both are spaces redundant without activation but which can never be permanently occupied. For the commercial site I chose the local Lidl as its expansion as a company in the last five years to over 10,000 stores across Europe epitomises the mirror like architecture of the spaces I have been looking at all year.

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Company, 91.5x76cm, Emulsion on canvas

The exterior of both spaces are depicted on the larger canvases and the interior on the smaller ones. Positioned around the room are four metal grills, both commercial tools and industrial products. These are used to reflect and extend the architecture depicted in the paintings out into the exhibition space.  The manufactured yet commercial nature of the metal echoes the industrial nature of the sites whilst the lines correspond to the equally regimented constructions on the canvases.

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Institution, 183x123cm, Emulsion on canvas

None of the paintings are actively obstructed however each one can be viewed through a grill. The grills also dictate the way one can walk around the room reflecting the hidden controls in many commercial spaces. This notion is highlighted by Gaston Bachelard who suggests that in commercial and capitalist sites one is both inside and outside the system, party to but with no controlling hand what happens and only set actions allowed. Doreen Massey echoes this, proposing that such buildings epitomise the “vesting of control over spaces in the hands of non-democratically elected owners” rather than the romanticised image of them as places of free speech. Once inside these spaces one has to adhere to their rules, actions such as loitering frowned upon.

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Establishment, 91.5x76cm, Emulsion on canvas

Martin Boyce explores the way in which recognisable spaces can be continually re-adapted and co-opted in his works. He considers the physical and psychological experience of the built environment especially in the places ‘we pass through every day’ but only ever catch a glimpse of. Boyce reduces complex forms to simple shapes and reconfigures them to give new structures, highlighting how a multitude of spaces and things can be generated from the same basis and this is something I wanted the grids to highlight in my work. The built environment is both paralleled and contrasted to give a new space whilst referencing an assembly of pre-existing similar forms.

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Martin Boyce

 

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Multiplicity

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Emulsion on acetate, 21x30x40cm

In contemporary society, originality could be seen to be becoming harder to distinguish, fashions and trends dictating certain looks and ideals so that individuality is more difficult to discern. Architecture is a prime example of this, especially in commercial sites, nearly identical buildings apparent the world over. I have been drawing on the fact that many spaces share the same features so that what one viewer may identify as a particular site may vary greatly to what the next person sees. This has commonly been through painting, abstracting spaces so that only a bare geometric framework remains and therefor the spatial quality becomes the focus.

I am experimenting with ways in which to exaggerate this spatial quality however and here I tested separating out the geometrical components of my paintings so that each section was on a separate plane which when united forms an image. In total there are seven areas forming a generic corridor which could be found in a multiplicity of spaces the world over. When aligned on a flat surface the components fit seamlessly together however when hung, each sheet separated by an inch, they do not fit together so cleanly. As the acetate is so light it fluctuates and moves constantly and therefore the image of the space is not as precise as I would have liked from the front. To overcome this the sheets would have to be united in a set frame and this would restrict how the piece could be displayed, a frame distracting from the shapes whilst making it harder to suspend.

Nobuhiro Nakanishi creates layered landscapes using photography. Each sheet is identical and could therefore be read on its own however my merging multiple pieces the works take on an immediate physicality. Individual shapes and figures become vague and the landscape appears to continue infinitely, an apparent movement captured as if each section was a film still. There is also a temporality, a suspended moment in time contrasting with the three dimensional nature of the work. He simultaneously captures an image and a space, though in my piece only the latter area proved successful.

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Nobuhiro Nakanishi

From the side my work is instantly more intriguing than the front view as the whole structure is visible and therefore the spatial connotations are exaggerated. The individual shapes can be clearly discerned and as a result the viewer has to more actively engage with the piece to imagine the structure which may be made when they join up. In this way a multitude of places could be formed rather than one individual space. The innumerable nature of contemporary space can be found in Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s definition of the city and contemporary society in ‘commonwealth’.

They propose that the metropolis is a space of the common. There is an artificiality to this commonality however as it constantly fluctuates to conform to new trends. The “metropolis primarily generates rent, which is the only means by which capital can capture the wealth created autonomously” and in this sense cities are sites for exchange rather than creation. The multitude lives within the metropolis and encompasses innumerable internal differences however despite this everyone is part of the ‘network’. The metropolis is the “skeleton and spinal cord of the multitude”, intrinsically linked the multitude live off the metropolis which runs on the multitude’s “social relations, knowledge and cultural circuits. As a result, this perpetual circle of reliance in the system is impossible to overcome, one producing the common and the other living it.  Similar spaces therefore are going to be perpetually produced, party to and controlling the network.

In a spatial sense the previous mobile like piece, ‘One-Space’, could be considered more successful as it not only work from every angle but extends beyond being a set plane into the exhibition space itself, dictating how the viewer interacts with the work. It would also work better alongside paintings, the duality between painting and sculpture bringing out the spatial quality in both components; as this piece exists as a painting already this is not such a possibility.

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One-Space

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Throughout this year, through painting, I have been exploring sites of transience. I started by labelling these as non-places however I have come to realise that this as a term is to narrow. They are more areas between space and place. Sites we pass through yet never actively occupy and therefore their spatial nature is often ignored, experience taking precedent to sight as they are a means to an end. This has encompassed a multitude of areas from parking lots to shopping centres and airports and more recently as gallery.

Marc Augé proposes that non-places are sites where people ‘break step’ waiting for something specific to occur however in most of the spaces there is not an opportunity to stop, one an ever moving passenger on a capitalist conveyor belt.  When individuals come together places become organised however it is here that the paradox of supermodernity and non-places lies as both deal with individuals when entering or leaving the site. Though spoken to as an individual from further away a participant becomes part of a crowd, anonymity instigated despite the fact that people are brought together.

In non-places one is both inside and outside the system, party to but with no controlling hand in despite the fact that these sites strive to make all “exist as a single unity”. Rather than being there one becomes entangled in “the rumours of being”. Gaston Bachelard proposes that though there is a “thunderous noise” from these spaces the world as we know no longer exists, fated to “rumble on for centuries longer”, an echo of ‘meaningless’.  Doreen Massey however suggests “the spatial organization of society is integral to the production of the social, history and politics”, space subject to the “ever-shifting geometry of social/power relations”. These sites therefore can never be fixed as they are constantly having to adapt to conform to new consumerist ideas and the advances of technology.

By abstracting these sites, I have been able to reduce them to bare geometric forms so that their spatial quality rather than function again becomes the focus. They are in a limited palette of colours without any definable characteristics so that each work has a relevance for every viewer. The spaces I am depicting have a set archetypal prototype, with many modernist connotations. In this sense virtually identical buildings litter the globe, the same features mirrored city to city the world over. Because of this what I depict as a supermarket could equally have a reference as a local station to a particular viewer, making one re-assess the non-places one associates with daily.

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I also want to exacerbate the spatial quality in my work. As a starting point for this I separated out each of the geometric shapes from my paintings this year before printing them to create more of a free standing abstract space which encompasses all the areas I have been looking at. The piece works as an abstract version of parallel architecture and though I haven’t made a space the spatial components can be analysed in potentially a closer way than the paintings. A space is constructed without ordinary spatial values and I am considering using a similar structure in the degree show alongside paintings. Similar shapes could be cut out in Perspex and be hung in the centre of the room dividing two paintings, incorporating the geometrical components of each. This could take the form of a suspended oblong shape, the same in size to an architectural model or they could be more widely scattered around the space dictating how the viewer passes through it in a similar way to how movement is dictated in the spaces depicted.

 Massey suggests that public spaces denote the “vesting of control over spaces in the hands of non-democratically elected owners” rather than the romanticised image of them as places of free speech. Once inside these spaces one has to adhere to their rules, actions such as loitering frowned upon so that there is a dichotomy between these spaces being the product of and dislocated by “heterogeneous and sometimes conflicting social identities/relations”. By extending into the space I can better control how the viewer interacts with the work. This shift between 2D and 3D plane would tie the works together, exacerbating their spatial quality whilst reflecting the mirror like nature of similar spaces the world over, each made up from identical parts.

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Toby Patterson

This duality between 2D and 3D form has been explored in different ways by Toby Patterson and Ian Monroe. Patterson’s work stems from concrete landscapes, buildings and projects influenced by modernist architecture however he re-interprets rather than reflects spaces, abstracting environments both in paint and a 3D form. Where the paintings are more evocative of a set environment the Perspex reliefs are a response to a space rather than active representation, he wants to highlight the variety inherent in space, one twist creating a new environment.

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Ian Monroe

Monroe on the other hand deploys a more specific version of perspective to challenge the viewer’s expectation of volumetric space both inviting and alienating. Idealised spaces from the office atrium, church and computer games world are discussed. All his spaces cater to or project onto us specific desires or lifestyles that maintain certain types of collective social myths. The play off between sculpture and painting bats the viewer back and forth between an experiential space and impenetrable surface, they stem from each other, the objects as if they have been extracted from the paintings but in a more abstract sense so that they are almost dematerialized. Because of this the paintings are rendered sculptural and the sculptures painterly, the perspective of the former enhanced and the latter flattened.

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Lydia Okumura

In opposition to this Lydia Okumura combines sculpture and painting to actively challenge the viewer’s perception of space blurring the line between two and three-dimensions. The site-specific installations use acrylic paint, cotton string and painted aluminium sheets, abstract geometrical compositions constructed that project into three-dimensional space from the walls and floor. Through subtle interventions, Okumura enhances one’s awareness of the exhibition space and one’s presence in it. By extending into the space I want to control how the viewer interacts with the work as Okumura demonstrates whilst using the relationship between sculpture and painting to enhance the spatial quality of each component as Monroe and Patterson highlight.

Soja coined the term Thirdspace to encompasses the ever shifting nature of spatiality, highlighting the fluctuation of events, meanings, ideas and appearances. Thirdspace is not limited by being solely a concept or construct rather a space where one can look, be, do and create. This reflects non-places, where concrete and mental constructs combine. Firstspace is said to be dictated by the real or material world and Secondspace the imagined representations of this spatiality, by combing the two in Thirdspace, Soja highlights how space in modern society can never be pinned down. Thirdspace brings together the abstract and the concrete and therefore the spoken and the unspoken. This ability to combine the “knowable and the unimaginable” (Soja, 19:56) appears to make Thirdspace a form of imagined reality, to many juxtapositions to be a concrete force, combining how one thinks something should be and how it is. By further abstracting my works the spatial nature can be enhanced.

For the piece itself I intentionally arranged the shapes in a fairly close proximity so that a cube like shape was formed for the overall piece. They are however slightly to densely backed as individual lines are hard to discern.  Broadly speaking any work bigger than 2m2 becomes architectural dictating the space and how the viewer interacts with it. By spreading the shapes more widely round a room their spatial quality may be enhanced whilst tying more closely with the paintings as individual shapes will be easier to pick out and compare.

Union & Concourse

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For the exhibition ‘Iris Turns’ in Bargehouse at Oxo Tower Wharf I chose to make two works which were dictated by and responded to the exhibition space. I have been looking at spaces of transience which need activation if they are ever to progress into becoming places. Commonly this has been non-places such as shopping centres and stations however a gallery is also a redundant site until activated by people and work in the same way as a supermarket. Consequently, the first painting is derived from the gallery, reflecting the exhibition space back on itself and the other image a nearby carpark that some viewers will have used before attending ‘Iris Turns’.

Positioned side by side they have a similar spatial quality, the white entrances or exits paralleled, and could in some sense have been taken from the same building. The precise nature of the paintings was enhanced by the decrepit nature of the exhibition space. The crumbling plaster and walls reflected the run down nature of many non-places whilst exacerbating the strictness of the architecture contained within the works. A clinicality was apparent which hadn’t been present in previous exhibitions, the works almost an homage to the architecture of modernism.

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Union, Emulsion on board, 150x88cm

Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri in ‘Commonwealth’ propose that it is impossible to challenge the structure of the globalised world, suggesting that “one primary effect of globalization is the creation of a common world, a world that we share, a world that has no ‘outside’”. Though is it possible to critique this structure everyone, despite however much they try to ignore it, is “subject to its powers of domination but also contaminated by its corruptions”. Though this is an analysis of globalisation and capitalism as a whole it does go some way in explaining the rise of spaces, a set structure and system being rolled out worldwide, the common perpetually produced. This commonality is apparent in both of the spaces depicted which could be derived from any city in the world.

As a whole feedback for the works individually and as a pair was positive, people commenting on the way in which the sterility enhanced the power of the architecture. Non-places were seen as a relevant area by many because of the way in which they reflect that society is interested in the endgame and destination rather than means; a focus on where we are going rather than where we are. The unseen is rendered visible and the viewer able to project their ‘own place’ back onto what is depicted.

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Concourse, Emulsion on board, 150x88cm

Viewers identified that one work was derived from the gallery space whilst comparing the other image with non-places they have actively associated with. Whilst in this instance the paintings worked in a spatial sense, as they provided such a contrast with the exhibition space, this has not been so apparent elsewhere. In future works where the gallery space does not lend itself to the pieces so well I need to consider exemplifying the spatial quality of my practice. This could be through constructing more of a space, finding a way of making the paintings extend into the gallery more or creating an abstracted three dimensional space. In a sculptural sense I do not want to purely create a space in a reflective sense, rather taking the geometrical forms apparent in the paintings to create a new form which references all the sites I have been discussing without being purely pictorial. As a starting point for this I am going to extract the varying forms found in my work in the last year and see how they piece/un-piece together in a more abstracted sense.

Gerard Hemsworth’s use of matt colour highlights how flat surfaces can invoke the austere simplicity of monochrome when subjective gestural marks are removed. In this sense I want to experiment with some use of colour in future works as abstraction is still apparent, though not in the strictest sense, minimal visual language employed. Hemsworth shows how when something is not wholly representational it needs to be continually re-assessed, the act of re-recognising something making one re-evaluate expectations. My paintings are potentially still to pictorial and subsequently there is not room for re-assessment and as a result I need to experiment with potentially a higher level of abstraction so that the representative quality is lessened. Gary Hume takes such an approach with his ‘Door Paintings’, ornate inlays and cornices ignored to leave behind simple geometric forms which still have an architectural resonance without actively depicting a certain building; space echoed rather than represented. Through this though there is a factual quality which I need to emulate in my work, basic geometry denoting tangible forms, ghost forms making one re-assess the real. 

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Gerard Hemsworth

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Gary Hume

Lounge

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The dimensions of life are ‘space, light and anonymity’ JG Ballard proposes in High-Rise. Though referring specifically to the routines of those living in tenement blocks the same principal could be rolled out to encompass the structures of many contemporary spaces and non-places which thrive off their open quality enabling people to remain unidentified. Simplicity is favoured over diversity and there is an intangible appeal, even if only at an unconscious level, to a concrete landscape; alone whilst surrounded by seemingly likeminded individuals. Like the high-rise these spaces could be seen to create an ‘artificial psychological climate, operated to its own rhythms’.

Rainer Maria Rilke proposes a similar notion that in such spaces ‘the unlimited solitude makes a lifetime of each day, the invisible space that man can live in nevertheless, and which surrounds him with countless presences’. Everyone is conscious of the task or role that they must perform and are co-opted into a set system of rules and regulations which dictate their movement. In contemporary society a lot of these hidden controls are relayed across screens which prescribe how one acts not only in the space but with other individuals as well.

In my work thus far I have been exploring the architecture of contemporary spaces, giving an overview of their structure without depicting any defining features so that the paintings could be derived from anywhere in the world. As a result of this I hadn’t included the screen as an image within a work. This was also due to the fact that feared it would lessen the spatial quality of a piece. Encompassed here is an airport lounge, divided by an information display board halfway through the space. On the board a version of a train station waiting room is displayed, highlighting how all non-places are intrinsically linked by technology.

I feel however that the inclusion of a screen in the work means that some of the spatial quality is lost and the interpretation restricted. It has become the focal point of the work, acting as a barrier against the viewer being drawn into the space as everything is in the image; if to defined there is now-where for the viewer to extend into or reflect back onto the spaces they associate with daily. In future works I also need to consider further colour choice so that it more accurately reflects the space depicted, using colour match technology, whilst removing the bright lines which potentially confuse the work as their technology reference isn’t always as clear as I had envisaged. Alan Charlton uses grey as it is the most utilitarian and industrial colour with few associations outside the urban environment. The colour employed so that it shifts the physical space of the gallery environment as well. Though I may expand slightly outside the grey zone I need to research which colours not only reflect the space depicted most but also transform the gallery environment.

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Alan Charlton

Quarter

 

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Emulsion on board, 81.3×48.3cm

Yi Fu Tuan propose that space is transformed into place as it acquires definition and meaning. The essence of non-places and contemporary spaces is that they are continually fluctuating however and therefore their parameters are hard to define. This is both in a physical and metaphorical sense as they are continually expanding to make room for new consumer desires whilst taking on innovative functions to adapt to the ever changing global market. Places occur when there is a pause in movement; the ‘pause makes it possible for a locality to become a centre of felt value’ (Tuan). In order to depict globalised sites and capitalist spaces therefore the focus has to be on their current spatial quality, all such modern spaces sharing the same architectural basis the world over. By reducing them to bare abstracted forms an airport can appear as a shopping centre and bus station as a business lounge, defined by seemingly bland architecture and redundant features.

 

In the same way as the last piece the size of this painting references an average screen size throughout non-places, commercial sectors and offices.  I have returned however to depicting an open space, with endless interpretations rather than one with defined features. The site here is an amalgamation of several spaces, the hidden corner proposing an extension of the space into a hidden void. The blue line, whilst referencing the edges of screens, draws the viewer’s eye through the work, prompting them to consider the use and prevalence of the space depicted. It is apparent that it is a contemporary space being depicted, somewhat redundant and mirrored worldwide and interpretations have varied from carpark, to hospital to airport corridor. This is a strength which has not been apparent in some previous works, functionality and anonymity encapsulated.

 

There is a familiar yet alien quality which stems from the abstracted nature of the piece. Past pieces have been overviews or diagrammatically representational and this means that the viewer does not have to play such an active role as everything is encapsulated. By leaving the work more open the paintings promote a higher level of intrigue, the viewer a participator, waiting for something to happen on the stage depicted. This is commonly a practice which can be found more in photography works and can be seen in Vittorio Ciccarelli’s ‘Invisible’ series (2013). He focuses on specific features and the more mundane architectural topographies which have come to define non-places without revealing the identity of any of the spaces captured. This highlights the multiplicity of the contemporary urban landscape, the images, from guttering to street lights, denoting a landscape both empty and universal. I want to capture this notion of a recognisable void further in future works so that the space is simultaneously familiar yet alien.

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Vittorio Ciccarelli

 

Display

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Emulsion on board, 81.3×48.3 cm

This painting is the first in the investigation of non-places and commercial spaces where scale is an intrinsic part of the work. The board here references the size of screens in a local and universal sense. At 81.3×48.3cm it is the size laptop screens will currently go up to, TV screens start at whilst being an average size throughout a multitude of retail centres and business sectors. So far my paintings have depicted specific places however their spatial quality has been the focus. For the first work at this scale however I wanted the focus to be on the screen itself, though equally abstracted as previous works, so that a row of suspended screens is displayed, synonymous with airports and stations.

Marc Augé proposes that the ‘Frequentation of non-places today provides an experience of solitary individuality combined with non-human mediation (a notice or a screen) between the individual and the public authority’. The screen acts as an alienating yet uniting force, impersonal instructions which all consumers are complicit in, anonymity and solitude combined. Technology has given rise to empirical non-places, spaces of consumption, communication and circulation. As a subsection of this globalization as a concept embodies the idea of an allegedly free technological market which shrouds the earth however this could be seen to have led to complications as the world is now governed by technical, spatial, economic, scientific and political concerns. Screens therefore are increasingly becoming a mechanism of control without any apparent controlling force.

This mode of control is not apparent in the work however, potentially as the depiction is to factual and removed from a space where the controls are prevalent. Looking at this piece retrospectively though there is a correlation with Peter Halley’s cells and conduits where lines are used to denote metaphorical spatial splits and social control is discussed. The geometric divisions of social spaces in contemporary society takes precedent over form in his work, space metaphorically and physically contorted. The size of Halley’s work is dictated by its relationship to the body, wanting the viewer to be all but consumed by the piece.  For my work however, having tested a larger scale, an intimate experience seems to work more successfully as the viewer is able to project what they want onto the space depicted.

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Peter Halley

Halley outlines that he sees space in a 2D form, every place intrinsically flattened whilst colour commonly dictates form or the cell structure. The insertion of colour in my work round the edge of the screens denotes the differing information displayed in even one room, a multitude of instructions given. This addition of colour has worked more usefully here than in previous pieces as it gives the work a spatial quality which is absent in form and structure. It is this spatial quality however which I want to be stronger so that the viewer can reference what is depicted back onto the spaces they associate with daily.  In displaying this work I have again referenced the structure of the screen, using a TV arm to push the work away from the wall and project it out into the room, Halley uses wide stretchers to achieve a similar effect. In doing this the work interacts with the exhibition space more whilst actively confronting the viewer and is a more successful use of space than having the paintings flushed flat against the wall.