Nutopia: exploring the metropolitan imagination

“Each epoch dreams the one to follow”
Michelet, Avenir! Avenir!

Nutopia Journal

If you missed the symposium you can now order a free copy of the Nutopia newspaper which documents the event and includes articles and responses from delegates and speakers.

To order a copy email:

Morgan Arcade, Cardiff. 2-3 April

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Nutopia crosses boundaries between, town planners & artists, activists & architects, social/workers, regeneration agencies and academics to create a compelling new conversation on the 21st Century City.

With speakers from across the UK, Europe and beyond, Nutopia explores ways in which we can reinvent our cities, challenging the idea that city centres are purely spaces of consumption. Instead we look at possibilities for non-economic exchange and examine tensions between resistance and commodification and how this impacts our personal lives.

Nutopia will look at the creation and ownership of cities in the face of privatisation and the language of regeneration. It will look beyond physical space, exploring place as a perceptual landscape informed by a linguistic architecture.

The programme includes presented papers, practitioner-led discussion, plus a range of workshops, events and encounters.

Tickets to the event are priced at £50. This includes lunch on Thursday and Friday and dinner on Thursday evening.

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There is also a reduced price available to unwaged/ artist/ freelance workers.To apply for this contact Paula by email

Spaces are limited so please book early to avoid disapointment.

Event outline:

Sustainable /Development
This session will explore the nature of grassroots projects and ask whether community development can be integrated into architectural design and regeneration projects and seek to expand an understanding of how that can be achieved.
Steve Garrett (Riverside Market), Chris Carlsson (San Francisco based author of ‘Nowtopia), Igloo (developer specialising in sustainable Development tbc)
Chair: Peter Draper, Rounded Development.

Resistance, Patterns, Rhythms: Urban economies and the everyday.
Papers will map the tension between dominant economic frameworks present in the city and questions pertaining to redevelopment/ mass consumption and social dystopia’s in relation to ideas of resistance and human exchange, rhythms and intervention within these framework; the ways in which we lay claim to the city.

Prof.Malcom Miles, Professor of Cultural Theory, University of Plymouth/ Dr.Jill Fenton, Queen Mary University of London, Geography Department / Dr. Tom Hall, Cardiff University / Bas Speirings, Urban Geography at the Department of Human Geography & Urban and Regional Planning at Utrecht University.
Chair: Wiard Sterk, Director of Safle

Under Construction: The Language of Regeneration.
Speakers report on and contextualise urban regeneration projects looking at the ways in which regeneration is as much a conceptual process or linguistic framing as the physical changes that occur.

Zoë Skoulding, Bangor University / Nell Quest, Rutgers University / Karim Said, The American University in Cairo / Aparna Sharma, Independent Film Maker.
Chair: Pratap Rughani, Course Director, MA Documentary Research for Film & Television. London College of Communication, Univ of Arts, London.

Future Cities….utopias, dystopias and making it up as we go along.

We are already living in the future …. presentations explore possible techniques, visions or solutions that maybe utilised in the making and re- making future cites in the light of socio – economic and environmental challenges being faced on a global scale.

Rachel Armstrong, Bartlett School UCL/ Dr. Gonçalo Furtado, Oproto University/ Mac Dunlop, Artist and Writer, Falmouth, Cornwall / Anne Marie Culhane, artist, Sheffield.
Chair: Dr. Emma Posey, Director BLOC
Arcades Research: Andrew Cochrane, arcade project researcher presents his work in Cardiff’s Arcades.

Open workshops and events: Sophie Hope/ RoTar / Ester Pilkngton,/ Mark Chappel/ Simon Whitehead and Ben Stammers/ Artstation/ Rob Birmingham & Cycle Cardiff/ Poppy Nicol/

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Programme outline in detail:

(Biogs/ Links/ Abstracts)

2nd April

10: 30 – 11:30 Registration and participation in ‘Disaster Training’ (working title) a participatory workshop by Mark Chappel. (Save The Children)

11:30 – 1pm Sustainable/ Development
This session will explore the nature of grassroots projects and ask whether community development can be integrated into architectural design and regeneration projects and seek to expand an understanding of how that can be achieved.
Steve Garrett/ Cardiff- This presentation will describe a visit to Cuba to investigate the current status of small-scale intensive food production (‘urban agriculture’) in Havana and to identify any precedents set and lessons learned in this field by the Cubans which would be relevant  to the process of encouraging more local food production in Cardiff as part of its stated aim of becoming a
‘sustainable city’. My visit included interviews with key individuals working in urban agriculture research and land policy/planning and personal visits to a number of small-scale intensive organic allotments in Havana. I have combined the information and opinions gained in the interviews and meetings with my own personal observations and conclusions, leading to recommendations about the conditions and steps which I feel would be needed for urban agriculture to play a significant and practical role in the life of a city  like Cardiff. My talk will include a short video presentation.

Chris Carlson/ San Fransisco – Author of “Nowtopia: How pirate programmers, outlaw bicyclists, and vacant-lot gardeners are inventing the future today. Outlaw bicycling, urban permaculture, biofuels, free software, even the Burning Man festival, are windows into a scarcely visible social transformation that challenges politics as we know it. As capitalism continues its inexorable push to corral every square inch of the globe into its logic of money and markets, new practices are emerging that are redefining politics. In myriad ways, people are taking back their time and technological know-how from the market and in small under-the-radar ways, are making life better right now. In doing so, they also set the foundation—technically AND socially—for a genuine movement of liberation from market life. The social networks thus created, and the practical experience of cooperating outside of economic regulation, become a breeding ground for new strategies and tactics to confront the everyday commodification to which capitalism reduces us all.

Mark Hallett, Igloo : Igloo currently has over 20 regeneration projects across its direct development and partnership portfolios with a completed development value of £2.5bn creating 8,500 homes and 10,000 jobs on around 250 acres of brownfield land. igloo continues to market for further equity and is actively assessing new urban development opportunities in edge of city-core locations within the UK’s Top 20 cities.

Chair: Peter Draper, co-ordinator of Rounded Developments Enterprises


1.45-2.45 – Workshop session 2

3- 4.30: Resistance, Patterns, Rhythms : Urban economies and the everyday.

Papers will map the tension between dominant economic frameworks present in the city and questions pertaining to redevelopment/ mass consumption and social dystopia’s in relation to ideas of resistance and human exchange, rhythms and intervention within these framework; the ways in which we lay claim to the city.

DR. Jill Fenton Queen Mary University of London Geography Department Surrealism’s Re-enchantment Project for City-zens of the 21st Century
When a surfeit of processes – credit crunch, recession, regeneration, gentrification  and globalisation – significantly alter the flows of our cityscapes,  make visible their perspectives in the twenty-first century, it is challenging  to imagine the global city and its citizens as open to alternative tides that are creative and playful; in fact  to perceive the evolving of what could be described as a passionate urban geography.
Jill Fenton is a lecturer in Human Geography at the Department of Geography, Queen Mary University of London. Her PhD, entitled Géographie Passionnelle: Contemporary Surrealism in Paris, was awarded in July 2005 and focused on the practices of contemporary surrealists in Paris. Its empirical and ethnographic work was framed by current theoretical concerns in urban and cultural geography.  Her ongoing research engages in: alternative geographical imaginations that are creative forms of resistance in the city and combine politics with the revolutionary and poetical; urban utopianism; hope and its enactment in the everyday life; creative spatial practices of passion, performance and improvisation. Emerging research interests are the cultural geographies of alchemy, astrology, architecture and the city, a theme of her  PhD thesis in relation to Paris and taken further  in the context of  Paris, Prague and surrealism. Jill actively participates in the surrealist collective

Professor Malcolm Miles: (Professor of Cultural Theory, University of Plymouth)
Image is key to a city’s symbolic economy. Competing globally, cities such as New York and Barcelona have transformed external perceptions of decline to become cultural and economic hubs. But does a symbolic economy reflect the everyday life and cultural activities of a city? Or do redevelopment schemes looking to a global impact marginalise a city’s own people and the imaginative lives they lead? While a shift of image may replace an impression of decline with one of growth, a city’s public may foresee their city’s future more imaginatively. Walter Benjamin wrote on the utopian imaginary sparked by curiosities in the arcades of Paris, and Henri Lefebvre on dwellers‘ right to the city. Today, Liverpool’s year as a European Capital of Culture offers a case of contested cultural ownership. Outside the glitz of a new shopping mall, dissident artists offer another, more radical and perhaps vital image of the city.

Malcolm Miles is Professor of Cultural theory at the University of Plymouth; and author of Urban Utopias (2008), Cities & Cultures (2007) and Urban Avant-Gardes (2004).

Dr. Bas Spierings: Department of Human Geography & Urban and Regional Planning at Utrecht University
My contribution analyses the influence of the dominant image of contemporary consumerism on the making of upgrading strategies in Dutch city centres. It scrutinizes how the image of ‘shopping flânerie’ supplies arguments and tools to deal with ‘past failures’ – i.e. the rise of chain stores and the physical impact of the post-war reconstruction period –, ‘present problems’ – the similarity of the retail offer at urban and regional levels as well as stabilizing or declining consumer spending – and ‘future possibilities’ to attract more regional consumers and to generate more spending. It discusses the following questions: How do local authorities, property developers and retailers imagine spatial practices and experiences of shoppers? What consequences does this have for the design and development of consumption spaces? And, in turn, what consequences could this have for the spatial practices and experiences of contemporary shoppers?

Bas Spierings is in the Department of Human Geography & Urban and Regional Planning at Utrecht University. His research focuses on ‘geographies of consumption’, including city centre redevelopment, urban competition, spatial imaginations and urban governance, retailing, consumption, shopping and everyday life, and border subjectivities. He joined Utrecht University in 2006 after having worked as a Postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Economic Geography at Groningen University. He did his PhD in the Department of Human Geography at Radboud University Nijmegen and completed his MSc in Regional Economics and Economic Geography at the Economics department of Tilburg University and the Geography department of Trinity College Dublin.

DR. Tom Hall, School Of Social Sciences, Cardiff University
OUTLINE: My paper takes the idea of rhythm as its starting point and uses this as a way in which to draw attention to the mundane and pedestrian work  of upkeep and recycling in the city. I make no claims for utopian futures; instead, and with present-day Cardiff in mind, I point towards the ways in which thinking about urban rhythms might give us some purchase on the idea of the good city.

BIOG: Tom Hall is a lecturer at Cardiff University’s School of Social Sciences, where he lectures in sociology and anthropology. His research and writing centre on youth, homelessness and, increasingly, rhythms of urban public space.

Chair: Wiard Sterk, Director of Safle


5pm – Museum of the Moment Audio Walk and launch


7pm – Sophie Hope Arcades Treaty. A drinking Game.
Important decisions are often not made in the office but down the pub. I propose to hold a meeting in a local pub during Nutopia where a small group of up to 10 people will join me for a polite drinking game during which time we will write ‘The Arcade Treaty’.

Sophie Hope’s work inspects the uncertain relationships between art and society. This involves establishing how to declare her politics through her practice; rethinking what it means to be paid to be critical and devising tactics to challenge notions of authorship. Since co-founding the curatorial partnership B+B in 2000, Sophie has gone on to pursue her independent practice, with recent projects taking place in a Dutch new town, south London housing estate and Austrian cultural embassy. Sophie also writes, teaches and facilitates workshops, dealing with issues of public art, the politics of socially engaged art and curating as critical practice.


8pm Dinner…. End of the day


Friday 3rd April

5.30 am ‘Vulpine’ is an ongoing active enquiry into liminality. Artists Ben Stammers and Simon Whitehead explore the habitat of city spaces and structures, taking as inspiration the unseen life of the urban fox.

Movement artist Simon Whitehead works from his base in rural
West Wales. He has developed a body of work from pedestrian practices; made at walking pace his works are place sensitive and often involve a process of ritual reconstruction through the body, live performance, dance, sound and film. These include wading through a Welsh river with an electric guitar, walking 300 miles to Smithfield market in London, and in 2007 he devised the walking guide LOST IN LADYWOOD, encouraging the public to get lost in inner city Birmingham. He was visiting Artist at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park 2005-06, where he developed ‘walks to illuminate’, a series of nocturnal walks for the public and he recently made ‘BURN’ for an island in Kuopio, Finland as part of the Anti Festival.
Simon is a founder member of itinerant artist group ointment. He has recently published the book WALKING TO WORK (publ. shoeless).

Born and brought up in North Wales, Ben Stammers is a painter, photographer, and live artist. He also works as a wildlife guide and educator. He is interested in movement and moments. He has undertaken residencies in various locations, including an island, an airstrip, and an archaeological dig. As a member of artists’ collective, ointment, he has taken part in several collaborative, walking-based projects, including an exchange with Canadian artists in northern Quebec. Vulpine (2007) was a collaboration with Simon Whitehead, and involved  a dawn walk through London.


10am – 1145  Under Construction: The Language of Regeneration.

Papers in this session report on and contextualise urban regeneration projects looking at the ways in which regeneration is as much a conceptual process or linguistic framing as the physical changes which occur.

Zoë Skoulding, Bangor University, In this presentation on my own practice as a writer, I will discuss links between poetry and the built environment. I will consider ways in which the poem might parallel the city’s simultaneous processes of decay, demolition and construction, and how, particularly in a bilingual context such as Wales, language creates the multiple identities of particular places. My recent collection of poems, Remains of a Future City (Seren, 2008), draws partly on a text from 1958, ‘Formula for a New City’, a Situationist manifesto by Ivan Chtcheglov, which explores the quarters of an imagined city. Underlying my interest in such sources is a set of questions about collective dwelling, citizenship, paradoxical relationships between the local and the global, and connections between a shared European history and the instant global communication of the present.

Zoë Skoulding is a poet whose most recent full-length collections are The Mirror Trade (Seren, 2004) and Remains of a Future City (Seren, 2008). She works at Bangor University where she holds an AHRC Fellowship in the Creative and Performing Arts and co-ordinates part-time literature and writing courses. She is editor of the international quarterly Poetry Wales.
Nell Quest Doctoral Candidate in Anthropology, Rutgers University
Fulbright Advanced Student, 2008-2009, France
Until recently, Marseille was often presented as France’s “problem city,” a gritty hub of poverty, crime, and unassimilable immigration. More recently, however, large-scale attempts have taken place to transform the city’s landscape and image, with tremendous local, national, and transnational investment. These efforts seek to capitalize anew on Marseille’s diversity and Mediterranean position to promote increased tourism and industry. Little is known, however, about how these efforts are perceived, felt and experienced by Marseille’s various social actors. In this paper, I will share preliminary results of my research into this question, presenting information gleaned from sensory recordings, interviews, and participant observation in Marseille. Specifically, I will compare and contrast the sensory experiences and spatial imaginaries presented by Marseille’s urban planners with those of local working-class residents. I attempt to understand the different ways actors navigate and conceptualize local urban space, and what is at stake in various local claims to “Mediterraneanism.”
Biog: I am a doctoral candidate in anthropology at Rutgers University, and a Fulbright Advanced Student in France. My dissertation research focuses on experiences of urban renewal in Marseille, France, and is currently ongoing. My work focuses specifically on Marseille’s urban imagination, sensory experiences of urban change, and how conceptualizations of “the Mediterranean” manifest in local vernacular and official discourse. My theoretical interests include embodiment and the senses, psychology and the “unconscious,” globalization and transnationalism. My work has been generously supported by research grants and fellowships from Fulbright, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, and Rutgers University.

Karem Said The American University in Cairo
A host of architectural projects are being built along Cairo’s desert periphery, typically conceived as self-referential, enclosed worlds, and artfully promoted as “villages,” “cities” or “lands.” Roads of high-speed traffic are often the only public spaces that lie between these areas, which compounds their isolation and heightens possibilities for culturally remote social formations. This is precisely what state-capital contingents desire, as they attempt to create distinct environments, in many cases to encourage innovation and creativity. Utopian desires and imaginings will be reconsidered in light of these architectural projects, focusing particularly on spaces designed for innovation and learning.

Karem Said is a researcher for the Cynthia Nelson Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies at The American University in Cairo. She is currently exploring, through the discipline of anthropology, how competing discursive strains shape architectural production and urban form in Egypt. She is also interested in the ways that perception and experience in cities shape notions of self and governance.

Dr. Aparna Sharma, Independent Film Maker.
Short mixed media presentation from Delhi exploring the radical changes to Delhi’s urban architecture as a result of the cities economic miracle, in relation to an embodied, textual or feminised experience. The presentation will examine differences in ideals of female beauty across Delhi’s landscape.

Chair: Pratap Rughani, Course Director, MA Documentary Research for Film & Television. London College of Communication, Univ of Arts, London

1215- 1pm
Sophie Hope- Artist
Sophie will present her Arcades Treaty which she will have made in the pub the night before…..Important decisions are often not made in the office but down the pub. I propose to hold a meeting in a local pub during Nutopia where a small group of up to 10 people will join me for a polite drinking game during which time we will write ‘The Arcade Treaty’.

Based on the issues raised by Nutopia, the Arcade Treaty will put the world to rights. By the end of our drinking session the group will have signed a Treaty based on a series of complaints and proposals to make the world (or perhaps just Cardiff) a better place.
Andrew Cochrane to present arcades research.

2.00- 3.30 Future Cities….utopia’s, dystopias and making it up as we go along.

We are already living in the future…. presentations explore possible techniques, visions or solutions that maybe utilised in the making and re- making future cites.

Dr Rachel Armstrong
Is an author and doctor who has appeared extensively in the media and at international conferences speculating on the future of humankind, non Darwinian techniques of evolution and the challenges of the extra-terrestrial environment.
“The essential quality of life is living; the essential quality of living is change; change is evolution: and we are part of it.” from The Chrysalids, John Wyndham

Anne Marie Culhane: Sheffield Based artist who initiated The ORCHARD CITY Obviously, few of us are in a position to restore the forests.. But tens of millions of us have gardens, or access to open spaces such as industrial wastelands, where trees can be planted. and if full advantage can be taken of the potentialities that are available even in heavily built up areas, new “city forests” can arise… Robert J.Hart
This presentation explores the patterns, form, interaction and diversity of the ORCHARD CITY: a vision of a flourishing and productive city-wide garden. Based on edible forest garden and seven layers of activity and growth – from underground roots spiralling and weaving up to a canopy layer, ORCHARD CITY flows across and links gardens, rooftops, balconies, verges, gap sites and parks.  Drawing from the learning and design of forest permaculture, ORCHARD CITY re-animates the city soils, and once established requires minimal ongoing maintenance and gifts us unexpectedly high yields of fruits, berries and culinary, edible herbs, medicinal plants and vegetables through the year.
Anne-Marie Culhane is an artist who initiates, catalyses and delivers creative, environmental projects, education and happenings. She is founder of Grow Sheffield an active network promoting urban food growing and culture, and developed the Abundance urban fruit harvesting project with Stephen Watts. Anne-Marie now lives in the South West and works across the UK.

Mac Dunlop: Mac Dunlop: Artist and writer will present a 20 minute meditation on our addiction to energy exploring human behavior  in the urban environment through a small fiction:
What if there were far too much of it, everywhere, all the time?

Mac Dunlop – Artist and Writer, Falmouth, Cornwall

Dr. Gonçalo  Furtado, Oporto University, Portugal
“On Two Infinite Scales: The Contemporary Metropolitan Condition and the Construction of ……” I will focus the present situation of contemporary architecture, which has gradually been marked first by the phenomenon of digital information and, more recently, by a bio-technological vision. In my opinion, the contemporary condition suggests the need for a (Godelian) dialogue between the infinitely large and the infinitely small. Facing an unknown situation – a metacity and new urban hybrid experiences - , the role of the so call critical metropolitan project, and the experimental research that it privileged, becomes crucial and critical.
Chair: DR. Emma Posey, Emma Posey is an artist, writer and founding director of bloc: Creative Technology Wales. She has specific interests in creativity and technology and the effects of technology on place.

330 – 430 Summary of workshop sessions presented


Workshops/ Events

Esther Pilkington
Where would you take a stranger? – Proposal for a utopian practice The term “utopia” can describe both an ideal of a different and better world as well as the account of a journey to such a place. While utopias have often been criticized for not providing any strategies for their fulfilment, we will – as a working hypothesis for this project – assume that the utopian genre already offers an approach to a utopian practice: utopias are travel stories, stories of other worlds, stories of encounters between strangers. Perhaps it is then in
this element of journey, in the encounter of strangers that a utopian practice
could be imagined. We are strangers to Cardiff, only knowing it from a few short visits. We do not
find our way without a map. We do not know how Cardiff is, was, will be or should be. For the project Where would you take a stranger? we invite Cardiff residents to take us on a tour through their city, to re-imagine the city through an encounter with strangers.
Esther Pilkington and Daniel Ladnar are the founders of Random People (, a platform for the research and practice of performance, photography, writing and related fields, and co-founders of Showroom Aberystwyth ( Esther and Daniel have collaborated on a number of projects, exploring notions of journey, walking and mobility as one key theme of their practice. They have presented work in Austria, Germany and across the UK. Esther is currently working on a PhD
project about the aspect of “Journey in Contemporary Performance Practice“ at Aberystwyth University. Daniel is currently finishing an MA in Photography in Swansea.

Robert Bermingham is an Artist based in Wales. His work uses the materials and manmade aesthetics of the world we live in, and considers the possibility of a brighter future and the fear that it may not happen.
His obsession with cycling has led him to work for five years as a cycle courier, and now works with Cycle Training Wales teaching road cycling, promoting bikes as part of everyday life.

City Ride Workshop The future of urban mobility is a relationship between man and machine. The bike is the most successful physical aid and one of mans greatest inventions. In some European cities cyclists make more then 25% of the populations journeys, but despite being the fastest, most efficient and cheapest form of travel, cyclists make less the 2% of our journeys, cyclists are often seen as sociopath, the intentional villain of the streets. To some extent, this view is perpetuated by a community of people that have a shared vision of the world they live in.
Culturally this view of the space we live is a response to the layout of the cities which have been designed for consumers, pedestrians and drivers, and as a response to this, the cyclist has developed an ‘outsider’ attitude to movement.
This workshop will consider the ‘desire lines’ unique to a cyclists mapping of the city, a cyclists view of the landscape, and will consider what are the possibilities for the future of cycling in the capital.

Greening the City, Poppy Nicol:
A 30 minute walk exploring possibilities of greening grey within the city.

Poppy is interested in green public space within the city. She is a doctoral student at Cardiff University, at the nationally recognised department of City and Regional Planning. Her PhD focuses upon the notion of an ecological city and the potential of more sustainable and localised food systems and the challenges of a post-consumer city.

RoToR //
RoToR is not us, nor its what we are doing. It is a mechanism that is constantly evolving in relationships that we are creating. RoToR is a heart of an engine - it produces the movement and provides the action.
Once RoToR was put in to operation between Vahida Ramujkic and Laia Sadurní, in Barcelona 2001 it continued introducing different agents, factors and components, constantly mutating its functions and appearances.
In direct and not intermediated action, using own body as a principal tool and immediate surrounding as surface, RoToR is basing its method in one self’s experience and processing of raw materials in order to transform herself and its surrounding inciting evolutional processes, opening corridors and ties for the circulation of ideas.
RoToR is never concluding, but opening connections, constructing bridges, between the inner and outer, personal and collective along the slow itinerary through the fundamental environments: Land, Water and Air.
Even disintegrated on different locations, agents fed by and connected to RoToR functions through independent but interconnected missions and explorations in a dislocated way. Local and personal experiences within unknown, abandoned, transitional territories show up as the neutral common ground, a form of support in which the new codes are established to be exchanged and shared.
The final aim is not conditioned by concrete results, but is a sum of intentions that would by itself define the form and structure, where the collected information and materials would be translated, organized, visualized and experimented with for later consultation, upgrading and modification…

And If you want more…

Outside the Vulcan public house Cardiff
7. 30pm on the 3rd APRIL 2009 .

Artstation will present this work as a final event at the Nutopia Symposium part of the Arcades Project in Cardiff running April 2nd/ 3rd.

What will happen?
As the day light disappears, a real-time experimental communication and social networking project by Artstation will be projected from University Atrium building opposite on to the upper faces of Vulcan Pub. This will provide the first public viewing Guerrilla Text Artwork in support of the Vulcan Pub a much loved landmark of old Cardiff, which is currently scheduled for demolition in June 09. – Get your texting thumbs ready!

The Artwork aims to create a tapestry of publicly generated content on the surface of the building with which to express the cultural value of the site in an immediate and simple method. Texts are sent to the building and are seen on the outside in a mural of light.


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