Category:architecture

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Is it just me who can't stop thinking about that oxidized brass kitchen in Dimore Studio designers Britt Moran and Emiliano Salci's Milan apartment? The one in T Magazine this weekend, even though it seems like the Women's Fashion issue, not Design?

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BECAUSE HOLY SMOKES.

A couple of things: they also do have that brass slab cabinet/headboard, which kind of dilutes it a bit, or maybe not. It makes me think they ended up with half a truckload of brass from a client project, and were like, well, we could just make everything out of brass?

Also, I guess two years is the appropriate time to wait to shoot an apartment that has already been featured in other magazines and blogs and debuted at international design fairs? Because these pictures by Emanuele Zamponi are all for Yatzer from 2011. Though they do look pretty much exactly like the Times's photos.

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This embedded light strip seems extraneous and unfortunate, though. It will have no place in my oxidized brass kitchen. It looks like a remnant of a planterbox from a corporate lobby, which is always a risk one faces when working with lavishly thick brass, I suppose.

It's also a fairly stiff repudiation of the elite brass ideology, which, when it is seen on the doors, awnings, siamese firehose connectors, and other brass elements on New York's finer co-ops, shine brightly as proof of extraordinary, hand-labor-intensive, maintenance. For Dimore, thought, the patina is the point. Splash marks, drag marks buff marks, heat marks, air, it is a new kind of extravagance-through-negligence.

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Which, of course, immediately calls to mind the copper pieces of Walead Beshty, both the tabletop-shaped Copper Surrogate wall pieces which appeared at his 2011 Regen Projects show and in last year's Art Unlimited at Basel [above], which accrete a fine patina through handling and installation; and the smaller, more interesting FEDEX pieces, which really earn their knocks on the street, the handtruck, and the plane. [Now I wonder what the insurance is on shipping these things?]

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image via phillips

I remember a discussion I once had with someone from Donald Judd's operation. They told me how Judd was outraged to find out collectors, and even some museums, would put a clearcoat on their copper or brass stacks in order to preserve the pristine look. But Judd's preference, I was told, was that you damn well better leave his unfinished finish alone. And if you want it to shine, you polish it. And if you don't polish it, you let it oxidize.

I actually think of this conversation often, because of the shiny brass Judd floor sculpture at MoMA, a 1968 work given to the museum in 1980 by Philip Johnson. It's probably the single Judd work I've seen the most over my adult life. And I'll be damned if I've ever seen it without some visitor's grubby handprint on it. Conservation does not remove them immediately, though; it'd just be too much. So when I've visited the galleries several times in a week, I've noticed the same handprint still there. A calculated balance, I'm sure the museum is aware of how many microns of material they lose with each buffing, and plan accordingly.

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Donald Judd, Untitled, 1968, image:moma.org

Anyway, even after all these years, I've never been able to look at that Judd and not think of a coffee table. Not once.

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Model for set design, "L'Ephemere est eternel," 1926, recreated in 1964, photographed in 2008 at Vanabbemuseum by Jeff Werner

After reading Michel Seuphor's Dada play "L'Ephemere est eternel" in 1926, Piet Mondrian surprised his friend by designing sets for each of the three acts. The little models were photographed amidst Mondrian's paintings in his studio, a nice parallel to the play's denouement, in which a model of a theater is destroyed by an executioner. It also resonates with a play Mondrian himself wrote in 1919, which ends in his studio. For someone trying to change all the world, the stage was a nice place for a dry run.

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Susanne Deicher noted that Mondrian refused to be photographed painting in his studio.

Mondrian often said that "new life" could be found in the free space opened up by reason and thought. The empty plane at the centre of the small painting on the easel reflects the absence of the artist.
During this period Mondrian frequently spoke of the end of the subject in the new age to come. He designed his studio as an imaginary setting for a theory without an author, where the "new" appears to evolve in the non-space of the empty center of his abstract paintings.
This absence to Mondrian's ideas for the staging of "L'Ephemere" as well. He really wanted sets that concealed the actors as they delivered their lines. To what extent Seuphor was on board with Mondrian's creative involvement, I don't know.

I also don't know in what form it circulated at the time, or how widely it was read or known, but Seuphor's play was not actually ever performed until 1968. By then Mondrian's original models had been lost; someone--perhaps Seuphor himself--had refabricated one in 1964. It's in the collection of the Vanabbemuseum in Eindhoven. [That's where Vancouver designer/blogger Jeff Werner photographed it in 2008.. I first saw it a few months ago in "Inventing Abstraction" at MoMA.]

Remarkably, the US premiere of "L'Ephemere est eternel" took place in 1982, at the Hirshhorn Museum. It was one of several ambitious elements of Judith Zilczer's exhibition, "de Stijl: Visions of Utopia: 1917-1931." The show also included a large-scale recreation of Theo van Doesburg's lost interior of the cinema/cafe in the Aubette in Strasbourg. The opening was attended by Queen Beatrix, who, on a state visit, discussed nuclear proliferation and anti-NATO protests with Ronald Reagan.

Georgetown University theater professor Donn B. Murphy directed his and Zilczer's 60-minute adaptation of Seuphor's absurdist, plotless, and wordplay-filled script, which ran for at least seven public performances during the weekend of June 25-27. The show was in the museum's auditorium, which barely has a stage, more of a podium, but which was apparently able to accommodate a full-scale version of Mondrian's spare, shallow set.

The Washington Post hated it. In his review David Richards summed up the play's Dadaist, traumatized historical context as "the intellectual's version of 'Hellzapoppin,' music-hall for the nihilists born of World War I." Which, well, I guess it could be worse. Whatever could Dada tell the world of Washington during the throes of the Culture and Cold Wars and at the onset of the AIDS pandemic? [On the same page, the Post hated on John Carpenter's remake of The Thing, starring Kurt Russell, even more.]

In the Dada spirit of non sequitur, and to add one more datapoint to calibrate the Post's critical settings, I can't not quote from the their review of a local stand-up performance by one Jay Leno:

Leno's nasal delivery, which resembled Andy Rooney's, expanded to a colorful palette of characters as he worked through subject matter including the Phil Donahue show, photo stores ("How come they can transmit pictures 80,000 miles through space, and you walk across the street to Fotomat and they can't find yours?"), male strip shows, Steven Spielberg movies, video games, and even local deejay Howard Stern.
Anyway, the Hirshhorn has a [VHS!] videotape of the performance in their archive. I will be making my appointment pronto.

July 25, 2013

Dome Half Full

You know what? It's the little differences.

When Americans think of Buckminster Fuller's Geodesic dome, they probably remember the eternal, benevolent optimism of the US Pavilion at the 1967 World's Fair in Montreal. Oh yes, good times.

If only Europe could look back to these days, and past the array of geodesic domes dotting the continent, the ones in which NATO radar dishes and surveillance equipment have been cloaked, then everything would be awesome once again.

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Looks like Der Spiegel didn't get the memo.

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This was the first untouched old house in the middle of Tokyo I came across on this trip, so it got photographed. I love stumbling across these things; they're the barn finds of architecture.

This one is especially good because you can go in it. It's a little vintage porcelain shop. It's really awesome, mostly untouched inside, too. I'd move in tomorrow. Even though it's in a kind of disgusting corner of Roppongi, sandwiched between the elevated freeway and Tokyo Midtown.

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Speaking of Tokyo Midtown, I love that these little portable stanchions don't realize the chain's down and they're free to wander. [What, you think Japan doesn't have robot stanchions for responsive crowd control in development somewhere?]

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And speaking of slightly out of town, and tiny, kawaii places I'd move into tomorrow, we went to check out Sou Fujimoto's NA House. The house's location is unpublished, but it took all of five minutes to figure it out online. So don't ask me to tell you.

What's the point, one might ask, of going to visit a building that has been so widely published, and why take a picture when it's been so skillfully documented by Iwan Baan?

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Because you get to see how someone actually lives in that thing [answer: with lots of curtains], and you get to see it in context. Which, especially in Japan, means surrounded by 1) random architectural noise, and 2) electric power lines, transformers, and poles. I'd go so far as to say that this dense infrastructural web is one of urban Japan's defining spatial conditions. I wonder if rather than cursing or ignoring it, an architect has ever addressed it in some way? What if you considered it a feature, not a bug?

IRL, NA House's white steel grid and varied floor planes feel like a barely solidified extension of the criss-crossing mesh thicket in which it's embedded.

July 15, 2013

Kusakabe House, Takayama

Just got back from a 2-week trip to Japan. Though we spent a lot of time in familiar places in Tokyo and Kyoto, we also took a 2-day trip to Takayama, a small city in the mountains of Gifu-ken, an extraordinary 2.5-hr train ride north of Nagoya.

Takayama retains many Edo-era buildings and streetscapes, which were really great to visit. The Kusakabe Mingei-kan is a large minka, in this case a merchant house in town, originally built in the early 19th century, and then reconstructed after a fire in 1896, is one of the best in town.

While visiting Takayama and neighboring Hida and Shirakawa during a summer break from college, the late great architecture photographer Yukio Futagawa was inspired by the anonymous, vernacular architecture of minka. In the mid-50s, he set off on a multi-year, cross-country trip to study and document these Japanese homes which were rapidly disappearing in the postwar reconstruction boom.

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Kusakabe House was turned into a house museum in 1966. The large public area of the house [above] was for conducting business and receiving guests. Those beams are sick.

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The kitchen is in the rear of this public-facing area. A fire was constantly maintained in the sunken hearth, or irori; the heat and smoke helped preserve the wood from insects and moisture damage. That crazy, gnarled hook is called a jizaikagi.

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Pivoting 180 degreess from the top photo are the more private rooms of the house, including this amazing block table and chair set.

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Do want. Or do want to make.

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There are a couple of small gardens and these corridors. I took this looking back toward the streetside of the house.

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Above the fusuma sliding doors, where I'd call it a transom, are these thick hinoki boards with flower and leaf motifs sawed out. They had to have been done by hand. Aha, they're called ranma, which means the space between columns. These turn out to be pretty simple designs, as far as ranma carvings go.

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The second floor and the 2-story storehouse in back have collections of mingei: lacquerware, basketry, tansu--and Sori Yanagi's Butterfly Stool.

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On the way out I noticed this panel, which I thought was blank, but which turns out to be the builder's blueprint for the house. It's also visible in the background of the irori picture, under the horse.

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From 2009, The Roof as nth Facade, about Google Maps-optimized architecture:

Maybe the next Bilbao Effect, sure to appeal to striving cities in these difficult budgetary times, will be to commission grand architectural designs purely for the benefit of the Google Maps audience. Like the rural streetscape camouflage which was applied to the roof of the Lockheed airplane factory in Burbank to thwart Japanese bombers during WWII, cheap, easy, flexible Potemkin roof structures could really put a town on the map, so to speak.
It seems so long ago, but in architecture terms, I guess four years is pretty quick. I just didn't think it'd be Mr Bilbao Effect himself, Frank Gehry doing the camouflaging. And of course, it's not the city, but a giant corporation, Facebook, the Lockheed of identity, that's doing the hiding.

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Here is a detail of a model of the Menlo Park building Facebook asked Gehry to design. From Dezeen in April:

Early proposals for the campus, which was given the go-ahead by Menlo Park City Council last week, envisioned a bold, curving facade reminiscent of well-known Gehry buildings such as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

"They felt some of those things were too flashy and not in keeping with the kind of the culture of Facebook, so they asked us to make it more anonymous," said Craig Webb, a partner at Gehry's practice.

"Frank was quite willing to tone down some of the expression of architecture in the building," he told the Mercury News, explaining that they plan to disguise the white stucco building with a rooftop garden: "Our intent is that it almost becomes like a hillside, with the landscape really taking the forefront."

Or at least the appearance of landscape, on the roof of your 400,000-sq ft. relationship processing facility.

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It's worth noting that this green-roof-as-park approach is being used by NBBJ for their new office complex--for Google. Google is hiding from Google Maps, too. As Sam Jacob writes at Dezeen, "Though its appearance is closer to an average business park, it too has its roofs littered with green stuff."

There are obviously many environmental and energy-use-related benefits to a green roof. But they also serve to mitigate the appearance gap between the "average business park" and the powerful technology companies inhabiting them. Invisibility through greenery, melting into the landscape, these are time-tested tools for managing an architectural first impression, as in bucolic renderings designed to mollify local land use and governmental constituents, or the landscaped, sculpture-filled approaches to the corporate HQs of the 1960s. Now every visitor's first encounter with the buildings is when they look them up on Google Maps. And now they've got those covered.

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And though I didn't grasp it at the time, it's no surprise that these particular companies are the clients trying to become "more anonymous through these hillside camo roofs:

On the one hand, it seems obvious that this vast, global audience [on Google Maps] should be factored into the creation of architecture. But on the other, it seems absolutely insane to design a structure, a space, for people who won't be anywhere near it, but sitting in front of some screen on the other side of the world.
Because the target of their disappearing act is their own users. Just as malls hide acres of parking lots behind roadside shrubbery, Google and Facebook are hoping their park-like roof facades will keep us from noticing the extent of their corporate footprint, and their relentless sprawl across our online landscape.


Previously: Heads Up: Roof as nth Facade [greg.org]
images via Sam Jacob's Dezeen op-ed, 'Cities are being redrawn according to Google's world view,' which, right? you'd think, but ends up going in a completely different direction. [dezeen]

kawamata_police_basel_tw.jpg

How is Tadashi Kawamata's Art Basel Favela like a real favela? It's built on public land, gets inhabited by people who don't have legal permission to be there, who are tolerated or ignored for a while, and who then get attacked and dispersed by riot police when someone with power decides it's time for them to go.

The details are still not clear to me, but Tages Woche reports that on Friday night, Basel police raided an outlaw party that had occupied Kawamata's Favela cafe, firing tear gas and rubber bullets into the small crowd.

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It appears that an event organizer had erected a favela DJ booth of their own, and were presumably protesting Kawamata's use of favelas to serve luxury falafel [at "reassuringly exclusive prices"] to visitors at Art Basel last week.

The event, or happening, or protest, seems to have been low-key. According to Tages Woche, Kawamata's collaborating architect Christophe Scheidegger met with the protestors, and they were allowed to stay for a while. Police and Art Basel officials decided to clear them out at 10pm, declaring the noise levels illegal, and that continued occupation of the favela--in the public platz, which had been rented by Art Basel--would be considered trespassing.

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And that's when, holy shit, it looks like they sent an assault force straight to the DJ favela to end the music and scatter the crowds with pepper spray and rubber bullets. Police established a perimeter, ended the party, kicked a few people on the ground, and then retreated back into the new Herzog & deMeuron Messe [above].

Tages Woche has a video of the attack shot from the parking garage [The embed above is from LiveLeak, but it's on Vimeo, which won't embed, and on YouTube, which, honestly, someone put an age-related content warning on? Is this an anti-viral video tactic?], though it's edited in a way that does not make it so clear what exactly preceded, and may have precipitated, the use of violent crowd control tactics. [The editors and reporters wrote a followup post addressing the circumstances of shooting the video.]

But this unedited YouTube video posted by Gab Kae tracks around the entire platz, and captures the police raid from within Kawamata's own favela. [It comes at around 2:20.] If there's anything at all that justifies such an attack, I can't see it. For these people hanging out in front of Art Basel, abuse of power came as a baffling surprise.

UPDATE greg.org reader Arthur points to another Tages Woche video, uploaded yesterday, which was taken on the ground, right next to the police, and which shows preparations for their assault on the party/protest.

In addition to the donkey, which had been part of the initial protest, the video features this nice, white-haired lady drinking a tallboy who, upon consultation with the officers, decides it best to move her chair out of the way.

After literally receiving their marching orders the Basel police head straight for their target. Which, this video makes clear, is the thumping sound system. Just watch that amp skittering out across the platz at 1:40. Obviously, the music demanded a forceful response, and any human casualties, injuries, or abuses, must be considered collateral damage and entirely unintentional. You know how it can be when techno dirtbags crash your party and won't leave.

Video: Gewaltsame Polizeiräumung am Messeplatz [tageswoche.ch]
Basel Favela Occupation [artreview]

June 12, 2013

G8 Pop-Up Prison

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Here I am thinking that 12 years into this blogging thing, there's really no reason to keep shipping containers as their own category anymore, when BAM, up pops a sweet, containerized pop-up prison for G8 protestors in Ireland.

You may remember, or maybe you don't, that in 2002 Camp Delta, the prison annex to Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo, was quickly built from shipping containers to handle the influx of prisoners from the GWOT.

If there's a difference between the GTMO container cells and the Irish ones, it's that the G8 cells are reportedly highly temporary, and that the police are promising that protestors will be arrested, processed, charged, and properly incarcerated in record time, just "a matter of hours." Europe. It really is the little differences.

G8: Courts 'can deal with 260 protest arrests a day' [bbc]

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Here's a shot I took today of the scaffolding around the Washington Monument for its post-earthquake restoration.

Every time I go by I think how awesome it would be, and until I hear or see otherwise, I'll just keep hoping and assuming it's the case that, instead of Michael Graves' tired, pomo cartoon scrim, the National Park Service is actually encasing it Budweiser cans, installing a massive adaptation of the 1989 work, This Piece Has No Title Yet, by DC's own Cady Noland.

What? I'm sure Don and Mera could totally make it happen!

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This Piece Has No Title Yet, 1989, Dimensions variable, you guys! [rfc.museum]


DAY AFTER UPDATE: Whoa, well, then. The Hirshhorn board split and Koshalek announced his resignation by year-end. What a way to go.

While designer Liz Diller made her politico-architectural case for The Hirshhorn Bubble in her 2012 TED talk, the Museum's own justification for the project has been unclear and uncompelling.

Explanations center on making the Hirshhorn "an agent for cultural diplomacy." In February director Richard Koshalek told Kriston Capps, "This institution should be the leader in terms of setting arts and cultural dialogue. Cultural policy is set in Washington, D.C." This is debatable enough, as both mission and content.

The programming that's always discussed, though, a "Center for Creative Dialogue," involves conferences and discussions created by the Council on Foreign Relations and outside staff, not the Hirshhorn itself, or even the Smithsonian. Critics of the Bubble vision like Tyler Green note this disconnect, and that the Museum doesn't need a bubble to host such policy-flavored forums and events; they could do it right now, in the existing auditorium. And in fact, they did just that last Fall, where a capacity crowd watched TV journalist Judy Woodruff moderate a panel on "Art and Social Change" during to the Ai Weiwei exhibition.

No, The Bubble is a thing apart, apparently, from the programming that would inhabit it. Its absurdist form on this symbolic site, and the transgressive gesture towards Gordon Bunshaft's concrete donut, are meant to be self-justifying. Capps calls it "a public art stunt," and the Washington Post suggests it could "break DC from stagnation." It's starchitecture as spectacle and a catalyst for attention and, eventually, one hopes, the holy grail of Washington existence: relevance.

Meanwhile, it's amazing that until Capps' reconsideration of the project last winter in the City Paper, there was no mention of what would be, for lack of a better term, the business model: The Bubble would be a for-hire event space.

Koshalek swears the Inflatable will engage the Hirshhorn's curators, too. When the Bubble is inflated, part of its programming will correspond with whatever's lining the gallery walls of the museum. The rest of the timeshare will go to whichever universities, think tanks, and corporations rent it out--a money-making proposition for the Hirshhorn which could lead to exclusive uses not quite in keeping with Diller's civic scheme. (And certainly not with the museum's artistic mission.)

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Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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Category: architecture

recent projects, &c.


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Social Medium:
artists writing, 2000-2015
Paper Monument, Oct. 2016
ed. by Jennifer Liese
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Madoff Provenance Project in
'Tell Me What I Mean' at
To__Bridges__, The Bronx
11 Sept - Oct 23 2016
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Chop Shop
at SPRING/BREAK Art Show
curated by Magda Sawon
1-7 March 2016

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eBay Test Listings
Armory – ABMB 2015
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It Narratives, incl.
Shanzhai Gursky & Destroyed Richter
Franklin Street Works, Stamford
Sept 5 - Nov 9, 2014
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TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -
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Standard Operating Procedure
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CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
Canal Zone Richard Prince
YES RASTA 2:The Appeals Court
Decision, plus the Court's
Complete Illustrated Appendix (2013)
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"Exhibition Space" @ apexart, NYC
Mar 20 - May 8, 2013
about, brochure | installation shots


HELP/LESS Curated by Chris Habib
Printed Matter, NYC
Summer 2012
panel &c.


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Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
background | making of
"Richteriana," Postmasters Gallery, NYC

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Canal Zone Richard
Prince YES RASTA:
Selected Court Documents
from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
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