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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Living and Painting On the Edge

I've been busy with events on Saturna Island, both good and bad. Given that I prefer to get bad news first (at least there's something to look forward to), I'll give it to you in the same order.

 Our haven of an island house overlooking the sea has been internally demolished. A slow, undetected leak entered the walls and floors and over the years finally caused a florid outbreak of mold. Nearly everything inside had to be gutted: walls, ceiling, floors. Living among the debris and skeletal structure of a house you love is wrenching. But the damage has been done and the reconstruction has begun. No fun, but better than fungus growing out of your floors! 

That's the bad part of living on the edge of the ocean: the Pacific Rim sometimes tips right into your house rather than staying outside as a beautiful view. 

Here's the good part. It's called Painting On the Edge 2017 (POTE), and you can read a brief review of it in Galleries West magazine. Here's an excerpt:
"Highly anticipated by visitors, artists and collectors alike, this exhibition is a dynamic display of fresh and thought-provoking pieces from a variety of international artists working across subjects, media and styles." Opening night is July 18 at the Federation Gallery in Vancouver , and the show runs until Aug.6 
Renewing Earth_24"x30"_painting by Janet Strayer

I've been so busy at Saturna with the house and with Prism, the lovely new art showplace here, that I've hardly been to the "big city"  or kept up with art events in Vancouver. But I've had a painting juried into the POTE show, which pleases me. It's one of my newest works and part of the "Flow" series of paintings I've written about here. It's odd, isn't it, how paintings can transport you anywhere, regardless of your circumstances? Its title seems apt, too, given the circumstances I've just reported: "Renewing Earth".  

I'm looking forward  to seeing  the Painting on the Edge  show and the many exciting art works in it.

Peace be with you,


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

"Wings" Takes Flight

WINGS, A new series of imaginative  paintings will  open this July 8 at the Prism Gallery on Saturna Island. Let your own wings take flight... come if you can.
from painting by Janet Strayer wwww.janetstrayer.com

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Through the PRISM: So it Flows

I thought I'd share photos of the PRISM gallery on Saturna Island, where I'm spending my weekends.

enter to see the Flow, collection of paintings by Janet Strayer

It's been lively with visitors for Flow, the inaugural show -- which will continue through the Canada Day weekend. The gallery is so small, I decided to take photos of how things look before opening time.

Flow paintings by Janet Strayer at PRISM gallery

On the right-hand wall (above, and close-up below) is one of the paintings from the show that has drawn considerable attention (and sold).

 Tectonic Shift triptych , by Janet Strayer
People seem very interested in the techniques used across several works. A number of artists have sailed in (literally) and come to chat.

Here are some shots of what's been installed :

Flow paintings by Janet Strayer on walls of PRISM gallery

Connecting Green by Janet Strayer on  gallery wall

Flow paintings  by Janet Strayer on PRISM wall

Flow paintings by Janet Strayer on walls of inner room, PRISM gallery

It's fun for me to be sitting in the far-room (the inner room in photo) and listening to people's reactions as they wander through the corridors of paintings. Very cool.

Then, there's the ice cream next door, ....  and that might have something to do with it, too.

Some of the paintings have sold, but the run on the ice cream has been incredible!

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

PRISM and FLOW: A New Venture

Suspension of Time, painting by Janet Strayer, Flow series

It's exciting news:
Next weekend is the opening of PRISM, a new showplace for art on Saturna Island. It's right near the ferry/sea-plane dock, so it will be easy for tourists as well as residents to stop in and browse.

Still a retreat and a haven of small island lifestyle for those who wish it so, Saturna (the southern-most of the Gulf Islands) has now become even more of a tourist destination with its dedicated whale-watching and marine educational focus (see SIMRES, etc.), newly developed campgrounds, kayaking, bicycling, and picturesque B&B's.

 And here is  PRISM's window view, and the same and from outdoors (standing on the nearby pub's outdoor  deck).

PRISM is a lovely little addition to the multi-talented Saturna art scene comprising painters, ceramacists, weavers, fiber-artists, and photographers (see ArtSaturna). PRISM is my new site, recently renovated, with a gorgeous view of the water and shoreline. You can see the sail boats,  pleasure craft and fishing boats, and even the ferries coming and going, as well as the sea-planes.

I'll be hosting the PRISM, and it will be open this spring and summer during weekends 11am-5pm, and by appointment on Mondays and Fridays.
Earth Dances with Sea, painting by Janet Strayer Flow series
My opening show, aptly entitled Flow, consists of all new, never before seen, paintings that are rich in flowing movement and interacting color. I've been working truly, madly, deeply, and much of the time happily to create them over the past 8 months.

Like flowing currents in the Earth's natural environment, these paint-flows interact with human kinetic energy and gesture to create irregularly beautiful patterns. Brilliant colors, cellular structures and lace-like details result from the interaction of different paint densities that are artistically controlled to an intuitive extent and layered for artistic effect.
Tectonic Shifts, painting by Janet Strayer, Flow series
Using mixed materials creates a free-flowing contour that follows the material flow of paint from its traditionally confined surface (canvas or wood panel) to more indeterminate forms that spill off the rectilinear and into the organic. A bit of a metaphor for the act of painting too.

Connecting Green, painting (acrylic, canvas, mixed media) by Janet Strayer, Flow Series

Come if you can. Both Saturna Island and the PRISM show will surprise and delight you!

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Taking a Bite Out of the Big Apple!

See more: http://www.metmuseum.org/visit/met-breuer

Despite the political changes that have made the US a less desirable travel location for many visitors, NYC remains the juicy Big Apple. Worth a big bite, especially after a long absence.

On a recent visit here to Manhattan,  I met with some college roommates, one of them a friend dating from high school there. We all had lunch at the Met Museum members' dining room and gabbed several years' worth of catch-up and interesting commentary on everything. But I was now just a tourist in my old home town, having lived in Vancouver ever since college. My mission was to do everything I might like to do and could manage to do in 5 days. Here goes.  

Along with the Met Museum, my perennial favorite art-spot to meander, I was introduced to the recently built Met Breuer at another location (Madison Ave.). Marcel Breuer's strictly modernist architecture makes the building resemble the older Whitney Museum, with its facade of stacked blocks of stone/concrete and one small front window. The Met Breuer seems rather daunting as a small fortress outside, but suitable inside for its collection of modern and contemporary art (20-21C). The Breuer enterprise might nearly have bankrupted the Met and contributed to the dismissal of its recent director, but it seems a major addition for showcasing contemporary art in a city throbbing with it.  

detail, Hartley painting
 Marsden Hartley was the current hot feature at the Met Breuer. He's an artist whose work seems hit-and-miss to me, though I enjoyed the show, always learning something from the curatorial notes about the man, his times (1940's American Modernism), and artistic goals.

 A stranger started talking with me -- as often happens in New York museums when people are on their own. She was telling me how much she loved Hartley's work, especially his clunky and colorful later works, like the male bather used as poster-boy to publicize the show. I asked her why, what about it drew her to it?  And she was ready with a conversation of lively answers. It's a tribute to this city's culture, I think, that a stranger wants to initiate talk about art at an exhibit, freely assuming we'd have something in common to talk about. I really enjoy this aspect of New York, the open sharing of impressions, in contrast to the more conservative hold-back of Vancouver.

part wall of works by Lygia Pape and still shot of heads over a  massive"walking sheet of peole in her vide s

Even more interesting, from my perspective, was the expansive work of Brazilian artist Lygia Pape , (1970-80's body of work): painter, performance artist, video and cinema-maker, sculptor, political activist.  Here are just two tame examples I snapped at her Multitude of Forms retrospective at the Breuer. Her work moves from rectilinear-concrete to flowing-organic, from a more formal treatment of space in cubist-modernist terms to its activation an expressive social-political visual metaphor.  

And I particularly liked the retrospective on Marisa Merz, an Italan artist who daily embodied the art-is-life-is-art  in her multifaceted art made with common materials of all varieties. Her portraits (also in sculpted form) struck me as very evocative and accessible in this compendium of different media channeled by a unique vision.
Contemporary doesn't mean new. Nor does it signify art now, with its undefinable boundaries and anti-aesthetics. This was made evident when I visited the New Museum, a sparkling white structure in Manhattan's still grungy part of the Bowery. This section of town has become the hub of recognized emergent artists (a misnomer?). It displaces the once downscale and now expensively trendy lower west side, that now includes branches of the even more upscale upper eastside name galleries. How quickly the New York art world makes fads fashionable and gentrifies art!

the New Museum, Bowery, NY (see the boat outside on first tier?
 The New Museum shows cutting-edge new work in various art media in its non-permanent collection. As I was told with a smile by a friendly museum staff member, if it's new it can't yet be permanent, can it?  I hadn't heard much about any of the international artists exhibiting, which I think a good thing for promoting "new". Then again, maybe anything that lasts more than 15 minutes in our disposable culture can lay claim to fame status. By the time anyone's work hits the angel on a pinhead and lands in a museum, even one described as "new", you've got to wonder at the masses of other cutting-edge artists living on the edge of anonymous poverty. This museum has a great digital archive, and I recommend you take an internet look.

I stayed with a friend for the first days of my Big Apple visit, and she introduced me to a wonderful open-air sculpture garden in adjacent NJ: the Johnson Grounds for Sculpture. It's named for its wealthy contributing family (of Johnson& Johnson products fame), and most directly for Seward Johnson, a notable living sculptor (b.1930). It was Seward who sculpted the "man on a bench checking his briefcase" that was a landmark near NY's financial district and the Twin Towers. It was, I believe, the only public artwork to survive the devastation. A post-9/11 version of it remains as witness.
Seward Johnson's Double Check sculpture survival installed at Center
As a typical parochial New Yorker, I'd never much visited NJ. It was only a hinterland of NY, after all. But did you know NJ is the most densely populated of all US states? (Full disclosure: I originally wrote that sentence as "has the densest population", but didn't want to malign its denizens.) Aside from its suburb-status to NY, NJ boasts, among other things (like being the birthplace of Frank Sinatra and reputed home of Tony Soprano) fertile agricultural land, fine estates,  equestrian areas (my friend's an avid horse-woman) and rural scenery: a respite from the towers and concrete of Manhattan.
Even with its indoor gallery closed for exhibit-installation, the sculpture park was such fun! I love these open-air parks where you can roam among trees and wildlife (ahem, squirrels and peacocks) and find surprising life-size and larger-than-life sculptures amidst bushes and hillocks and ponds. Not quite like the more hi-brow but very enjoyable Fondation Maeght in France, this park is definitely a family affair, with painted sculptures that delight kids as well as adults, including the occasional "naughty" find, like this sculptural installation of Manet's Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe -- which attracted many onlookers as it was glimpsed through a crowd of bushes. It's great fun to see many familiar paintings transformed into sculptures in this park. You get to walk into a painting at any  angle. 

Dejeuner Deja Vu sculpture by Seward Johnson
The whole setting of this sculpture park was built for picnics, with tables and benches scattered throughout the lovely setting. You sometimes come upon what looks like an occupied table with food on it, yet it, too, is a sculptural treatment. If you've forgotten your picnic basket, the oddly named Rat's Restaurant on grounds is fabulous (reservations typically needed). 
 outdoor sculpture-laid table
 On to the City. Wow! I've been living away so long that its crowds seemed like dense oceanic waves. So many tourists, me now one among them. So much rush and traffic, both human and mechanic. Plus, I nearly died of artery failure after a mile-high pastrami sandwich in one of the few remaining authentic deli restaurants on the lower eastside. Then, onto my other favorite city haunts (those still standing, in any case). We walked and walked and walked.  

We stayed in the theater district near Times Square where it's easier to get 'two-fer" tickets and to walk to the many venues. We got tickets to a very well-done preview of Little Foxes, a revival of the Lillian Hellman play. Great acting and a very effective play, nowadays too. The two female leads are alternated daily. Quite a feat for the two leading actors,  Cynthia Nixon and Laura Linney, who have to learn double roles/persona. Masterful performances.

Uptown at Lincoln Center we saw a truly beautiful opera performance of Der Rosenkavalier  with Renée Fleming and Elīna Garanča as the best Octavian I've ever heard! It's such a treat to be at beautifully expansive Lincoln Center after the clutter of midtown Broadway. We went back for two other shows: Oslo, a play about the 1993 secret talks in Norway between unlikely Israeli and Palestinian "negotiators" that led to the promising (but failed) Oslo accord. Irony adds a terribly effective jolt to this play. Another night featured a sparkling ballet evening of Balanchine. Although it all cost a small fortune, I'd missed the quality and variety of New York offerings and figured a once-yearly splurge might be worth missing out on some other things.
courtyard of Lincoln Center

inside intermission at City Ballet at at Lincoln Center

I couldn't leave without paying court to the NY Public library and the greatly revived Bryant Part behind it. Even the quote on W.C. Bryant's statue resonates, especially in the politics of bluster we live with today: "...let no empty gust of passion find an utterance.... a blast that whirls the dust along the howling street; but feelings of calm power and mighty sweep, like currents journeying through the windless deep" 
OK, so it's old-fashioned oratory, but hey, there's hope somewhere in that windless deep!
see more: http://mentalfloss.com/article/73386/birthing-new-york-public-library-lions
So much story as well as history to the Library, so much art and intrigue to this public and free site, it deserves books-worth of treatment, much more than a blog. Patience and Fortitude, the iconic lions at its front entrance were named by New York City Major Fiorello La Guardia during the 1930's Great Depression. Despite its massive renovations, the library still maintains its third-floor reading room for the public -- equipped now with computers at each seat. It's still a treasure in the heart of the city. I hope this place lasts forever!

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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Ptarmigan on Saturna Island

Not what you may be thinking. Not the bird, but the Ptarmigan Society for music, theater and art focusing on Artists on the Gulf Islands (see link). 

They invited me to be the featured visual artist for a workshop given on Saturna this Saturday, April 8. The morning limbers up the limbs with contemporary dance and hoop movements, led by Lindsay Landry.  The afternoon limbers up the mind with excursions into visual creativity, led by me.

Altogether, should be fun for body and mind. Join us if you can. 

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

March On!

It's been an unusual winter on Saturna Island.  Several large snowfalls came and stayed during January, blanketing everything. We hardly ever have snow, much less snow that settles and stays. But this winter, it was bountiful. Beautifully large snowflakes fell and fell, cascading over everything. They settled, first as powder, and then became more icy. 

Lovely to look at, but it left us without power for several days, without water (a crack in the water line) for a couple of days,  and with major roof damage and leaks. Our never-easy country roads were slippery and hard to manage.... even if you managed to scoop yourself a way out. 

I was snowbound-stuck for a week, without winter tires to get around. Get those snowshoes out! Without electricity, I used just the daylight for painting. No heat, so imagine  painting with woolen gloves on your hands, a touque on your head, and a chattering of your teeth when you stopped moving around.  

Then in the middle of February, another snowfall. Trudging up to the studio in my high boots through the snow, there they were. I had to mind my step because there, right up from the snow-covered ground, rose man  daffodil shoots.  Obeying their own enduring sense of time, they proclaimed it was soon to be springtime, even if the snow was heavy with winter. 

Things change. Contrasts and contradictions continue. An existential philosophy of life? Who knows? Certainly not I. Snowbound and earthbound, my 'groundedness' seemed to channel a particular route for my most recent art show on Saturna Island (from 21 Feb to 22 March), entitled Earthward.  

Earthward, painting by Janet Strayer in Earthward exhibition

Saturna's resident art curator, Jean-François Renaud (who formerly exercised his art curatorial skills  in Ottawa) is responsible (and applauded) for many of these special shows we have on island.  
Ruin, painting by Janet Strayer in Earthbound exhibition

In Jean-Francois' words: "In this series, Janet Strayer appeals almost exclusively to the grounding forces in Nature...realism in landscape gives way to an evocation of pure material forces in Naure -- paint-as-matter and earth-as-matter almost conjoin."

It's a fine gift to be able to look and see and then put into words the meaning of what you see. Not  all of us can do this. And certainly not with the finesse of J.-F.  My appreciation to him for his contributions to our little island, and for helping me to clarifying my own, sometimes awkward, attempts to express the meaning behind what I'm impelled to paint. 

So, for all of us who may be emerging from a harsh spell of winter weather and gloomy political realities, here's a thank-you to those people who enrich our lives in however many different ways, small and far-reaching. 

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

January Days

January has been a bleak month of harsh weather in Vancouver: snows, icy rains, roof leaks, bad driving conditions. It's also been harsh hearing about the earhquakes in Italy, close to where we lived, and affecting some of our friends --  thankfully in less than life-threatening ways. The US election may have turned away from "globalism", but if you've ever lived in the world outside North America, it's  hard not to have meaningful ties that expand personal borders.

I'm writing this from Mexico, during a brief escape to a country I like a lot, and one that is especially welcome during winter. I've posted about the art in Puerto Vallarta in previous columns. Both the street (or beach sand) art, as well as gallery art, continue to rhrive.

Back home in Vancouver, a show opening at Cityscape in North Vancouver included my work among it's very varied assortment of acquisitions for its art rental program. This program is designed for people and businesses who'd like to rent (or rent-to-buy) art. Here's one of my works shown there. I missed the opening (because I was here, in Mexico). But The show runs through Feb. 4, so I'll catch it when I come back. It's always fun to see.

Twilight Blooms, painting by Janet Strayer

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Happy Holidays in Interesting Times

As a kid, I always wanted things to be interesting. Now, I appreciate the double-edged saying, "may you live in interesting times" and wish they weren't quite so interesing. Yet, this is especially the time to keep humanity alive and humane. My goodwishes and good will for the holidays and new year.

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Art Matters: a brief survey for you

Is it Piero, Picasso, or Punk art that moves you? Your input to this 7-item online survey will contribute your focus to an art-related column for Art Avenue magazine.  Please click here for direct access to the survey.  I look forward to your views. Thanks!

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Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Folly of Prediction;The Prediction of Folly

Right now, I'm still just trying to pull myself from the floor I sank into after the US election results.
No commentary. Just this: it's one prediction that actually hit right on! 

Hoping we all stay as sane as possible.

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Saturday, November 5, 2016

No Storms on the Horizon Except Political Ones

Now that the weather has settled down and clear skies are overhead, all is calm. OK, it's raining, but that's usual for this time of year here. No storms on the horizon ... except the ongoing political one just a border away. I wonder if we should think about putting up a wall? 

I'm stressed about the US election, Won't write about it because there's already so much out there. And, it seems to me, the media is both building and feeding on a frenzy of stress. Instead, I've taken the down-time to stay at Saturna, think about what needs pruning in my totally wild garden, maybe plant some daffodils, and complete a new painting. 

Actually, I'd started a few new canvases  since my return from living in Europe. But then got distracted by welcome visitors, apple-picking, and this October's recent art show opening. Too much happening. I haven't been clear about what I wanted when I was painting, and so the results haven't been clear either. Pruning is in order in art, too. For me, that's an even harder task than on the land.  

Earth Like Scattered Jewels, 36"x36: painting by Janet Strayer
At least one canvas has been finished. Interesting that it's composed of fragments --- but really that was intentional!

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Dark and Dramatic Opening Night: Art and Artful Living

The news media were filled with dire forecasts of an impending series of  storms about to hit this area full-on for three days. People were anxious, given the last big windstorm here blew away significant parts of Vancouver's historical trees and gardens and left the city scrambling to replace electric power. 
Click here for local news report on impending storms.
On Saturna Island we were concerned, as all islanders are, by the damage the high winds and forceful rains would do to our rural ecology, tidal pressures, vulnerable power-grids  and communication lines.

Nothing like the weather to trump (forgive the awful pun in this US election year) the festivities of a planned art opening --- mine. Esprit, my show of paintings, was scheduled for an opening celebration on Saturday Oct. 15, and invitations had been sent out (click here). 

Visitors from the US planned to join me, but daily checks on the storm and worried anticipation of ferry-travel led them to cancel. Radio reports from Vancouver supported the fear with disturbing news that a boy had been killed by a wind-torn tree falling upon him and repeated forecasts of more gloom. Reports of power outages were mounting, with resulting city panic on roads and bridges left without signalling functions. And so the tension mounted. Talk about timing! It was to be a dark and dramatic, if not outright tragic, opening night!

My little world, my little art show, my little spotlight, my not-so-little expectations. Whew! They were being shattered. The curator thought perhaps we should cancel the opening. But the chef thought no, he could prepare the celebration dinner even if the main power went out. So we started hanging the paintings.

Midway through the afternoon with only half the paintings hung, the power went out.  Oh well, there was enough natural light to finish hanging the show, at least. And we did so under less than ideal conditions: flashlight lighting, mistaken alignments, shadows, uncertainty.

Oddly enough, when it was hung, the show looked good. Although  the space was limited, the paintings accommodated to it and sang together harmoniously. It was a pity. Too bad no one would see them. The forecast was that the third and worst of the storm series would hit that night.

My expectations took a big dive. Nothing much could come of this. Oh well, life teaches even large and generally optimistic (or at least hopeful) thinkers like me to exhale. Big sigh. A few more big sighs... and I felt better. Nothing to do about the weather. Nothing to do about living on a little island. Nothing to do about choices everyone makes. Nothing to do but what I needed to do.

Unburdened by expectations, I would take in stride the rest of the day, the forecast, the weather, the news of my absent friends, and the ensuing evening's event-- that no one except me, the curator, and his partner would attend.

Oddly enough, I was happy.  I changed clothes for the upcoming "opening" event and dinner, consoled by the good dinner I would have and knowing that the chef always prepares a good meal. I arrived to see the power was back on, my paintings looked good, and .... the room was empty. The curator looked a bit sheepish, but what was he to do?

And again, oddly enough, some people started coming in. Bit by bit. Not a crowd. Some I knew and thanked for braving this treacherous evening to wish me well and see the paintings.  Others were strangers. Some had been visiting the island for just a brief stay.

After a couple of hours of talking with visitors, discussing paintings together, and just enjoying our unusual time, the dinner table was set. And then the power went out! The storm had darkened the outside by now. But by now, too, I couldn't care.

Out came the candelabra and the candles. The table looked beautiful. The room, itself, glowed. It was entirely charming and inviting. The five-course meal was delicious. The conversation was good--- ranging from painting, to lifestyles, to politics, to literature, to travels and  personal histories. And the paintings,  in candlelight, came alive with a special radiance.
Opening Night Celebration
Again oddly, for me personally this was one of the best openings I've experienced. I felt good, at ease, happy, and well-fed. 
Janet Strayer in candlelight on opening night
All this drama, natural and human, surging around me. It led me to think about power (natural and human), storms (natural and human), and life in the slow lane, here on this island, compared to city life.
 Here, though our electric power system, internet, and other technological accoutrements of modern life are all reasonably good, there is always the nearness of weather and nature disrupting things: the sea tides, the winds, the odd little pockets of microclimate that idiosyncratically seem to follow no forecasts but their own, affecting crops and homes. Power-outages are not that rare here, but are usually short-lived. It's an irritant requiring searching out downed trees and power-lines, re-setting electric clocks, attention to sensitive computer re-boots, and, of course, heating, lighting, and cooking. But most islanders can fairly easily deal with these short-lived inconveniences. In contrast, the effects in the city on businesses, schools, transport, entertainment and communication tend to be more catastrophic.

Living here in the slow lane on a small grid is a lot different. Not to say one can weather anything here on the island. Some things hit here a lot harder: medical emergencies, for example, or one's range of options. The point isn't to judge lifestyles. It's just to note and reflect upon how the contingencies surrounding any event can differ so dramatically depending upon where you are.
And where you are, at any moment, oddly enough, depends. 

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