Personal Best /

Peter Sacks Marlborough Fine Art / London

Peter Sacks began his creative life as a poet, making visions with words. In the late ’90s his preoccupation with words led him to want to painstakingly type them with a manual typewriter onto the relatively more permanent and resonant surfaces of discarded fabrics. He then used such scraps to make the colourful collages in his current exhibition, works of visual art that contain a myriad of stories. Like some restless rag-and-bone man, he’s reaped cast-off clothing and threadbare domestic linens, material evidence of souls now freed from need of such accoutrements by good fortune or death, with thousands of tiny stitches, every stitch a second, he’s made piece-full gatherings of anonymous and now unremarkable lives once lived in comfort or misery, all hoping for joy. From remnants, he has created art true to the tumult of life, works of living, breathing beauty.

 

Peter Sacks: Migrations

April 17 to May 19, 2018

Marlborough Fine Art

6 Albemarle Street

London W1S 4Y

0207 629 5161

 

by Doris Lockhart Saatchi

Personal Best is a column by Doris Lockhart Saatchi exploring contemporary art exhibitions and discourse.

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New Wave /

Between the Waters / Cy Gavin

Upon entering the group exhibition “Between the Waters” at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, curated by Elisabeth Sherman and Margaret Kross, the first thing one sees is Cy Gavin’s The Future of Tucker’s Point (2016), a large landscape painting in lurid yellows, oranges, fluorescent pinks, and notes of Caribbean blue.

Made with oil, acrylic, and chalk on canvas, the landscape plays host to a black male nude. Centrally located, the nude sits facing sunny skies with toes dangling in water, his eyes closed in ecstasy. Half covered by a cloak of black fur or some other luxuriant material, the drapery elegantly adumbrates the ever-lurking probability of a shadow of the Veil à la W.E.B. Du Bois. He also appears blessed against the odds, unperturbed by a total lack of racial anxiety. Beach, tidal ponds, rock outcroppings, and palm trees hotly surround him, complementing his nakedness with an acid glow. Since the painting’s title claims to present a scene from “the future,” it makes sense to suggest that what we see here is an eventual return to paradise. By way of reversal, Masaccio’s fifteenth-century fresco Expulsion from the Garden of Eden comes to mind, in which Adam and Eve are shown exiting paradise in states of pronounced agony.

Cy Gavin, The Future of Tucker’s Point, 2016
Cy Gavin, The Future of Tucker’s Point, 2016. Collection of Nick Cave. Courtesy of the artist.

Gavin’s work sometimes recalls Renaissance portrayals of the nude, except for two major distinctions: that Gavin is alive for the secular twenty-first century, and that all of his characters are black. He’s a sensitive minder of history, in ways specific to his Afro-Caribbean American lineage as well as to the complicated, canonical mantle inherited by any figurative painter finding his way in the West.

His figures and landscapes volunteer themselves for our allegorical consideration, just like the nudes and pastorals of former regimes. Unlike these past examples, however, Gavin’s are done in psychotropic color schemes and are often titled to identify icons of slave-trade-era Bermuda lore: the ancestral homeland of Gavin’s father’s family.

Tucker’s Point happens to be a resort town on the island that Gavin visits once or twice a year, a place that leaves him with two or three mixed feelings. Gavin told me that he posed for The Future of Tucker’s Point himself, and so I can’t help but interpret it as a euphoric vision of the artist enjoying a climate of rapture, located in days to come at the site of his ancestors’ prolonged and horrific subjugation under slavery as well as their first introduction to America.

Expanding on W.H. Auden’s notion that art is perhaps best understood when one prioritizes a search for Edenic pleasure, Dave Hickey writes: “Our Edens reside in a world that we can touch, that sings in our ears and shines before our eyes — the only world that we can inhabit while living in our bodies with all our senses intact.” And so I am reminded of microcosmic Bermuda, a real-life island off the coast of North America, held in the hands, ears, and eyes of Gavin, where I believe he has sensed what paradise has been possible, thwarted, and yet may again be attainable, even only if briefly, despite the tremendous powers that be and those that have been.

Cy Gavin, Bather II 2018
Cy Gavin, Bather II, 2018. Courtesy of the artist.

Full disclosure: Cy is one of my closest friends and we talk about art, either his or mine, constantly. Somehow, however, I think I am able to bring an appropriate measure of criticality to bear on his work. I think this because of what Auden says about writers or artists writing critically about work that they love: “So long as a man writes poetry or fiction, his dream of Eden is his own business, but the moment he starts writing criticism, honesty demands that he describe it to his readers, so that they may be in the position to judge his judgments.” So, honesty demands that I describe the dreamlike satisfaction of knowing Cy’s work, regardless or because of the fact that I enjoy the pleasure of his company. Here goes. I think he’s an artist nourished by the act and sensation of painting, in touch with the land from whence he came, viewing what he’s become since then or there and responding in kind, unsentimental, blissful in spite of it all. The locations cited in his work as landscapes set themselves up as apparatuses whereupon he can enact the experiential thrills of applying wild color, texture, depth, and perspective, all while meditating on the historical significance or folkloric meaning of a specific site in the natural world. More essentially, Cy’s project comes down to a poetic exploration of idiosyncratic mark-making on variable surfaces, subdued and/or roused by figures comporting themselves as flirtatious avatars of a rich legacy, shaded by human misery, and yet reimagined with joy.

by Sam McKinniss

New Wave is a monthly column profiling emerging artists.

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Review /

Rosie Hastings and Hannah Quinlan Queer Thoughts / New York

Gay representation exists in a slippery space between liberation and domination, solidarity and violence, of both socioeconomic and interpersonal dimension. The ambivalent localization of violence within gay sociality — both aimed toward it and coming from within it — serves as the subtle thematic framework for the artist duo Rosie Hastings and Hannah Quinlan’s most recent show at Queer Thoughts.

A series of carefully executed pencil works on paper depict imagined scenes of intimate queer sociality: a group of beefy, gender-opaque characters, rendered in a stylized “gay hand” somewhere between lesbian comic books and Tom of Finland, are seen drinking, laughing, and making out in sparsely furnished rooms, desire omnipresent in their poses, gestures, and gazes. Hogarthian in both form and spirit, these charged scenes of conviviality nonetheless feel on the cusp of some kind of impending unhinging; desire transformed into rivalry, into conflict.

Rosie Hastings and Hannah Quinlan, Gaby, 2018
Rosie Hastings and Hannah Quinlan, Gaby, 2018. Courtesy of the artists and Queer Thoughts, New York.

Bracketed by the drawings is the video work Gaby (2018), consisting of three short vignettes that each address the interweaved connections between gay culture and wider systems of violence. The first vignette tells the story of their best friend Gaby, who as an eighteen year old briefly dated a straight-presenting gay cop. In naïve first-person PowerPoint form, Gaby recounts how he romantically engaged and navigated his partner’s persistent self-guilt and self-masking, which in the process reproduced homophobia onto Gaby himself (the fatal ending of their relationship ultimately loops back as the title for the show’s body of drawings, “We Haven’t Spoken Since,” all 2018).

Directly following this is a vignette compiling found video footage of police officers at pride marches momentarily sidestepping their law-enforcing duties and breaking out in fits of badly simulated twerking and voguing. These harrowing scenes are only furthered by their shared soundtrack, Village People’s 1974 hit “Y.M.C.A,” which served as the definitive anthem of the post-Stonewall era of sexual liberation in New York’s West Village — which, in turn, triggered the neighborhood’s rapid sanitization and gentrification. This is marked by Hastings and Quinlan in a video with a rendered issue of Christopher Street Magazine from 1977, in which an article boasts the gentrifying powers of the gay, male, white middle-class (serving to “clean up” impoverished, undesirable urban areas).

Hastings and Quinlan’s succinct examination of gay representation brings its viewer from macro- to micro-political scales of space, intimacy, and desire, and carefully deciphers the troublesome history of gay politics that must still be articulated today.

by Jeppe Ugelvig

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Report /

Gallery Weekend Beijing

­Themes of contemporary urban structure and the human condition are the main subjects of the many exhibitions on display at Beijing’s 2018 Gallery Weekend, spread across various galleries and institutions in the 798 and Caochangdi Art Districts. These seemingly independent exhibitions reveal some intrinsic connections to each other, as if a kind of urban fable was being staged.

New York–based Sarah Morris’s first solo show in Beijing, “Odysseus Factor,” occupying the largest room of UCCA, includes all of her cinematographic films, ten colorful diagrammatic-style abstract canvases, posters, and a large customized wall painting. Out of the half-dozen showcases of foreign artists, Morris’s exhibition sits most comfortably in a contemporary Chinese setting, not only because of her eighty-four-minute-long documentary film focusing on the 2008 Olympic Games, but also due to the super-seductive and bizarre appearance of the show, which incorporates gigantic LED screens and flamboyant painted bandings. The surreal conditions revealed in her works interweave the rapidly developing urban landscape with late or state capitalism, and act as a metaphor for bureaucracy in the globalized arena. The works seem to be the absurd juxtaposition of this rapid urbanization and the increasingly restrictive political realities of China in 2018.

Not far from UCCA, Liu Wei’s solo exhibition “Shadows” at Long March Space creates a cosmos-like imagined world of time and space. The exhibition consists of large mechanical installations and two paintings with irregular edges. Among these, Period (2018) occupies the majority of the gallery space and viewers’ attention. Spheres, pyramids, and bricks in cement, wood, or metal, with simple surface colors and textures, move slowly along their respective pathways, structurally supporting each other while crisscrossing perfectly. It could be likened to a simulacrum of the materiality of a city. Airflow (2018), made of cement, resembles colored balloons hanging upside-down. A square mirror is set on the ground, echoing the light from the roof and creating a captivating combination of light and shadow. Dominating spheres oscillate slightly under the influence of gravity, rubbing against each other to create clouds of dust and residue that fall down to the mirror. Liu Wei posits a variety of symbolic significances such as vitality, mobility, and the sense of time.

Liu Wei 刘韡, Airflow《气流》, 2018
Liu Wei 刘韡,
Airflow, 2018. Courtesy Liu Wei Studio and Long March Space, Beijing.

As last year’s winner of the Hyundai Blue Prize for Creativity, Li Jia has realized her proposal in the brand-new space at Hyundai Motorstudio Beijing in 798. The exhibition, titled “The Precariousness,” showcases recent projects by eight artists and three collectives. Various mediums — videos, installations, drawings, texts, field studies, digital archives, and reading projects — are used to map multiple narratives of social mobility and migration in China. The single-channel video The Destination to Promising Land (2017), by Fang Di, who conducts research between Shenzhen and New Guinea, documents how two Guangzhou-based Africans confront and perceive issues of body, color, and borders on continuously shifting ground and within a global framework. Other projects, Between the 5th and 6th Ring Road in Beijing (2014–15) and Secret Chamber (2016–17) for instance, focus on villagers who live in Beijing’s peripheries, and those who feel dispossessed for their “low added value” to society. Within multilayered representations, the narratives of these pieces as a whole converge a diversity of social and individual forces, gauging how people interact within a constantly fragmented social landscape.

Wang Haiyang’s solo exhibition at White Space Beijing in Caochangdi — a fifteen-minute bike ride from 798 — shows his interest in human secretions, both the physical products of lust and those contingent on the human emotional spectrum. Paintings, drawings, and videos in the exhibition are linked to the artist’s subconscious thoughts of sex, feelings of lust, and attitudes toward his own body while confined to a hospital bed. In Mirror (2017), placed near the entrance, Wang uses spit as a medium to create delicate, cellular-tissue-like forms, and turns them into a stop-motion animation. This corresponds to the series “Mosquito” (2017–18) that hangs on the opposite wall, incorporating different shapes in the imaginary portrayal of a mosquito whose life revolves around the extraction of human blood. A nine-channel video piece, Linkage Mechanism (2017), displays nine mirrored faces chewing gum with their mouths linked together, as if struggling to find an exit in this occluded system. In another room, nearly a hundred skillfully dense watercolors convey the artist’s consciousness and sexual impulse. Of all his works, the drawings are the most instinctual and personal — showing his libidinous yearning and deep understanding of his own life.

In addition, Yin Xiuzhen at Pace Beijing, Paul McCarthy at M Woods, Carsten Höller at Galleria Continua, Liu Xiaohui at ShanghART, Xie Nanxing at UCCA, Richard Deacon at Beijing Commune, and several other group shows that concentrate on emerging artists have sparked plenty of attention and discussion. It seems that Beijing — like Hong Kong and Shanghai — has finally learned how to collectively unleash the energy that it has always embodied.

by Chelsea Liu

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A Vogue Idea /

Factory of Dreams

Last year the Parsons MFA Fashion Design and Society program withdrew from the Business of Fashion’s Global School Fashion Rankings. They sited conflicts of interest, namely its combative commodification of education, BoF’s dubious initiation of their own online courses, and the ranking’s lack of geopolitical and socioeconomic variables. And yet ranking is perfectly reasonable in a world where universities are increasingly public-relations businesses.

London’s Central Saint Martins, arguably the world’s top fashion university, consistently produces impressive MA showcases. This year, two graduate collections in particular sparked intense interest: Liam Johnson and Edwin Mohney. While it’s an easy, if not lazy, task to buttress the already elite-ranked institution, I was gripped by the two designer’s distinctive approaches in reimagining the application of dress through reduction and the found object. They were also, maybe for those reasons, the bookends of the graduate runway.

 

Liam: The idea for the collection was to create a graphic statement with an emotional reaction. It was about reducing or exaggerating the line of the body to create direct vision. I approached this by using primary geometric shapes as the starting point. It’s about trying to capture a fleeting moment and most importantly offering a new visual language.

Matthew: I thought this “reduction” in your work was mesmerizing. It reminded me of Adolf Loos’s Ornament and Crime in how you were framing the body entirely through severe primary shapes. I doubt Loos would have approved of your collection, but it was certainly modernist in its mathematical approach to silhouette. Did your pieces using the spectacular transparent ductile fabric require much toiling to achieve those lines? The precision is vivid.

Liam: I can’t say Loos was a huge inspiration, but it’s funny that you made that connection. I guess it’s a kind of paradox, the conflict of something looking so clean and functional yet being totally unrealistic. The pieces themselves took a while to create. A lot of toiling was involved to get the right tension, because no stretch fabric was the same. Everything had to be created from the final fabric. Everything needed to be pitched and balanced, working with the drape of the fabric to find that middle point between the stretch and the tension. There are also other factors involved such as height. All the hoops where custom made, and things wouldn’t be able to be toiled in till last minute. I reprinted and remade the final dress twice, two days before the show, because a seam was twisted. It needed to be as pristine as possible.

Liam Johnson, backstage at Central Saint Martins 2018 graduation show.
Liam Johnson, backstage at Central Saint Martins 2018 graduation show. Photography by Asia Werbel.

Matthew: This idea of effacing excess was discussed a lot in modernist architecture in that it cleansed forms of representation. As a strange inversion you used the “smooth object” as a type of ornament when you had some models simply holding these large geometric forms in front of them. Reading your work through the flat runway image, I thought these modernist architectural shapes were almost a new form of dress, “attached” only via the wearer’s grasp.

Liam: The shapes symbolize baggage. Yes, they were very primary and very flat, but they needed to be harsh. The idea to have them carried was something I came up with early on, and originally I had five more in the collection. I liked the way they felt strong and confrontational, almost like huge boulders, yet had this contradicting factor — you could hide behind these shapes. The idea for this was never meant to be a new way of dress. It was about saying: This is what I am carrying! This is how I feel! All that was conveyed through scale, color, and texture. They look flat on images but they have a very specific fuzzy texture in reality. The triangle was made of linen. This was important, as it needed to feel like dead space amid the sharp colors. It needed to feel older and yet just as clean, almost ancient.

Matthew: Can you explain the prints?

Liam: I had created about twenty posters of different gradients, colors, and compositions. I created them as a response to some music I was creating at the time. I liked this idea of them feeling like a series of spiritual posters, the way an album cover says everything about the album before you listen to it and sometimes nothing at all. For me, they hold some familiar quality, be it a hazed zebra, skulls, something nuclear, or a saturated colorful spot. I find it hard to articulate the journey of finding all of this, as it hasn’t been a very liner journey at all. It somehow is a romanticized personal manifestation of things, situations, and characters in my life that I love, hate, admire, and find challenging. The main thing that I try to convey in the work and challenge people with is honesty and unknown familiarity.

Edwin: The collection was inspired by my own angst for the seriousness of fashion. I can’t stand the thought of taking a hem or sleeve too seriously. I take craftsmanship very seriously, but the aesthetic value of tradition places meaning in something I don’t measure. I take a more nihilistic approach to my work. To measure something in terms of nihilism is to give it less value, using craft to justify something flippant.

Further, fashion often demands the representation of commercial success as its context. I was interested in creating a late-capitalist representation of fashion through the integration of failing structures and outdated tastes. The collection is based in couture, the most unprofitable sector of the fashion industry, and is incredibly focused on craft but through the use of readymades. Can Duchamp be fashion? This is what I’m interested in.

Aesthetically, the only thread through the collection was to balance colors which were taken from products that represented freshness. For example, Evian water bottles and tide pods. This was used to counter the staleness of old-fashioned couture shapes.

Matthew: Right, I like your take on nihilism as value reversal. I would also agree that craft is historically specific. Coco Chanel reportedly spent hours laboring over the exactitude of a sleeve head — it can be funny to think sometimes how this affected, highfalutin gesture is insisted upon as virtuosity. Then again, why not vindicate the absurd? Couture is often encountered on the red carpet. Do you have a favourite outfit from the collection you would like seen there?

 Edwin Mohney, backstage at Central Saint Martins 2018 graduation show.
Edwin Mohney, backstage at Central Saint Martins 2018 graduation show. Photography by Asia Werbel.

Edwin: Yes! I completely agree. Laboring over a sleeve head is futile in comparison to open-heart surgery, but I enjoy the idea that the consumer is paying for that attention to detail with every stitch. It points to clothing as objects of beauty. I appreciate someone’s persistence in their vision of beauty if that is incredibly pristine or an absurd conundrum.

Specifically, I would love the see the simple white ruffle dress with red socks on the runway. I would die to see the chicken sister dresses be worn, but that simple dress maintains a real sense of being a cocktail dress while being just a ruffled piece of fabric. I would like to think that piece would really ride the line between the red carpet best and worst dressed — depending on the accessories of course.

Matthew: “Represented freshness” could be a great WGSN trend report on the color palette of late capitalism. It also explains the alienation of some of your outfits. I found the tandem outfits worn by the Maybury sisters the most eerie — they somehow felt more plastic than the polyurethane of the pool. What drew you to pools as fashion objects? Did you work with other bought readymades?

Edwin: Thank you! It’s something I’ve become obsessed with. Shampoo bottles, water bottles, detergents — the colors are so yummy. The pool was born out of that same obsession. I loved the color of the blue vinyl and the matte white. The pool evolved from the air mattress skirt worn underneath the mountain look. I was making understructures that would function as crinolines, but through a late-capitalist lens. I played with balloons for a long time to build volume underneath fabric. The pool was a natural progression, and I loved how impossible the idea of having a pool on a runway felt. The intention wasn’t to invoke any specific meaning other than creating a moment that focused on expectation and form.

Matthew: One of the reasons why I was so drawn to Liam and yourself is how you both speculated new concepts for the application of dress. In many ways, our imagination of fashion is still constrained by nineteenth-century industrial technologies. Until we have malleable, advanced, user-friendly 3-D printing or virtual reality, where clothes can essentially be sprayed on as readymades, we’re liable to particular hierarchies of “wearability.” You’ve worked a lot with tape in previous work, as well as in your MA collection, which is an exciting proposal for sculpting or assembling dress. Could you explain the process of making these taped fashions?

Edwin: The taped pieces are casts. I wrap objects/people and then reinforce the pieces with more tape from the inside. The casting of an object/person represents an imagined outfit or form that surrounds the body, which is then worn on another person. It came from a question of how can you wear someone else?

by Matthew Linde

A Vogue Idea is a column by Matthew Linde exploring contemporary fashion practice.

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News /

“nice walk” (1,739 reviews): A Reinvention of an Allan Kaprow Activity Hauser & Wirth, The High Line / New York

On Saturday afternoon, two figures in ceil-blue medical scrubs got down on all fours and proceeded to make random ink marks on the High Line park’s elevated footpath, only to quickly wash them away.

The activity took place on the occasion of the final day of Hauser & Wirth’s most recent exhibition uptown, “ALLAN KAPROW. PAINTINGS NEW YORK.” The show surveyed works spanning the breadth of Kaprow’s materially archival output, aiming to trace an evolution of his ideas as they migrated toward a threshold of particular interest to him: the ever-elusive boundary between “art” and “life” that he sought to blur, dissolve, and eliminate altogether.

With the gallery’s East 69th Street location already bearing historical significance in connection to Kaprow’s legacy (his seminal environment piece Yard was shown in its first manifestation there in 1961), the recently presented work in drawing and painting offered plenty of nuanced clues indicating where or in what direction his progressively deconstructive line of critical inquiry would lead him.

In a 1958 essay titled “The Legacy of Jackson Pollock,” Kaprow ruminates on the nature and degree of Pollock’s art-historical impact just two years after his death, describing a certain enlargement of space between artist and working substrate due to Pollock’s approach to gesture, the body, and performance in relation to painting. This viscerally solidified the ground beneath Kaprow’s feet and suggested an infinite expanse of quotidian possibilities to explore. In one line of this text in particular, he introduces the concept of a Happening, which he would come to explore in much greater depth over the course of his life: “Not only will these bold creators show us, as if for the first time, the world we have always had about us but ignored, but they will disclose entirely unheard-of happenings and events, found in garbage cans, police files, hotel lobbies; seen in store windows and on the streets; and sensed in dreams and horrible accidents.”

In essence, the eulogistic text on Pollock conveys a sense of how his painting practice eventually transcended the limitations it had come to him imbued with, calling for a total collapse in distinction between the arenas of “art” and “life” that Kaprow had so deeply considered.

“Not satisfied with the suggestion through paint of our other senses, we shall utilize the specific substances of sight, sound, movements, people, odors, touch. Objects of every sort are materials for the new art: paint, chairs, food, electric and neon lights, smoke, water, old socks, a dog, movies, a thousand other things that will be discovered by the present generation of artists.”

It is at this atomizing brink that the practice of artist Puppies Puppies may be situated, somewhat similarly pursuing a profound confusion of “art” and “life” as diametrically opposed terms.

On the High Line this weekend, behind the surgical masks were artists India Menuez and Ser Serpas, who in collaboration with Puppies Puppies realized this “Reinvention of an Activity by Kaprow,” which called for “one person to draw a line on the street with chalk, while a second person followed it and erased it with a rubber eraser.”

To fulfill this realization, both Menuez and Serpas came uniformed and well equipped, in not only scrubs but with latex gloves, booties, and sponges with special handles fashioned to deliver a steady flow of either ink or solvent for its user, as well as other small necessities for maintaining optimum cleanliness.

Both of their tops cropped, the pair of costumes designed by Puppies Puppies comedically feigned exposure of the wearer’s midriff by extending a layer of black fabric downward, which featured screen-printed illustrations of organs accurately placed and diagrammatically labeled on either side. Dressed the part, they had split up and assigned to one another the tasks of making marks (Serpas) and of scrubbing them away (Menuez) as per the parameters of the Activity’s score. Lasting around forty minutes, the Reinvention was something of a heartfelt exercise in futility and negation.

“nice walk” (1,739 reviews): A Reinvention of an Allan Kaprow Activity @ The High Line, New York. Courtesy of Puppies Puppies.

That Menuez and Serpa played the specific role of hygiene/custodial workers in this scenario undoubtedly ties into Puppies Puppies’s intricate, quietly drawn out mythology as told by the artist over the past few years — an aspect of this being the experience of surviving a life-threatening brain tumor. While the fragmented story has been presented in the public sphere under the guise of performance, there is always a direct correlation to the extremely intimate interior life that drives the work.

Similar to the recurring use of horseshoe crabs throughout Puppies Puppies’ work — having been fascinated by the creature’s baby-blue blood and ultimately the “supernatural” ability to detect even the slightest presence of bacteria via the Limulus amebocyte lysate, or LAL, test commonly used in the medical field — it is likely that part of the inspiration behind Saturday’s Reinvention can be sourced from the substantial amount of time the artist has spent in hospitals.

As the artist statement provided by Hauser & Wirth, who commissioned the piece, concludes, “We are all vulnerable to becoming or making the mess that needs to be cleaned up, falling into disorganization, and needing to be re-organized, broken, and then fixed.”

by Chris Viaggio

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