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Friday 05.15.15

Why Adam Baran’s latest film Northwest Passage deserves your donation

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I can still see a 20-year-old me, cowering in front of my Facebook screen after the NYC Queer filmmaker and former contributing editor of BUTT Magazine Adam Baran publicly reamed me for posting a status which he found revolting and bourgeois (it was). His endlessly sophisticated proclivities include a deep appreciation for David Lynch‘s iconic TV show Twin Peaks,” of which I have never watched a full episode. I will, however, be contributing to the Kickstarter campaign he has going for his new film, Northwest Passage,” which follows the dark and incredible journey of a Twin Peaks super fanboy whose real life becomes as strange and Lynch-ian as….well….Lynch, and you should contribute too. Here’s why.

 

Nowadays Travis Blue is something of a legend in certain NYC circles, but in the early nineties he was a lonesome and cruelly abused gay boy living in rural Washington, until the magical day when David Lynch shows up to film his new TV show in Travis’s backyard. Stepping through the looking glass into the world of Lynch’s imagination, young Travis becomes a fixture on the set, and then in the passionate subculture of Twins Peaks fandom. As Travis’s fascination with Laura Palmer, the show’s gruesomely murdered heroine, becomes an obsession, Travis falls deeper down the rabbit hole as his life takes on the properties of his drugged-out, trick-turning TV role model, bringing him to the teetering edge of a similar fate.

 

Transcending Twin Peaks, and more than just a tale of superfandom, “Northwest Passage” is a thrilling/creepy/sexy look at one gay boy’s jaw dropping coming-of-age tale, and Baran sees it as an exploration of “how we as a society process fiction.” It bears echoes of My Own Private Idaho and Mysterious Skin,” only Travis’s story isn’t scripted, it’s all too real. When Adam fist met Travis he wanted to collaborate on a fictionalized piece, until he realized that the real life of his subject was weirder and more exciting than anything he could script, and the four year documentary process began. The film trailer on the Kickstarter page looks dope as hell, and the prizes Adam’s offering are amazing, especially if you’re a fan of the show (at one level of contribution the actress who played Lucy will record your phone’s voicemail in her iconic nasal simper). To hear Adam talk of his own journey with Twin Peaks (making the teenage pilgrimage from Jersey to Manhattan to gulp down the show at the old Museum of Radio and Television), as well as his flat out awe for the twists and turns of Travis Blue’s amazing life (and it takes a lot to impress this queen), it’s easy to see how the story will make a fantastic movie in his capable hands, full of as many laughs and screams as the show itself was (so I’ve heard).

 

I might just binge watch Twin Peaks this summer, but before that I’m gonna buy one of Adam’s handsome “Northwest Passage” mugs. I wanna see Travis Blue’s story on the big screen; let’s help Adam put it there. There’s two events where you can pledge to the Kickstarter on site: On Friday May 15, there’s a Twin Peaks Party at Videology at 308 Bedford Ave. BK, NY. from 9:30PM to 11:30PM featuring performances by Macy Rodman, Severely Mame, and A Place Both Wonderful And Strange; Friday May 22 is Twin Peaks Drag Night at Nowhere Bar at 322 E 14th St. NY, NY. with DJ Hot For Crime.

 
Do if for Laura…actually do it for Adam.

Art: Interface: Queer Artists Forming Communities through Social Media

This is art show is really a no-brainer for us as it’s curated by Walt Cessna and features pretty much all of our favorite artists. There’s Michael Bilsborough, Bubi Canal, Walt Cassidy, Jordan Eagles, Alesia, Exum, Benjamin Fredrickson, Leo Herrera, Brian Kenny, Naruki Kukita, Scooter LaForge, Brett Lindell, Slava Mogutin, Diego Montoya, Gio Black Peter and many more. The exhibition “is emblematic of a shifting time in the art world where technology allows artists to not only create in a different way, but also alters the way the public encounters them and their art.” All the artists in the show, according to the gallery notes, “became friends and colleagues through social media.” I would venture to say that is not completely true as I know for a fact that many of these artists knew each other way before Facebook and Instagram appeared on the scene, but whatever it sounds good in a press release. Their should be plenty of cute boys at this event (I mean with Gio, Slava and Naruki involved that’s guaranteed), and with performances by BoyWolf and music by DJ Sheba Legend, it promises to be more lively than your average art opening. So scrub up pretty k?

FREE, 6:00PM, Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, 26 Wooster St. NY, NY.

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Thursday 05.14.15

Contemporary Fashion curated by Sam Gordon

With Cheryl Donegan, Richard Haines, and NADA x PAOM

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Our friend Richard Haines is at it again tonight, hunty. The legendary fashion illustrator and one of our favorite bloggers (What I Saw Today) is serving it up with the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) to present the work of multidisciplinary conceptual artist Cheryl Donegan in collaboration with Print All Over Me. This unique and totally immersive fashion/performance event celebrates the opening of NADAs new performance space at “Basketball City” on the East River piers by the Manhattan Bridge.

 

 

PAOM is an online community where pro and aspiring designers can upload digital designs and then profit from their eventual physical production, and Donegans collab with them is all about the idea of “being on the surface,” using a unique scanning and virtual body mapping process to turn digital fabric strips into wearable garments. The conceptual piece at the center of her approach explores “the quotidian, fluid relationship between the tactile world and the virtual one.” The best part is, Richard Haines will be drawing the models live as we watch, and that’s what makes this event a dont-miss. Runway show meets performance art with our fave fashion illustrator? Get to the east river piers, queen!

 

 

May 14th at 7:00PM at NADA’s new performance spot in “Basketball City”, 299 South St. NY, NY.

Event: Sumzine Magazine Issue 3 Release Party

Sumzine is a slow fashion magazine. What is slow fashion you ask? It’s like slow food, but you wear it...on your body. The basic principle behind the S.F. movement is that we should all buy less and buy better. I’m so on board with this. After moving to New York I lost my shit shopping at Uniqlo, Top Man and H&M (growing up in Australia we had none of those stores) I would spend way too much money, on way too many shitty pieces of clothing. I would wear them for a few weeks and then they’d either fall apart or I’d get sick of them. This is how most people in developed countries shop, and it’s stoopid, both environmentally, but also ethically (that $7.99 T-shirt from H&M was not made by someone earning a living wage). Sumzine, and its editor Jamie Ortega, hope that the magazine will get people interested in sustainable fashion. This Thursday, May 14, is the launch of their 3rd issue. It’s taking place at a very cool space, Tropical 128, on Elizabeth St., and is billed as an underground disco party. DJs Amrit, Doss, QT and Celestial Trax will provide tunes for the night. If you’re super on time you might get a free copy of issue 3 — they’re giving away 30 copies to the first 30 people to arrive. Being early has other benefits as there’s also an open vodka bar from 8-9PM. Have fun, but please drink sustainably.

FREE, 8:00PM, Tropical 128, 128 Elizabeth St. NY, NY.

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Interface

Walt Cessna, curator of Interface, sits down with us at the Leslie Lohman Museum to talk art and politics in the 21st century moment.

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Walking through the shops and outdoor cafes of SoHo on a spring day can be soul crushing, and overcoming the desire to snuff out your cigarette in that snatched blonde’s $35 plate of truffle fries can take tremendous focus. Surrounded by people whose level of wealth is eclipsed only by their level of Basic, you feel the loss of the vital art that once thrived and then died here, the ghost of which now stares at you blankly from the glittering sockets of a limited edition Damien Hirst skull.

 
If you’ve ever felt this way, head to the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art on Wooster Street to see curator Walt Cessna‘s show, Interface: Queer Artists Forming Communities Through Social Media.” There is still a living heart buried in SoHo, and on a day when the New York Times is announcing Chrystie’s first “Billion Dollar Art Sales Week,” signifying everything that is wrong with the art world, “Interface” at the Leslie Lohman is a sexy and fascinating exploration of what’s right with it.

 

Photographer/club kid/former fashion terrorist Cessna has gathered a truly heterogenous group of “mostly New York-based artists with active studio practices” who all “have (or have had) active relationships with social media” in an effort “to understand how this truly 21st century confection could create community and bring success to these artists.” What emerges is a titillating and uplifting picture of the 21st century working artist: entrepreneurs who can tap into the queer potential of a democratized online world to display their work, interact with fans and markets, and connect to each other outside the tyranny of galleries who must cater to the über rich.

 

“The show is a bit of a hodgepodge,” Cessna says, “painting, photography, illustration, video, installation, performance, sculpture, embroidery and needlepoint, everything but the proverbial kitchen sink.” Furthermore, there seems to be no prevailing similitude between how the artists in the show use social media; their various relationships to it are as different from each other as their work is. This broad spectrum of relationality underscores how the social media experience has changed the art-making, not just the art-promoting, game: while most of the artists have utilized various online platforms to build their brands, show their work, and find markets that say “yes” in a world of galleries saying “no,” some of them have gone so far as to incorporate a consciousness of social media into their actual creative process. Take Ben Copperwheat, whose “Divas” series featuring depictions of Madonna, Diana Ross, Joan Rivers, and BritCunt Margaret Thatcher is on display in the show, and who embraces the use of Instagram so thoroughly that “the nature of the square format has led me to create my compositions to work within the space to maximum effect.”

 
The means of distribution is shaping the work at the site of its production. In reading the artists’ statements it’s clear that Cessna has gathered creators whose relationships to social media aren’t all peaches and glitter; plenty of the artists speak of it with annoyance, or ambivalence, or an admission that the relationship has changed over time. Artist Chick Byrne captures a kind of generational ennui, remarking that “social media had its birth for me around the time I turned 12. AIM and chat rooms were it, and everybody was typing…. Now that I have spent more than half my life on social media, the appeal has mostly faded. My online presence is minimal and my eagerness to use it just as low.”

 

With a mix of swooning nostalgia and electrified conviction, Walt harkened back to the days of the Early 1980s East Village art scene, stitching that moment to the present with common threads of a “do-it-yourself aesthetic and punk ethos,” as well as a seismic shift in the economic and practical aspects of how and where art gets consumed. Today it’s tumblr feeds and Facebook walls, in 1982 it was subway cars and bathroom stalls. It was a time when the prevailing gallery system was being challenged by radical means of dissemination, as well as artists who were determined to subvert the calcification of the “proper” art world. Many of these artists were queer, and their ability to think outside the box was a result of lives that had been lived in society’s margins. Walt looks for this unabashed ferocity in queer artists today, dismissing those who put “less of their penis online and more of their commerce,” — those who might sublimate authentic queer radicalism for the kind of bourgeois self-consciousness that can sometimes emerge in the wake of increasing online success. Cessna has no patience for artists who “look correct but have no politics,” especially in an age when the problematic side of social media can mean that “hitting the like button excuses you from having to think about it at all.”

 

With its focus on queer methods of resistance and conscious art-making for a new age, “Interface” could not have a more appropriate home than the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art. Founded like a giant “fuck you” to death during the darkest days of AIDS, a time when gay businesses and galleries faced extinction as gay corpses mounted with no end in sight, Leslie Lohman has been serving queer resistance since day one. They own their space (as well as the 7,000 sf of space next to them which they’re about to take over), and in 2011 they made the critical jump from a gallery to a fully accredited museum — the strategic importance of which should not be missed: as a museum with an endowment, rather than a gallery dependent on sales (which must always be sky-high to satisfy the vice grip of ever-rising SoHo rents), the Leslie Lohman can perform a critical function in our community, allowing their rotating guest curators to build shows that don’t need blue-chip sales, shows that can focus instead on queer artists who deserve to be seen but haven’t yet received the powerful benevolence of exposure in prestigious galleries. Thus, Walt Cessna can fill his show with the artists who he knows to have politics as rigorous as their aesthetics, without giving a shit as to whether or not they can command million dollar price tags.

 

Walt talked passionately about how the Leslie Lohman is not known enough by the young and the hip of the NYC queer art world, and his hopes that this show can help enlighten that particular crowd to the vital role the museum can play in furthering the kinds of democratization and destratification that social media platforms have already begun for queer artists. The museum can promote those who might be stuck in what Walt called “a kind of online purgatory, where they’re known as an Internet celebrity, but they’re not in the galleries yet. Here, the fans get the chance to physically view the artists’ work, and something happens in that space between the viewer and the work that can’t happen online.”

 

Below is a preview of what you’ll see at the show:

 

Canal_GAYLETTERBubi Canal, Untitled, 2015. Courtesy of the artist in Munch Gallery, NY.

 

Dewitt_GAYLETTERDerek Dewitt, Stella Rose Saint Clair, 2013, Courtesy of the artist.

 

Peter_GAYLETTERGio Black Peter, Big Dreams, 2014, Acrylic and oil pastel on NYC Subway map. Courtesy of the artist.

 

Kenny_GAYLETTERBrian Kenny, Eye Get It, 2015, Acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of the artist.

 

Fredrickson_GAYLETTERBenjamin Fredrickson, Anonymous (Spandex), 2007, Polaroid. Courtesy of the artist and Daniel Cooney Fine Art, New York.

 

‘Interface: Queer artists forming communities through social media’ is on view from May 15-Aug 2, 2015 at Leslie-Lohman Museum, 26 Wooster St. NY, NY.

 

 

Wednesday 05.13.15

Art: Zanele Muholi – Isibonelo/Evidence

Zanele Muholi calls herself a visual activist. Her photography, video and instillation exhibit, Isibonelo/Evidence, the first major museum show of it’s magnitude in the United States or elsewhere, powerfully and undeniably explores, celebrates and promotes visibility for the black, lesbian and transgender communities of South Africa. Patrick, Abi and I descended on the show’s opening day, to interview and photograph Zanele for an in-depth profile. She proved to be a razor sharp tour de force as she lead us step-by-step through the show, so generous with her time and spirit, extremely knowledgeable about the LGBTQI history of South Africa and it’s context in the global community. The first thing she said to break the ice when we met was,“You’re so gay!” Loved it. Best known for her striking series of black and white portraits of black lesbians and trans men called Faces + Phases (shown in it’s entirety in print and slide show format), it’s a series “which uses firsthand accounts to speak to the experience of living in a country that constitutionally protects the rights of LGBTQI people but often fails to defend them from targeted violence.” Hence the wall of copy adjacent to the portraits that tracks the incessant hate crimes that transpired against the LGBTQI community. On a more celebratory note, the next room houses a series of colorful and joyous images of gay and lesbian weddings from Zanele’s inner circle in addition to a video of the artist making love to her lover, totally out of focus, but with the soundtrack totally intact. This exhibition is housed just one floor below Kehinde Wiley’s retrospective A New Republic and across the hall from Basquiat’s The Unknown Notebooks.” It could not be in better company nor provide a more poignant environment for such revolutionary and important work.

$16, 11:00AM-6:00PM, Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway BK, NY.

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Monday 05.11.15

25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin

Berlin's hotel of the hour.

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Previously, when I thought of the Berlin Zoo, my first association was the scenes from Christiane F. – We Children from Bahnhof Zoo where 14 year old Christiane and her boyfriend turn tricks for heroin at the Bahnhof Zoo station. Well, that, and the Helmut Newton Foundation, which is on the opposite side of the tracks across from the actual zoo for which the station is named.

 

Today I have a few more associations, which are decidedly less bleak than those relating to Christiane F. I recently stayed in a delightful room overlooking the Zoo at the 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin. The hotel is the most recent property from the Hamburg-based 25hours Hotel chain. It is located in the newly renovated Bikini Haus, a modernist complex built in the 1950s along the edge of the Berlin Zoo. The Bikini Haus, which got its name because the top and bottom structures are separated by an open-air floor between, now houses a shopping center and restaurants in addition to the hotel.

 

The location is a bit surprising for a hip hotel in Berlin. It’s in the west, near affluent Charlottenburg and spots like KaDeWe, far from the grit and decay of eastern neighborhoods like Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain or Neukolln that epitomize the city’s poor but sexy moniker. Of course, with Berlin’s public transport you can quickly ride over to those neighborhoods at any time. But the area around the hotel is worth reconsidering. In addition to the previously mentioned Helmut Newton Foundation and Zoo, the area has several other institutions that merit a visit. Adjacent to the Bikini shopping center is the newly renovated Art Deco Zoo Palast Cinema, which was hosting screenings of the Berlin International Film Festival while I visited. Located a few blocks further west is the Amerika Haus, a modernist building originally opened in 1957 as a center for Germans to learn about American culture, which now holds exhibitions of photography and visual media by C/O Berlin.

 

Even with all that culture calling you out, you may not want to leave your room. The hammock in mine overlooking the zoo was a perfect place to perch and scope out the monkeys and pelicans below. Add to that the beautiful sauna and sumptuous yet healthy food of the rooftop restaurant, and you may never want to leave the premises at all. The hotel is fantastically designed, with an immaculate attention to detail. Every inch of the rooms and common areas have been carefully engineered to match the hotel’s “urban jungle” theme. The lush, verdant look was created by local designer Werner Aisslinger, who cleverly drew on the hotel’s proximity to the zoo to craft a space that feels both wild and domestic.

 

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The reception desk is staffed by helpful young Berliners

 

 

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There’s a cute gift shop in the lobby, perfect for finding something for your friends back home. I brought the GAYLETTER family some cute soaps handmade in Berlin.

 

 

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The lobby’s cafe is a great spot to grab breakfast to-go or sit and browse through the art books on display.

 

 

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This huge hammock in the lobby is perfect for lounging and watching the monkeys.

 

 

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The elevator’s walls are video screens playing a trippy loop of surreal images.

 

 

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On the opposite side of the zoo are views of the urban skyline.

 

 

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Sleek black hallways extend from common areas teeming with life. My room number was 909, an auspicious number: 909 was the area code of my childhood phone number.

 

 

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I loved the design of my room and its views of nature. The comfy hammock got a lot of use during my stay.

 

 

It was like a visit to the zoo without leaving the comfort of your own room – throughout my trip I heard the hoots and bellows of baboons (though fortunately, never at night). While the hotel’s vibrance cut through some of the legendary gloom of Berlin, if you’re looking to enjoy the zoo view you’ll be better off visiting in spring or summer, when the plant life of the zoo and Tiergarten are less dead and grey.

 

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Rooms are stocked with ecologically focused toiletries from Stop the Water While Using Me!

 

 

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The hotel’s sauna is a wonderfully tranquil spot to relax and warm up. For a small fee, you get access to the sauna, use of sandals and a robe, as well as complimentary tea, soda, beer and snacks in the sauna area.

 

 

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To conclude, this isn’t Christiane F.’s Zoo anymore. Nor is this the Zoo of the 1990s, where new arrivals from the East shelled out 99 marks for their uniforms of leather jackets, acid washed jeans, and tennis shoes. Instead, you can drop in to the Berlin-based eyewear manufacturer Mykita‘s boutique and pick up a pair of Mykita X Maison Martin Margiela sunglasses for a little over 500$. This isn’t the utopic outburst of underground DIY activity chronicled in Der Klang Der Familie, Felix Denk and Sven von Thülen’s recently translated oral history of Berlin’s techno scene in the early 1990s. But it is Berlin now, at this hour; without any self-righteous nostalgia.

 

The 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin, Budapester Strasse 40; +49-30-120-2210; 25hours-hotels.com. Rooms from 120 Euros.

Sunday 05.10.15

FILM: KEHINDE WILEY – AN ECONOMY OF GRACE

Watch it online for free!

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I am totally enamored by artist Kehinde Wiley. For one thing he throws the most fabulous (and generous) parties in his massive, exquisitely appointed SoHo loft on many of the calendar’s holidays. But more importantly Kehinde,“has carved out a place for the heroic African-American figure in classical Western portraiture.” That’s quite a feat for just one man! Last year this intimate documentary by Jeff Dupre was brought to BAM —  Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace. For those of you that didn’t get a chance to go and see it, now you can watch it online for free. All I know is that the film deals with the artist’s exploration of female portraiture to reveal another side of black femininity. In the opening of the trailer for the film Kehinde states,“Everything is political, If I were to paint a bowl of fruit I would be a young, black American male painting a bowl of fruit.” How true. Watch this film, then take this brilliant opportunity to go see Kehinde’s current retrospective called Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic, now up at the Brooklyn Museum until May 24th.

 

Click here to watch the documentary.

Saturday 05.09.15

Performance: THE DANCE CARTEL – ON THE FLOOR

A few weeks ago I attended a performance by The Dance Cartel (which is a group of 12 rotating dancers founded by Ani Taj) at the Ace Hotel. When I arrived at the door I couldn’t hear anything, the show had not even started, and it was already so loud and super high energy… I told Mossy who came with me, that I thought we were too sober for this. 3 drinks in, the music started to adjust a little. I was like why didn’t I smoke some greens before? The performance started, and the dancers started to move like they were in club in the 70s high on something. I mean they were already having so much fun 5 minutes into the performance, it was fascinating. They describe the show as “new modular-dance-party-arty.” I asked Thomas Gibbons (one of the dancers and a friend) to elaborate on that: “it’s really a mashup of all things we love. We often work off of the music that we find exciting and it informs whatever we’re doing. It could be a trap song that inspires some kind of Apache or agro style dance or a top 40 track that will evolve into Brazilian carnival dance.” It was great to see that they were not taking themselves too seriously. I got really into it, the audience is encouraged to dance and that’s what I did later on. “At the end of the day we just want the audience to have fun because we’re having fun.” This week’s special guests is one of our favs, John Early along with many others. See you on the floor!

$15-$20, 8:00PM, ACE HOTEL, LIBERTY HALL, 20 W. 29th ST. NY, NY.

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Friday 05.08.15

TV: Grace & Frankie

This is not something we usually do, but we’ve decided to feature a show we haven’t seen yet. It’s an original Netflix series called Grace & Frankie by the creator of Friends (yeah I know) that we will absolutely watch (at least the first ep) because it stars two of the baddest bitches in Hollywood. I’m talking about Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, two brilliant women, who over the last 50 years, have created incredibly unique careers — frankly, they could star in a Tyler Perry movie and I’d line up to see it. In this case they star as “two women who form an unlikely bond after their husbands reveal they are gay and leave them for each other.” The reviews I’ve read have said the writing feels a bit dated (no surprise considering the creator’s biggest hit started in 1994) and that the main characters come across as unlikable. That may be all true, but as I said earlier, these bitches have built up enough goodwill with me that I’ll give Grace & Frankie a shot, I mean, I’ve taken risks with worse sounding crap on Netflix and lived to tell the tale.

Available on Netflix today.

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