The Erotic Ghost – danger, desire and seduction.

The Erotic Ghost – danger, desire and seduction.

Painting of a sensual and strangely erotic ghost

This erotic ghost painting (Yuurei-zu) by Senju balances between the sensual and melancholy on one hand and the subdued rage in the ghost of a young woman.

 

Ever since I discovered Yuurei-zu a long time ago I have suffered a strange fascination with the genre. It is not about death, danger, fear or the dark world where the Yuurei dwells. I am not the kind person who easily regards ghosts or even the soul to be something that exists in my reality but somehow the melancholy of the ghosts speak to me. Even when the paintings border on the grotesque the Japanese ghost expresses a sort of desperation. To be seen. To be recognized. To belong. To interact. The suffering of the ghost, sometimes portrayed almost as mental illness, anxiety or just the uncontrollable urge to be something else, somewhere else, just not in their lonesome world of indescribable pain.

Although I do not find the image and idea of the Japanese ghost erotic in the usual sense of the word there is nevertheless something undeniably sensual in the notion of its almost liquid and  highly intangible form. Sometimes the Japanese painters of the Edo and Meiji period rendered the ghosts in terrifying bloody images but at other times they captured the fragile and the sorrowfully beautiful in images such as “A ghost before a mosquito net” by Eiho Hirezaki (1881-1968).

sensually erotic ghost

“A ghost before a mosquito net” by Eiho Hirezaki.

The erotic ghost.

Why do I even entertain an idea of the erotic ghost? Perhaps it has to do with my own personal idea of closeness, trust  and compassion as integral parts of sexual intimacy. As I have discussed on numerous earlier occasions, I feel that there is a divide in between what I would call the idea of sex as it is taught to us by social constructions, culture, religion etc and the wonderfull thing it can be when the layers of distraction and illusion are peeled off. So maybe I feel a romantic attachment to the sadness and melancholy of the ghost and this is what in turn makes it erotic.

Halloween is soon upon us and October 2017 will be a month where I will explore the world of Yuurei-zu. I will study the traditional Japanese ghost stories of the time and try to find inspiration for paintings that will range from the slightly sensual all the way to the explicitly erotic and pornographic. I will most likely leave out blood and gore since imagery containing death, murder, rape, mutilation, or torture has no place in my artistic cosmos. Mine will be the one of the erotic ghost and the sensual specter. There are many characters within the realm of Japanese art and lore that flirt with the erotic side of things. A small amount of these are ghost. Others are perhaps strong female characters that turns into demons and other creatures. it is quite likely that some of these will end up in my catalogue of Yuurei-zu.

While you wait in anticipation for the next ghost painting you can always read “Seduction” Shunga, ghosts and desperation where I talk a little bit about my first Shunga ghost painting.

Since I have spent almost two decades researching Japanese art, history and culture as part of my traditional Japanese tattooing this will be a month of intellectual festivities. The gods know that intellectuality, sensitivity and the artistic scares the shit out of the narrow minded, the hateful, aggressive and violent. They are also quite often deadly afraid when it comes to the idea of freedom of sexuality or simply the idea of compassion and love. No wonder I look forward to it so much.

/Senju

To find out who I am and why I create what I create you should read “Shunga and how I found my artistic voice (finally).”

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The Fabulous Cocks of Shunga Art.

The Fabulous Cocks of Shunga Art.

erotic shunga art by senju

My Shunga portrait of the famous Kabuki character “Sukeroku” (from the play with the same name). His cock is very large but this is how male genitalia was portrayed in Edo period Japanese erotic art.

 

The cock in Shunga

There has always been a great deal of surprise, giggles and astonishment surrounding the size of the male genitalia portrayed in Shunga. I remember that one of the first explanations I heard (more than 20 years ago, before I became interested in Japanese art) was that the average size of Japanese cocks are very small. The sizes the penises are rendered in Shunga was of course making up for the inherent inferiority complex that (still, surprisingly) comes with not being hung like the proverbial horse. Hopefully it goes without saying that cock-size confusion has nothing at all to do with the enormous penises in Shunga. One might think that it would have something to do with male gender domination. That the cock conquers all. Hmmm….that¨s not it either. It is true that the almost comical and at the same time erotic art of Shunga was aimed at a consumer group predominantly male. It is also a fact that it was considered really dirty pornography by Japanese people of Edo period days, but if you still think that cock size was important in the same way men seem to think in today’s wester culture then you are paddling in the wrong direction.

If you study a number of Shunga woodblock prints or paintings and look a bit closer you will probably find that the vaginas are equally oversized. Now, why is that? Was there a vagina-size complex going around as well? Of course not. Japanese art should not be viewed with the same eyes (or mind) used when viewing western art. There are many things central to Japanese traditional prints and paintings but what we call “realism” (and revere so highly) is not one of them. In fact, things like showing depth through light and shadow or portrait likeness was not something the artists strived for. The visual language sings a completely different tune. For example, volume in rendering the lavish Kimono of an Oiran was achieved through using varying weight in lifework. The Japanese artists used ink and brush for drawing and this lent itself to highly expressive lines. A skilled artist had no problem using this technique to breath life into his or hers work.

Likewise, keys to unlock the mystery of who was really who in an artwork was usually achieved by using symbols, objects or by placing the character in a context that  was well known to the viewer. This is why all the samurai in Ukiyo-e all look bewilderingly alike when you look at their faces but their armor, clothes and helmets are vividly  and painstakingly designed. When seeing Kato Kiyomasa wearing his characteristic helmet whilst fighting a tiger you can immediately tell that whose legendary exploits you are currently viewing.

So why the oversized genitalia? The simple fact is that they formed the center of attention in Shunga design. The genitalia draws your attention and you can go right into it! This form of erotic art was, as said earlier, predominantly aimed at a male audience and mostly used as visual aid when masturbating. The image needed to be easily read as the user flipped the pages of an arousing book. Little time was needed or desired for artistic contemplation. Who stops to admire the artists genius when you are about to orgasm? So now you know.

erotic shunga art by senju showing an heavily tattooed man holding his erect cock.

In “Otokodate” I show a more realistic size cock.

So what about big cocks?

The size of ones cock really seems to matter after all. At least if I would subscribe to the idea of what a man should be when men as a group defines themselves as sexual beings. This seems to really be the one and only thing. That and the ability to dominate and subdue women and perhaps fuck at lightning speed. Hard. Uncompromising. It starts early. Boys measuring themselves against each other in the school locker room. I remember being teased by the other boys even as high up as in high school. Apparently I wasn’t the “stallion” that was expected of me. Not that I really cared, even if it hurt when the the others called me names and pointed. And not that I was “small” either. In hindsight I think it was my glasses, my complete disinterest in sports and my affection for books and knowledge that served as the real “penis” envy.

When I was 15 the boy in our class that sported the longest slack dick in the locker room was of course very good at sports and not so highly achieving in others areas. And there is of course nothing wrong that. I liked the guy and he was nice. The other boys however could not stop talking about this guy and his cock and for some time he was a hero to them. A real man. Like they all wanted to be. It is just sad that we all had unknowingly bought into the patriarchal structure and hierarchy already at such an early age.

The cock in modern pornography

When I grew into a teenager during the late 70’s and early 80’s there was very little pornography to be obtained. It mostly consisted of small magazines that you would never dare to buy yourself. Sometimes when there was newspaper collecting day in my neighbourhood (people threw their old newspapers in a open container that was later collected by a truck) one could climb up during nighttime and rummage for comic books and the like. Sometimes, very much sometimes,  we found porn of various kinds. This is where we first saw the erect cocks of men (and the vaginas of women) but I recall that the male “actors” was not very heavily equipped. In fact it ranged in between all sizes and shapes.

The internet pornography of today is dealing much more in stereotyping. It seems to me to have very little to do with sex as it is in real life. If the industry can dictate what sex is it can also dictate our urges and needs. It becomes a self serving entity that I see as destructive. Here cocks are big and men are aggressive fuck machines that use women to satisfy their sexual urges and whims. It is also unfortunately where young boys and men learn what is “real” sex and how they should be in order to fit into the contemporary patriarchal norm. There are also adds placed that tells you that; yes, you’re cock is not big enough and that if you buy some pills not only will your penis grow but so will your sexual capital.

The cock in reality

We all want to be close to others. Preferably very close. That is when humans are at their best I think. Forget football scores, going to the moon, waging wars and driving really fast. Love and compassion is what we are actually made for. Sadly we get tricked into believing otherwise by our parents that were tricked by their parents and so on. In turn they were also fooled by culture, society and tradition that life is a tough bastard so we better be prepared, know what is right and “normal”, fear the unknown and smash it in the head with a great big stick.

At least this is what expected of you if you are a boy or a man. And men really fear not fitting into their group. I would dare to say that “normal” hetero men actually values being liked by other men more than they do being liked by women. And of course, if your penis is inadequate it becomes really dangerous. But what is a adequate cock then? Here we should paus and you can all go and read this very good and scientific information on penis size. Done? Good! How do you feel about your penis now?

In reality we all have very different cocks ranging in-between somewhere 13 and 15 centimeters. In every group of 100 men there will be five that have bigger cocks and also some that are bit smaller sized. The extremes are few and far apart. Love what you have and get to know it really well (unless you haven’t already). It is not a weapon or an instrument of terror. It’s a cock.

The Senju Shunga cocks

When I create my erotic works I have come to have very little preference as to what things should look like. Drawing large cocks are fun as are drawing vaginas. I remain true to the idea of the original shunga most of the time but I also deviate from the path when I see fit to. My original idea was to create erotic or pornographic works of art that can reclaim at least a part of what the porn industry are actively stealing from us in order to make millions of dollars at the same time that they are further solidifying the gender roles that makes up the foundation of what is wrong with our human world.

/Senju

For further reading on what makes my Shunga read “Shunga and how I found my artistic voice (finally).”

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Having wet dreams.

Having wet dreams.

erotic art, shunga, pussylicking, lesbian, japanese ghost

Shunga and the supernatural. In my painting “Musei” (Jap. wet dreams) a female ghost performs oral sex on a female member of the living. I was striving for both terrifying as well as romantic lust when creating this piece.

Most Shunga depicts male-female sexual acts but there are plenty of detours taken from this norm when you study this genre. There are of course male-male sex (nanshoku) as well as the female-female dito. Edo period Japan was in many ways liberated from the idiotic moral shackles surrounding human sexuality. These ideas usually weighs down societies influenced by monotheistic religions and their subsequent cultures. Sex was not a part of immoral behavior but rather a part of life. Not that the people of Edo copulated in every street corner but  conditions dictated restricted space for housing and the small houses was usually constructed out of wood and paper. It was practically impossible for people to have sex without being heard or glimpsed now and then.

In the  Japanese erotic art of the Edo period there was room for the supernatural, comedy, political satire and sometimes even violence in various forms. The woodblock prints and paintings spoke a secret language spelled out clearly for the initiated but remained veiled for the individual or institution that did not have access to the various keys for deciphering the images.

So what was on my mind when creating this painting?

I feel that our human selves can do without the labeling we inherit with our mother’s milk. The idea of normalcy is an idea laced with a poison to divide and suffocate us. Nowhere is this more painfully obvious the when it comes to two major ideas that have plagued us for centuries now – the idea of ¨race¨and the idea of ‘sex’. When something is considered ¨normal it automatically labels everything else as ‘abnormal’ and in our minds this phenomena becomes strange, weird, dangerous. Like who you experience sexual pleasures with for example. Penis and vagina go together we are taught since childhood. In a way this is correct. if you are referring to making babies only. Because that is all there is to that. If you extend that idea of *biological normalcy* into the realm of sexual pleasure and arousal you are bound to go blind into the darkness.

Musei (Wet Dreams)

In this painting two females are having sex, yes, but I have no real desire to label them as lesbian or not. This will be up to the viewer, who I’m afraid will often jump to the learned or inherited conclusion. Does the fact that one is apparently dead and transformed/remained as a ghost confuse things? I hope so. Also the inherited idea and fear of what we call ghosts (which I do not believe to exist even though I have met one. Another story we can discuss at another time) is most likely as far from the complex truth of things as we can possibly get. That is a gnawing certainty that I base on my experiences in life so far.

Furthermore, we can not really assume that the ghostly apparition is really of female gender, can we? Oh, the true reality is not so easily put into your small boxes, is it? In fact, the shimmering bluish shape tasting and caressing the other woman could be a man. Even if I set out to paint a female ghost making love to living woman I am no longer sure of what I created.

One thing that I am certain of is that this is a scene of deep intimacy and beauty. Something that surpasses our small ¨ideas¨of reality. for it is within the realm of love and intimacy that reality abides. Not decorating the religious and morally sanctimonious altars of the ones that choose fear and promotes hate in order to cloak their weaknesses.

For further reading on another ghostly erotic painting I created please go here and for understanding a bit more where my art comes from please go here.

/Senju

 

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Shunga and how I found my artistic voice (finally).

Shunga and how I found my artistic voice (finally).

cock, pussy, shunga, fucking, wooden clogs, geta, kimono, bathtub

The Shunga painting “Asaburo”, which I created during July 2017, is a very good example of how I have come to develop my contemporary view on this form of erotic art.

 

The Edo period form of erotic Japanese art called Shunga (Jap. “spring pictures”) was something I was vaguely familiar with through my daily studies of Ukiyo-e and other Japanese arts in my profession as a traditional Japanese style tattoo artist. After 10 years as a common tattooer creating pretty much on customer demand I had grown tired of not properly approaching my ideas of what kind of an artist and person I was. For various personal reasons and circumstances Japanese art, culture and spirituality increasingly came to play an important role in my life so the decision to become a Horishi (traditional Japanese tattoo artist) suddenly became unavoidable and necessary.

I quickly came to understand that in order to master this great feat I had to study. Very Hard and everyday. So I did just that. I read everything I could get my hands and eyes on. In Irezumi, the traditional Japanese tattoo, the artist usually used Ukiyo-e woodblock prints or paintings as reference for composition, style and content. Most of my clients wanted the images of warriors, heroes or various animals tattooed on their backs, arms and legs, usually combined with Japanese seasonal flowers and a background depicting water or wind.

In the world of Ukiyo-e there were many active artists at any given time during its 250 years of success. Many of these came and went without leaving traces in art history but a few such as Hokusai, Kuniyoshi, Utamaro, Kunisada, Hiroshige and Yoshitoshi ended up changing even the evolution of western art. Hokusai created on of the most recognized pieces of art in global human art history when he designed the famous Kanagawa-oki nami ura, (“Under a wave off Kanagawa”).

Kanagawa-oki nami ura, “Under a wave off Kanagawa” by Katsuchika Hokusai.

 

One thing that all these important artist have in common was that they at one time or another produced Shunga. The time and place in history where they lived and worked was unique. Edo was a “boom town” with a surplus of male inhabitants. Sexual or intimate encounters with females were rare or in many cases unobtainable. So pornography became a commodity of necessity. Images of sex became high in demand for masturbation purposes and the business of Shunga was highly a highly lucrative one.

It was the winter 2012/13. I had been tattooing since 1991. My marriage was since long failing. At the time I didn’t know it but I had been ignoring or postponing the discovery of my artistic voice. I was highly successful as a creator of Japanese tattoos and my popularity was painted in an ever ascending arc of more clients, further recognition and a steady income. Inside I was struggling. I was becoming depressed and  emotionally depleted. I had lost myself in the process it seemed.

A few years earlier I had ventured into book publishing together with another creator of Japanese Tattoos and we were supposed to go to a famous tattoo convention in Milan in order to present and release our latest book. As a tattoo artist it is common to design and print sheets of design, “Flash”, and sell these to other artists and collectors at the event. If these sheets proved popular it usually provided the opportunity for a little extra income during the convention. I had been doing it for years and years. This time, as so many times before this, I was thinking hard in order to come up with something new and unique. It had been a bit of a trademark for me. Since my studies into to Japanese culture and art were so deep and intense and since so many other artist did not really study these things I had been constantly able to present new approaches to the old subject matters.

I can’t really remember why I chose Shunga as the theme this time. Perhaps it was because at the time hardly any other tattoo artists painted or drew any designs like this. Perhaps it was an attempt of self love. In a failing relationship I was just like the men of Edo. Alone and thirsting for intimacy. Also, I had always liked to push boundaries and break taboos. What ever the reasons were I started to create five images doing the best I could with the materials and knowledge I possessed at the time. Suddenly ideas were flooding my creative mind. I found use for knowledge unusable in tattooing. The designs quickly evolved into complex images and each of them became a Shunga painting in their own right. This is how the finished sheets came out.

senju, horimatsu, shunga, erotic, erotica, japanese, japan, umeå, sweden, porn, pornography-1-2

senju, horimatsu, shunga, erotic, erotica, japanese, japan, umeå, sweden, porn, pornography-1-2

senju, horimatsu, shunga, erotic, erotica, japanese, japan, umeå, sweden, porn, pornography-1-2

senju, horimatsu, shunga, erotic, erotica, japanese, japan, umeå, sweden, porn, pornography-1-2

senju, horimatsu, shunga, erotic, erotica, japanese, japan, umeå, sweden, porn, pornography-1-2

I had them printed as a limited edition of 25 sets and put them in a specially designed slipcase and went to Milan. In all honestly they weren’t as successful as I had hoped for but the reactions I received and the many interesting and positive conversations that took place surrounding these sheets during the convention really inspired me. I understood that perhaps I have found that voice.

As a person I am soft spoken but with many words. I experience emotions on a deep level. I am not an aggressive type. Positivity and always rising from the debris of everything imaginable is something I have always done. I am  very serious person yet full of humor and laughter. Emotionally I take my time and stay out of rash decisions but creatively I take leaps of one thousand miles at a time and fear nothing. I do believe in love as the most valuable of jewels of the human heart ( not just romantic love but all types of love). All of the above are perhaps the reason why I lean towards Zen buddhism, non-violence and dialog. Unfortunately this way of being as a person isn’t exactly the easiest path to tread in societies like ours. You can perhaps say I make a very lousy “Man”.  Hopefully a better Hu-Man.

As I continued exploring (I still continued tattooing at full time as well as published books) I found that I already had a strong sense of imagery and how to combine the erotic with things I wanted to say and questions I wanted to pose. Also it was arousing to paint these images. The idea of being horny took on new dimensions and I slowly started to re-discover myself. And heal.

Edo period shunga usually depicts sexual encounters in-between couples, perhaps wife and husband or other constellations of lovers or persons intimate, and is mostly free of body shape ideals or the idea of sinfulness (no God, no Sin). Not many things were taboo when it comes to sex in Edo Japan. Homosexuality for example was not considered abnormal but was rather a part of the sexual society in Shunga. Most of the images are intimate and private, focusing on the encounter and placing the viewer or user as a voyeur. There are of course exceptions to this rule where and sometimes even rape is portrayed but these images are very rare and cannot be seen as even remotely relevant in a discussion regarding Shunga.

A great book to read, and a personal favorite, on the subject of Shunga is Sex and the floating world: erotic images in Japan 1700-1820  by Timon Screech. In this book he shares the conclusion that the imagery of Shunga is one that is strongly linked to the erotic and intimate fantasies of the men of Edo a that specific time in history. Namely that the idea of closeness and intimacy with a person on a romantic / passionate / Intimate level was for most men an unobtainable dream. Another great book on the subject is this wonderful book by Rosina Buckland.

Of course, women in feudal Japan did not experience much freedom, locked away by conventions and gender roles  instituted by the male ruling classes, and their story remains sadly untold to a great extent in Edo shunga, since it was mostly orientated towards male consumers of pornography.

This is why taking the ideas of Edo period Shunga into my own contemporary world, blending and grinding it together with who I am, what I feel and my life experiences works so well for me. What comes out of this union of Then and Now and Me and You can perhaps be the beginning or part of reclaiming the erotic, the intimate, the passionate and the sexual. I certainly hope so.

/Senju

 

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“Ao” – the color blue and the erotic.

“Ao” – the color blue and the erotic.

shunga, irezumi, japanese, tattoo, erotic, love, sensual, porn, pornography

In my shunga painting “Ao” (blue) I wanted to touch on the idea of intimacy and closeness as an integral part of my relationship to the erotic and sexual.

 

The erotic, as in my Shunga paintings, is an endless hall of mirrors, each showing little secrets of what our hearts desires. The most intense feeling of being here and now, of actually existing, is the sensation of being touched and oneself exploring the sensation of touching another human being. Yet this seems to still be charged with the fear of true intimacy in our time and culture. Sexuality is being heavily commodified and our most inner longings often becomes reduced to genital contact where orgasm is the goal and ego leads the way, assuming the shapes of the illusional characters we try or want to become. As for myself, the sensual, erotic and sexual can never be about replacing emotions, inflating a fragile ego or hiding the heart from the suffering that occasionally rears it’s inevitable ugly head as life flashes slowly by. I need and want intimacy, trust and and the bond cultivated between two people in love.

Loving another person, as well as your own Self, is a game full of risk. The imminent and ever present danger of experiencing heartbreak and loss. The fear of opening up and letting the robes fall from your shoulders, exposing the flesh and bone of your weak and fragile self. Still, the rewards of daring to love far exceeds these phantasms of vulnerability and ghosts of imagination. The daring leap, the exposed chest, the defenseless neck…..   What is there to lose but nothing at all!

/Senju

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The “Hasu” painting. What do you see?

The “Hasu” painting. What do you see?

erotic, erotica, shunga, porn, japanese porn, lotus, buddha, buddhism, enlightenment , erotic art, sensual art

“Hasu” means Sacred Lotus in Japanese. In Buddhism the lotus is a symbol of enlightenment, as the flower grows out of the muddy bottom of the pond and rises itself above the water surface.

In the “Hasu” painting the woman’s shaved head would perhaps suggest that she is some sort of buddhist nun. At least a bit holy or enlightened or at least getting there sooner than later. Yet she reveals herself to us rubbing her pussy against a lotus bud. Obviously it is a pleasurable thing to do so. She is looking back at us over her shoulder not caring at all that we are her voyeurs. There is nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed for. As it should be.

Let me explain my intentions with this Shunga painting. Besides the obvious erotic connotations of course. Many years ago I took a crash course in Zen buddhism. This was a basic easy hard thing to get involved in. It meant jumping straight into monastic life for 5 days. Quite a shock but a very sweet one. Zen monastic life can be challenging at first but naturally it grows on you. At this crash course there was a man that perhaps felt a bit confused and threatened that Zen buddhism is an actual religion and not just a philosophy as he might have read in some book or article.

At this point I ask you to keep in mind that Zen is a religion without prayer, gods, sin etc. It is the systemization that makes it a religion. And the belief that yo can save yourself from a lot of emotional suffering  through stilling your confused mind. Sound easy? It really is. And of course is not.

On the first night of our stay this man wanted to question the idea of bowing to the Buddha statue placed on the altar when entering the Zendo (meditation hall). I guess he felt uncomfortable bowing to things. So the Zen master kindly explained to him that, since we are all Buddhas since birth (we just forgot about as we grew up and people and society filled us up with confusing ideas) the image of the Buddha is really an image of your self. Like a mirror. So wen entering the zendo you basically bow to yourself, acknowledging that you are about to work hard on returning to your original self. Now, that is simple!

So this Shunga painting is something like that if you give it some thought. As a sentient being you are perfect as you are. It is only ideas that make you otherwise. Shaved head does not make you holy or spiritual in itself. Neither should it be regarded as neither normal or not normal. It is simply a shaved head. The rest you add yourself.

When it comes to the human body, sex and intimacy we are really falling into thousands of immediate little traps based on ideas. Thought patterns inherited, learnt….. very seldom are any of these things something that we ourselves have arrived at after careful deliberation. They just simply appear out of thin air. Like menstruation is gross, breastfeeding in public is inconsiderate and equally gross, the female naked body drives men in to fits of horniness and therefore should be covered, same-sex sexual encounters are wrong by “nature” (hey, in that case cars, bicycles, trains and planes should deliver us to hell as well. We are born with two feet, god damn it!), fucking will send you to “hell” and so will masturabtion too! Well, all of these ideas are at the best idiotic but mostly tragic and also tremendously dangerous. Millions of people have been killed over ideas no one really know where they picked up.

So the figure in the “Hasu” shunga painting is you (yes it really is), rubbing your self against the lotus that is your original and perfect mind as it was when yo first arrived in this world. Bow to yourself. Love yourself!

/ Senju

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