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International Dunhuang Project and bonus Asian culture link

Post #1295 • February 13, 2009, 8:31 AM • 69 Comments

Last week the Guardian ran a story about the International Dunhuang Project, an effort to build a digital archive of art and manuscripts associated with the Silk Road. Currently one can view 80,000 objects online, and the catalogue would be a pleasant way to surf away your morning.

The IDP has centres in China, Russia, Japan and Germany as well as its London base, and early next year the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris will become a partner when its collection of 10,000 treasures goes online. This will make available the vast hoard of manuscripts discovered by Stein's French contemporary Paul Pelliot in the Dunhuang Library Cave – this includes many secular texts, forming a basis for the development of economic, social and legal history of medieval China. There are also plans for the Institute of Korean Culture in Seoul to become a partner later in 2009.

For a newspaper piece, the Guardian supplied surprisingly rich technical details.

A Chinese version of the database was developed in 2001-02, and the database was redeveloped in 2005 involving the use of XML based on the TEI standard for the cataloguing and bibliographical data. These are stored in 4D and accessed using a 4D XML plug-in. Active 4D is used to serve the website and database.

The website, which is in English, Chinese, Japanese, Russian and German, has also been continually redesigned to include more functionality and data. It is now displayed in HTML, CSS and JavaScript, and current projects include plans to implement map layers for Google Earth.

Whitfield said the recent resolution of problems over Unicode, which were partly political, had made life much easier for encoding Chinese characters and other non-roman scripts.

You followed all that, right? XML is Extensible Markup Language, which is a flexible, text-based method for encoding information that both humans and machines can read. The TEI standard is an XML protocol for the Text Encoding Initiative, specifically aimed at encoding digital texts. 4D is a brand of database, and Active 4D is a 4D development environment. As far as I can tell, the political problems with Unicode had to do with the Han unification, but I can't find information on any recent resolutions thereof.

If your eyes are glazing over, just trust me - it's really cool.

In absolutely unrelated news, Chocolate opens this weekend.



Chris Rywalt

February 13, 2009, 8:55 AM

4D? What, no MySQL?

And are you trying to make OP and John's heads explode?



February 13, 2009, 9:01 AM

I was privately voting for Postgres.

SELECT content FROM news WHERE (opies_head_explodes = TRUE)


Chris Rywalt

February 13, 2009, 10:16 AM

Oh, crap, I laughed out loud at that. That's bad.



February 13, 2009, 11:28 AM

John understands this stuff. I don't.



February 13, 2009, 1:01 PM

I hate to digress from all this fascinating geekery, but I just ran across something a bit more interesting. A museum in Vero Beach, FL, whose existence was previously unknown to me, is currently hosting a show on loan from the Uffizi (yes, the one in Florence) devoted to the landscape in Italian art from Botticelli to Canaletto (or thereabouts). Again, we're talking Vero Beach, FL. Not here in Miami, where people are too advanced for such things. I'm so grateful to our local cultural establishment for focusing so tenaciously on relevant art.


Chris Rywalt

February 13, 2009, 1:31 PM

A quick glimpse at free association in my head:

The Uffizi: One of the most prestigious museums in the world. So prestigious it shouldn't even be called a museum. Center of the Renaissance and by extension the collective art culture of humanity.

Vero Beach: Huh?

That Vero Beach would be engaged with the Uffizi in any respect is extremely impressive. That is a serious museum right there. I'd be proud to have it in my state.



February 13, 2009, 1:50 PM

Their address is

Unfortunately, it's in Central Florida, a bit too far from Miami for me to make a comfortable day trip. But yes, it would appear to be a serious museum, certainly more so than what we have here in our "major art city."

But never mind. We'll have yet another white elephant of a sports facility built any day now. We already have an obscenely overpriced performing arts center, whose main lobby is decorated with a lovely replica of the Vietnam War Memorial in DC, and where parking costs only $15 (for the time being). Don't even ask about the price of good seats. Of course, there are cheaper seats, where the performance can be experienced the same way it would be on TV (and I'm not talking big-screen HDTV). I'm a very happy taxpayer.



February 13, 2009, 2:14 PM

Here's the blurb about the show from the museum's website:

The Museum is excited to announce its plans to present Painting the Italian Landscape: Views from the Uffizi in the Holmes Gallery this upcoming winter season. This extraordinary exhibition features 44 paintings that illustrate the evolution of landscape painting in Italy over the last 500 years. The selected works move from the Renaissance of Botticelli to the Baroque of Canaletto. The exhibition also showcases the works of Guercino and Filippo Napoletano, as well as other famous European landscape painters, including Paul Bril, Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain. An illustrated all-color catalogue will accompany the exhibition.

Painting the Italian Landscape was curated by art historian Antonio Natali, who became the new director of the Uffizi Gallery in 2006, and is organized by the Trust for Museum Exhibitions in collaboration with Contemporanea Progetti of Florence, Italy, and the Friends of the Uffizi.

I'd practically kill for a show like this in Miami. But are we likely to get anything like it? Oh, nooooo. Who wants Old Master stuff anyway? Let's just have more Vik Muniz, or maybe, if we're really lucky, more Rosenquist.



Chris Rywalt

February 13, 2009, 3:34 PM

Have I complained about our new train station where they put the drop-off road on the right side of the building? If you're dropping someone off from your car, and you're in America, what side of the car do they get out on? The right. So our new train station has an explicitly designed drop-off zone where passengers get out into traffic.

I'd actually be happier if our taxes went towards lavish hotel rooms and first-class flights and vacations with well-endowed mistresses (or -- what's the word the male you cheat on your wife with?). At least then someone would be enjoying the money. Hell, I'd rather have a big tax dollar bonfire with dancing and marshmallows.

Let's not discuss "cultural" institutions in New Jersey.



February 13, 2009, 4:23 PM

"A recent study done at Glasgow Caledonian University found that people who were listening to their favourite music felt less pain and could stand pain for a longer period."

This is exactly the type of research that should be done with respect to visual art.

We could strap select museum curators onto examination tables, bring out the Botticellis and the Munizes, and the hot pokers, and start making some discoveries... SCIENCE!


Chris Rywalt

February 13, 2009, 4:44 PM

That'd make a great conceptual performance art piece, too. ART and SCIENCE!



February 13, 2009, 5:18 PM

Geez, I guess music is worth something after all.

I suspect people in Glascow are in pain much of the time anyway. Another interesting study has concluded that Scotch whiskey has much the same effect.



February 13, 2009, 8:42 PM

Here's an article worth a derisive snort or two...
The reopening of the Whitechapel Gallery



February 13, 2009, 11:00 PM

Just one or two derisive snorts? Why, MC, you must be getting old, or perhaps Holofernes has been so busy your energy level's running low. Let's see:

Iwona Blazwick, a suitably exotic, vaguely glamorous name that stops short of bizarre. Check. Matriarchal. Check. An affinity for extravagant hype (Isa Genzken--who knew?--“world’s most important living artist”). Check. A penchant for overblown, if hackneyed, language and trite phrasing (“so powerful it hits the back of your eyeballs”; "artists can’t help doing what they do – they’re cursed with that destiny”; "seminal time"; "living through the fallout"). Check. Lifelong devout atheist. Check. Nan Goldin, Gerhard Richter. Check. The compulsive, mandatory trashing of Greenberg (and an epiphany, no less--shades of Danto and the Warhol Brillo boxes). Check. Always resisting seeing artists (like, uh, I don't know, Damien Hirst) as conmen. Check. Feminism, psychobabble, er, psychoanalysis, anthropology. Check. "Someone else can make the work" (or "All hail the great god Koons!"). Check. Women artists (the right ones, obviously). Check. Married a "political philosopher" (is that like Shepard Fairey?) Check. A tapestry of Picasso's Guernica as a major coup, when the original isn't all that (well, at least it wasn't a rhinestones-on-velvet version by Vik Muniz). Check. "Avant-garde without being crippled by political correctness" (you don't say!). Check. Its moment is now (but of course). Check. "During a recession, art may never be more necessary, reminding us that we are civilised and that there’s something beyond our daily needs” (uh, right; whatever you say; rah, rah). Check.

The next director of Tate Modern? Well, I expect so, assuming Obama can't talk her into being our art czar (after excruciating tax vetting, naturally). I mean, she could hardly fail to live up to Serota, plus she's got an even better moniker.



February 13, 2009, 11:40 PM

nice jack, check.



February 14, 2009, 2:32 AM

In these tough times, I don't want to spend all my snorts in one place...



February 14, 2009, 8:55 AM

But Jack, she is a "devout atheist" and "immensly competent" in a museum that has evolved "dazzlingly yet sensitively" and is a venue "unoquely loved" by artists. Hey, I bet you are not "uniquely loved", you grouse!

Not only that, but she is real tough about her exalted ideals, declaring angrily that in Italy a woman with children still has to get her husbands permission to renew her passport. And that religious groups across the board discriminate against women.

Hmmm. It also says that in Whitechapel's inner-city location and immigrant community mosques and tandoori take-aways have long replaced synagogues and delis. Maybe she better softpedal all that feminist stuff.



February 14, 2009, 9:42 AM

I was struggling too hard through the article to snort. The repudiation of PC at the end after hitting every PC talking point along the way is classic.


Chris Rywalt

February 14, 2009, 10:14 AM

I'm certain that the only way to love Jack is uniquely.



February 14, 2009, 11:39 AM

Well, OP, I would never aspire to be loved the way Ms. Blazwick is--I don't have those kinds of skills. The woman is a professional, big-league player, after all.

As for softpedaling the feminist stuff, she's already doing it. Or rather, she's being very cautiously selective in her targets. If I want a current example of a society or culture that blatantly oppresses and mistreats women, Italians would hardly be my first choice, but the obvious first choice is one she's not about to make, for obvious reasons. Same goes for religion-based discrimination against women; she's careful to dilute and spread the blame "across the board."

And yes, Franklin, that line was a classic, given the PC-fest preceding it, just like the writer asking "Can gender still be an issue?" early on, and then hammering away at the gender issue every chance she got.

And MC, I still think you might do well to give Holofernes some rest. You don't want to become too languidly satiated--it dulls the bite.



February 14, 2009, 11:48 AM

Also, it's hard enough to tolerate "gender" as a verb, and here the writer quotes the subject using it as an adjective. If only the English language had some way to defend itself.



February 14, 2009, 12:33 PM

It appears one now needs the right sort of name to play the game. Iwona Blazwick, Isa Genzken, Goshka Macuga...even the art scribes are in on it, like Ms. Wullschlager. Einspruch might fly, but the Franklin has to go. Maybe Ulf Einspruch...anyway, I'm afraid something like Chris Rywalt is hopelessly inadequate.



February 14, 2009, 12:38 PM

It's classic, Franklin, because just as the mainstream has consumed the avant-garde repudiating PC has become PC.



February 14, 2009, 12:44 PM

When it comes to exotic nomenclature "Jack" is certainly at the very bottom.

But "Ulf "is perfect for Franklin. He needs an accent and $300 shades to go with it, however.

Her name shoud be "Iwona Bigrep"



February 14, 2009, 12:56 PM

The $300 shades, no doubt, help prevent things from hitting you in the back of the eyeballs...

Oh, and Chris, I suggest you start by replacing your 'C-H' with a 'K' and, heck, maybe throw in a few extra vowels. Kriis Rywaalt looks just about right, to me... Dazzling, yet sensitive.



February 14, 2009, 1:01 PM

And you, MC...Micawber Cryszynzewski? Moot Changa?
Melodium Carabellossi?

Get busy.


Chris Rywalt

February 14, 2009, 1:12 PM

I always used to tell people when I ran away from home I'd use the name Zoltan Grbznik. The beauty of it is no one would ever be able to find me because no one would be able to spell it right.



February 14, 2009, 1:15 PM

I dunno Opie... I can't pronounce the first one; the second one's pretty good, but too much like Kermit Champa for it to be loved uniquely enough; and the third is, obviously, too Italian (those patriarchal, Mary-worshipping bastards!).

I'm hoping us devout atheists get a pass on the exotic name thing...



February 14, 2009, 1:28 PM

Kriis Rywaalt is pretty good. Sounds Icelandic. And of course "Jack" won't do, but not all of us have Ms. Bigrep's priorities. Still, I'm considering Jürgen...


Moot Changa

February 14, 2009, 1:29 PM

I can't help but think it would be much simpler if the NEW MODERNISTS followed the establishment lead, er, I mean, subverted the paradigm, and just got a few mainstream, widely circulated writers in our own back pockets... considering what newspapers pay, the required bribes probably aren't that large, even...



February 14, 2009, 1:40 PM

You gotta hand it to Iwona, though. I mean, she's pretty much got all the bases covered. If nothing else, the woman is thorough. The more I think about it, the more she seems to belong in a Cabinet post...I expect she could teach even Hillary a thing or two.



February 14, 2009, 1:44 PM

MC, try Miklos Ciolkowski.



February 14, 2009, 1:52 PM

Youse guys better watch it, know whadahm sane?



February 14, 2009, 2:08 PM

You're right in #20, Jack.

If she said it about the people who really seriously oppress women she would get picketing, death threats and exile from the UK.

The worst she could expect from an Italian is a muttered "va fangulo" and an obscene gesture.



February 14, 2009, 2:09 PM

Not just death threats, but death threats from the neighbors.



February 14, 2009, 2:19 PM

Personally, I'm looking forward to Whitechapel's fearless exhibition of Contemporary Danish political cartoons... but I'm not holding my breath.



February 14, 2009, 2:23 PM

As I said, the woman is a pro. She knows what she's doing.


Kriis Rywaalt

February 14, 2009, 2:27 PM

Italians oppress women? I've known Italian women. I was brought up by one (second generation, but okay). Italian women kick ass and take names. If anything, Italian men are oppressed by Italian women. That's why they spend so much time drinking and napping around the house. It's their only revenge.

I'm diggin' the new names, by the way. All the Latinos I know call me Kriis anyway.



February 14, 2009, 4:24 PM

I was thinking the same thing, Kriis. Italian women have never struck me as oppressed, but rather the opposite. Iwona dropped the ball there, but hey, nobody's perfect. Besides, she probably figures one evasion's just as good as another.



February 14, 2009, 4:34 PM

I mean, lets' face it, Anna Magnani would take one look at Iwona and laugh her ass off. Talk about no contest. I don't think Magnani would have had much use for a "political philosopher," either.



February 14, 2009, 4:37 PM

For everyone else who had to look it up.



February 14, 2009, 4:47 PM

Diva is not an Italian word for nothing, you know.



February 14, 2009, 4:54 PM

Hey, maybe Bunny knows Iwona, or knows about her...



February 14, 2009, 4:57 PM

Franklin, I was blindsided by the "lost reference" syndrome once again.

What, I thought, could Franklin be linking to?

Of course. Probably 80% of all blog readers have no idea who Anna Magnani is. By the same token, I doubt that 90% of those would bother to look it up. (well, maybe our sophisticated, highly educated, verbally inclined, naturally curious readers would)

Have you no respect for youth culture, Jack?



February 14, 2009, 5:04 PM

OP, I have no respect for what now passes for culture in general, youthful or otherwise. Of course, that's why I'm not in the running to replace Serota at the Tate, unlike Iwona.



February 14, 2009, 5:08 PM

Besides, people should know about Magnani just as they should know Sarah Siddons and Sarah Bernhardt, for instance, not to mention Eleonora Duse (another Italian woman who wouldn't think much of Iwona).



February 14, 2009, 6:01 PM

Iwona Roque would be a great name for a drag queen.



February 14, 2009, 6:05 PM

I vote for Laura Antonelli.



February 14, 2009, 6:20 PM

I clearly have a gaping chasm where my knowledge of Italian film starlets is supposed to be.


Iwona Roque Yoo

February 14, 2009, 7:11 PM

I would've looked up Magnani if Franklin hadn't left a link. I was surprised at how gorgeous she was. So often these old stars look a little off to my modern eyes, but not, judging by that photo on Wikipedia, Magnani.

I'm ignorant of divas in general since I don't know much about opera. I don't consider opera highbrow anyway -- it's just lowbrow that got expensive. As soon as I saw "Magnani" I immediately thought of an artist I know who is about the exact opposite of Anna: tiny, squeaky, thin. She's the pocket Magnani, I guess.

Laura Antonelli is Croatian, anyway. If Italian women kick ass, Croatian women kick it inside-out. I think as you work your way east across Europe the women get tougher and tougher, until you hit Asia and eventually Mongolia, where the women will eat you for breakfast and use your shins for toothpicks.



February 14, 2009, 7:54 PM

Magnani was a major Italian movie star in the 50s, along with Gina Lollabrigida and Sopia Loren.

We recently saw a Netflix movie with her called "Mama Roma". One of the strangest movies I have ever seen.



February 14, 2009, 8:55 PM

By the way, considering some of you didn't know Magnani, I want to emphasize that I was talking about Sarah, not Sandra, Bernhardt. Sarah B. was quite possibly the most famous actress of the 19th century, not some Madonna crony.



February 14, 2009, 8:58 PM

And Franklin, if we're talking drag queen, that should be Iwona Mann.



February 14, 2009, 9:17 PM

Thank goodness for wikipedia. You guys are so good at looking stuff up on it. Congrats to Ulf and Kriistof. A job well done! I mean shit, to continue forward in life clinging to a misconception about the birth locale of Laura Antonelli would have been devastating.



February 14, 2009, 10:09 PM

Suit yourself, Eag. I have some new movies to order on Netflix.

Getting the pleasures right is important.



February 14, 2009, 11:17 PM

With a 2 and a 5 year old and a full time job I don't have time to watch the netflix DVDs sitting on our tv. Just so my vote really counts, I nominate Sopia Loren and Deborah Caprioglio.



February 15, 2009, 9:00 AM

Oh yeah Netflix not netflix.



February 15, 2009, 10:28 AM

You guys are very funny today.


Kriis "Iwona Roque Yoo Allnite" Rywaalt

February 15, 2009, 11:47 AM

Listen, Erich, if it weren't for the Internet I'd have no life at all. Give me each day my daily bread, okay?

Franklin: I never clicked on that "Chocolate" link. Didn't really catch my eye. I was just showing the SQL humor to my wife and she clicked on it. HOLY CRAP. I really did lol.



February 15, 2009, 12:01 PM

You are being too modest Kriistof.



February 15, 2009, 2:38 PM

Oh wait. You were being sarcastic.


Luckma Pantzarof

February 15, 2009, 7:32 PM

Well this conversation went off track. Speaking of gender:

"Also, it's hard enough to tolerate "gender" as a verb, and here the writer quotes the subject using it as an adjective."

Did anyone see Colbert last week with David Ross (ex Whitney, Boston ICA, SFMFA curator) "defending" Shepard Fairey? He didn't do much but act as a prop for Colbert's set up with Ross as "Mr. Arty Man" and Colbert's "Brother Ed" as a lawyer. Very funny. The best part though was Colbert opening with Fairey's Hope poster paired with what he called Geraldine Ferraro's campaign poster, with an image of one of Georgia O'Keefe's flower/vulva paintings. It was brilliant and hilarious and God knows what a proper feminist would make of it.



February 15, 2009, 10:12 PM

Once the drawings of Clement Greenberg came up, somewhere on this great blog. But no one could come up with an image. Here is A GREENBERG FIGURE. You can click on the image and maybe get a larger view.


Kriis Rywaalt

February 15, 2009, 10:39 PM

Actually, Erich, I wasn't really being entirely sarcastic. A lot of my life exists only because of the Internet. Not least the things I get paid to do.

Nice to see a little Greenberg, John.

This is what I did when thinking of Georgia O'Keeffe.



February 15, 2009, 10:57 PM

There is also an interesting DISCUSSION on Flickr about lists of great artists, etc. If you want to comment, you must log in - membership is free, though.



February 15, 2009, 11:13 PM

Er, Kriis, exactly what was it you did?


Chris Rywalt

February 15, 2009, 11:34 PM

I'm not sure why it didn't go through properly. Maybe I screwed up the tag, maybe Franklin's blocking it. Anyway, here's the link:



February 17, 2009, 11:11 AM




February 17, 2009, 11:13 AM

New post coming soon. In minutes, even.



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