Art, Travel & Life in Italy & Europe

Remembering Hasan

Hasan and I at The Florentine's office

Some time in 2009, while searching for people writing about Italian art online, I came across this blog written by a mysterious guy who signed his name only “H.” I commented on his blog, and he commented back on the one I was running at the time about art for the Region of Tuscany. That year he visited Florence, and asked to meet up, but frankly I wasn’t about to meet some random guy that I met on the internet. He could be a killer.

Hasan and I finally met in November 2012, after a long epistolary friendship that grew after I realized he just wanted to talk about art and not slice my head off. I was responsible for the selection of bloggers to cover the major international cultural event, Florens 2012, and I made it clear to the jury that Hasan was the top choice for this role. He’d been live blogging from an art history conference in Madrid a few months before, and nobody else could have done as good a job summarizing erudite concepts as he did.

Over the years, Hasan and I exchanged about a hundred emails. Sometimes his were long and demanding, and too often I didn’t give them, and him, sufficient attention. Sometimes they were difficult, even hurtful, as he told me things I didn’t want to hear about myself, things that in the end have helped me change the way I deal with people both online and off. His last email to me was Saturday, and he died, suddenly, on Monday. I hadn’t yet had time to do what he asked in the email – read and comment on his latest article.

It is hard to express my grief; it is surprising and complete, and I am one of many who feel this way. Hasan was a connector of people. He approached them when there was no clear need to do so, and engaged in long written conversations to no apparent end. While he wasn’t always able to travel, he fostered local communities, encouraging his friends in each area to meet up.

With each person he established a special connection, something I’m realizing just now as I see what people are saying on Twitter and blogs now that he is gone. Between us, it was a kind of game. He said I was the first art history blogger and that I should be more academic, and he encouraged everything I did. I said he was nuts, and that he read more than I did for my PhD, and that he had more passion than sense. For Hasan, everything was beautiful, groundbreaking or amazing; me, I’m more cynical. We were opposites, but we had a goal in common: make art accessible, online.

With Hasan gone, who will tell me difficult truths about myself? Who will force me to write difficult exhibit reviews (and edit them for me!), encourage me in larger academic projects, or see the deeper side of everything I do (while I continue to insist that it has no deeper side). Who will make sure I stay connected to the world of “digital humanities” (whatever that means) and to these people who don’t fit into my daily routine?

What we can do

I didn’t want to write anything on my blog until I had a concrete suggestion about what we can do to properly commemorate him. I think that a coordinated action is an important way of expressing both grief and appreciation, and I see that people want to do both. But more so than any formal action, I think we have to keep going with a little Hasan on our shoulder telling us do pursue our dreams, to make that contact, to act on difficult decisions.

In my very logical way, I’ve determined a twofold goal: to continue the networking and discussion that Hasan established in his own particular way; and to preserve and continue the work he has begun.

In collaboration with some of Hasan’s closest friends, we’ve thought of the following ways to celebrate Hasan, that we think are in his spirit.

1) Reach out and connect, the Hasan way. Probably you’ve already done this in the past few days. Hasan’s friends are banding together, hugging virtually on Twitter and emailing each other like never before. But what about those people you saw online who seem interesting, or that Hasan said you should reach out to but you didn’t? Do it now in his memory.

2) Keep in touch with a facebook group. Hasan’s most endearing trait was how he wrote to so many people, so often, to share his articles or point out new material or thoughts in art history, video games, and online communication of the humanities. He also used email and Twitter to put people in touch if they were traveling to another’s area or if he thought they might have common ground. I propose a Facbook group in which we can share material and encourage conversation in a friendly environment in which most of us are already present. The idea is to try to continue the community that centered around Hasan. The details of this group are being worked out in Charlotte’s google doc and will be announced, perhaps on 3PP, soon.

3) Raphael’s birthday, April 6, 2014. Benjamin Harvey (@obridge) came up with this one, and Monica (alberti’s window) passed it on to me – what a great network! Raphael died at age 37, just like Hasan. The suggestion is to write tribute posts on our blogs, either about Raphael or maybe just something Hasan would have liked. Those without blogs may guest post elsewhere. Detailed instructions will be published around February and we’ll look into where we might link all the posts – hopefully again on 3PP.

In addition, some of us are thinking about how best to preserve and continue Hasan’s work in the digital humanities. It is clear that no one person could ever replace him, nor do all of the things he did, so this is going to take some time to work out what we are able to do.

Hasan didn’t sleep more than 2 or 3 hours a night, so in this way he lived more in 37 years than most. Reading and writing when the rest of us slept, he got a lot done, but knew there was a lot left to do. Once he wrote to me: “Knowing that a topic is vast and that we cannot hope to do it justice is testimony to one’s wisdom.” This is why I will stop here, for more could be said, much is left to do, and we can only try our best.

By: arttrav

Alexandra Korey aka ArtTrav is a Florence-based art historian and arts marketing consultant.

  • naomi muirhead

    Great idea, Alexandra. As you know I met Hasan also at the 2012 Florens bloggers event and we kept in touch. He was a special person.

  • Nathalie Salas

    An extremely thoughtful and touching post Alex. I didn’t know Hasan as well as you, but post Florens, we kept in touch. You’re right with regards to his comprehensive and detailed emails. I really admired his stlye of writing, and as reading a book, I needed to sit down for a quiet moment and concentrate to read his words. It’s only with Hasan that I took the time to respond to him in the same detailed way.

    There are so many people that just can’t be bothered to keep in touch
    It’s too much hard work isn’t it to make the effort to write, on top of having to get on also with our busy lives. So in memory, I will make more of an effort to be more connected with family, friends and also with my business network. Please also keep me posted with regards to the FB page.

  • Ars Opulenta

    I still haven’t digested losing this beautiful man. You’ve captured Hasan’s character beautifully, Alexandra. Kind, generous, trusting, demanding, passionate. Sometimes ingenuous but always curious. Driven.
    Thank you for this post. I agree with your suggestions and will follow them.
    Eugene Martinez
    Ars Opulenta

  • yak yakker

    Thanks for writing this touching tribute.
    I’m a lowly grad student in art history; Hasan need not have paid any attention to me, but he did, by taking the trouble to answer a query or two in a kind and personal way.
    How sad that this marvelous resource is gone. I shall miss reading his well-documented blog posts!

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    Hi there,
    Being a grad student is not lowly, it’s the first step towards being a professional in the field! Hasan always paid extra attention to students because he believed that the internet was the perfect place to help diffuse both information about and love of art in an innovative format. One thing he taught me was to respond to every comment and every email, no matter who it’s from.
    Alexandra

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    Thanks so much, Zalak. Hasan was a huge supporter of everything I do, and writing is one of the things I do most often :) ! We were looking forward to his next visit – I had even sent him an apartment that I thought he should rent, in the building that Raphael designed in Florence! It’s so hard to believe he won’t be visiting.
    Alexandra

  • Ellen Schwartz

    An extremely moving and fitting tribute to Hasan, Alexandra. He was indeed unique amongst art historians and scholars, a true talent and friend. I only teach Art History, mostly to special needs students; which is not half the contribution Hasan and you made daily, but, I’d like to help with any planned memorial, if possible.

  • Carolene

    I am not familiar with Hana’s blog. How do I get to it and will it be preserved for awhile so people like me can “catch up”?

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    Hi Carolene
    Do you mean Hasan’s blog? It is located at http://www.3pipe.net/ and it should be online forever if this group of friends manages to preserve it :) Enjoy
    Alexandra

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    Ellen,
    Thanks for commenting. Teaching art history to special needs students? Uh, that sounds like a HUGE contribution (and challenging too). All I do all day is update facebook. THANK YOU for what you do, for bringing art into the lives of children and families who have problems!

    I think that the memorial will take the form indicated here, with a few longer term projects in mind. We’re going to try to announce decisions on Hasan’s blog, and tweet out to the usual suspects, so you should probably hear of any news on the matter. I am trying to use the hashtag #RIPHasan to help people follow the discussion, even if they don’t follow me or some of the other people sending out information. And of course, you can email me any time.
    Best regards
    Alexandra

  • Monica from Alberti’s Window

    Wonderful post, Alex. Hasan all inspired us to be better. He gave me constructive criticism too – I remember him kindly pointing out that I was too emotionally invested with certain interpretation of a Renaissance painting. I was flustered, but I knew he was right. Hasan was passionate in his own way, but also scientifically objective. I will miss his advice and the recommendations that he would send my way. I look forward to following and participating in this three-step plan.

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    Monica, I love your interpretation of this as a three-step plan. The third is, of course, one you are instrumental in! And there may be more steps… like alcoholics anon…
    He did have a way of telling you what he thought, eh? Most of the time he was right, too.
    xoxox
    amk

  • Anonymous

    It sounds as though you will always ask yourself, “What would Hasan have thought/said/done?” Alexandra, this was an honest and loving tribute. I am reminded by your post of having a conversation with my best female friend a few years back. She was musing as to what makes a great friend. Her answer: someone who encourages her to ask the difficult questions (of herself), to examine her beliefs… Although I didn’t know Hasan, I can understand a little bit of what he gave from what you’ve written.

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    Well put, AML. How he got people to be friends in Florence when he was halfway across the world has always amazed me too!
    Hasan’s death has been hard on lots of people, I am just one of many, each for his or her own reason. You can read other beautiful tributes listed here: http://goo.gl/5bYRJv
    baci
    AMK

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    Thank you Frame blog (Lynn?)
    It’s the first time I’ve seen you here, though I always see you on Twitter. Hasan would have commented on each others’ blogs right away :) Alexandra

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    Florens was an important moment for him, so meeting you, Naomi, came at an important time :)

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    Nathalie, what you say about writing long emails is so true. I have too many friends around the world from whom I hear so rarely, or our long emails go months between them.

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    Thank you, Eugene. I didn’t realize that you and he were friends. He sure did reach out to a lot of people!

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    Hi Steph
    I was speaking with Jenna (commenter above) yesterday on facebook chat and she reminded me about something in Hasan’s personal life that he’d mentioned but I’d forgotten, and I felt bad about that. She said you can’t remember everything, and I thought of YOU, a person I know who is able to take in everything, remember everything… you can be dangerous :). Hasan had that ability too, he’d remember something you told him years before and pull it out to remind you why you should or should not do something. A handy trait!
    See you on your next visit

    AMK

  • Anonymous

    Well, I agree with Jenna that you can’t remember everything. :) I suppose that remembering some details can be handy, though my mom would agree with you that it is dangerous. Take care and see you in December! xx

  • georgette

    Very moving post and I would agree that Hasan was an amazing person. Though I only knew him ‘online’ – I could tell his was a passionate person about what he loved and his loss will be deeply felt.

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    Hasret, your brother was a wonderful person, and I am so sorry for your loss. Please pass my support on to your family, and I hope that in some way our small tributes help.
    Alexandra

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    Thank you Glennis. Please keep an eye out for how this develops, as we don’t want to lose a single member of Hasan’s community.

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    Hello “fifi”, I’m glad you finally reached out and commented – Hasan would have done so right away :) Please do keep in touch.
    Alexandra

  • The Frame Blog

    Yes, I’m Lynn – I do appreciate what you’re doing; the Google document is splendid, and very helpful – and particularly nice to have collected together all the posts on Hasan from divers places. :):)

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    You’re welcome Lynn! The google doc is the product of Charlotte Frost, an even more lucid mind than I :)

  • The Frame Blog

    You are both doing such a lot – and collecting so many people! It’s wonderful! :)

  • Glennis McGregor

    Thanks, I want to make sure I don’t lose touch with Hasan’s community and spirit.

  • Christina

    Thanks for the excellent tribute to Hasan. He was a unique intellect and communicator bring together a lot of people online.

    Personally, I love the idea of doing an Virtual Art Symposium in his honor. I think he would have liked the concept. Maybe three sessions: 1) Raphael and Renaissance Art, 2) Digital Art History and 3) Methods of Criticism. (?) We have plenty of time to brainstorm idea and our post, video lectures, twitter session, etc.

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    Dear Christina
    I like that idea very much, too! I hadn’t heard it yet – did you (or someone) write it in the google doc? How might it work, by google chat? Sounds innovative and interesting.
    Best regards
    Alexandra

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    Hi Christina
    Twitter DM’s and tweets are rather too short to express any content let alone discuss something like this! the google doc seems to be good because people who are not on Fb and Tw can also participate (Hasan had some friends with blogs who only use email). Twitter will however be useful to spread the word of an eventual decision. If you want to try to decline how said virtual symposium would work, it sounds interesting. To have academic impact, though, i think it would need to extend beyond our usual group, just as should any conference.
    cheers,
    AMK