When I started writing this blog, I had the idea that it will be a repository for my attention in art historical research. At some point last year, I thought to myself that one simply doesn't study art history for six years and stops being interested in it. One doesn't read hefty academic history for a decade and forgets about it. This blog became a selfish effort to build myself an intellectual retreat for when a deeper, more impactful sense of purpose would take over.
My education has been the privilege of my life, and has given me a unique perspective on my resolve. When I was 20, under the influence of my late father, I decided that I would spend my university years surrounded by the very best scholarly efforts put forth by others in the area of art history. I was planning not only to contribute to these efforts, but also somehow guide them with monumental passion in one direction or another. I had planned to become the next Erwin Panofsky of my field, believe it or not. A very strange thing to desire, for a 20 year old man – the grandiose plan to be a great dusty academic!
Fast forward to today, one life event rapidly succeeding another, and it's safe to say that all of the above seems like a dream from another life. I work in software sales now, I do business with companies in the Netherlands. My day is spent trying to pin IT professionals down in my calendar for discovery meetings, or responding to RFIs, doing forecasts on expected revenue for my territory, project managing large deals, and rallying support from partners across the channel organisation to close business for me. If all that sounds disconnected from art history, that's because it is! I haven't read an art historical book cover to cover in almost two years. The only article posted on this blog features ideas I had started working on nearly four years ago. Academia has moved on. I have not been able to survey it and keep up with it. I had always justified my inactivity by saying I lacked time. But to be honest, the fact of the matter is that I lost interest in the topics my younger self felt passionate about, ultimately determining this incredible journey of self-discovery as a Romanian expatriate studying, living, and working in the United Kingdom. Life became distracting.
Another important life event which annihilated my resolve was the death of my father. I won't dwell too much on the thought here, but he was instrumental in convincing me to gain citizenship in what he called "The Republic of Culture", a metaphor for the sacred brother and sisterhood formed by those who chose to dedicate their lives to the production, study, and preservation of culture. His disappearance partly marked the end of yet another reason to continue my application to be a citizen of this fictitious Republic.
Before this year's terrible pandemic, the things I paid attention to were what you would expect from a man my age: career aspirations, love, health and wellbeing. But in the silence of nights spent in the ensuing isolation, something profoundly powerful became nascent: a deep desire to respark intellectual curiosity, to reclaim lost knowledge, to return to the gates of the Republic, hat in hand, asking for a second chance. I realised that writing permeates my being. It has always needed an outlet to surface, sometimes as easily as my thoughts have always found their way out my mouth. What defines me as an individual is the incessant need to communicate (some say a bit too much!). This is why I sell, this is why I talk with passion about various things, this is why I find the excuse to write wherever I can: a thoughtful email, a post on Instagram, thousands of messages to friends and acquaintances. I write to express myself, to shout "I'm here". And perhaps I also matter. I believe this is why most people write, in an attempt to preserve themselves for all eternity: by writing, they leave traces of their consciousness in the world; the more traces they leave, the higher the unlikelihood of being forgotten. Borges once said "I am all the writers that I have read." That's because their traces carried on, ultimately influencing him. Writers tie themselves to each other in the vastness of time with strings of words leading like Ariadne's thread to the First Writer, he or she whose first sentence read "Thus, I shall live forever…"
I thought then, who is the audience of my blog posts (beyond the dozen people I have shared the link with)? The intended audience, as declared in my Letter to the Reader back when I wrote it, were probably connoisseurs, people who know the topics I intended to cover quite well, who understand the jargon and methods of writing about material culture. But how can I write to connoisseurs, if I no longer consider myself one? How can I profess to write about art history, when my deficit renders my specialism frankly unbelievable? I would feel like an impostor. Let's be honest, I can't write a university paper to save my life right now…
Yet I haven't given up on the idea of writing on this blog. I simply cannot do that! I have to write, I must leave traces. It's not just who I am, it's who I will eventually become. My curiosity allows me to read widely and soak up information in different fields. I will always want to communicate this information. Whether it's by selling, teaching or coaching, consulting on a topic, I will find an outlet for communication. But this outlet must be congruous with my level of investment in the field. It must accurately represent the current state of my expertise.
So here I am, with a renewed interest in a subject I feel disconnected from, and with the honesty in my heart to admit that I am an amateur. If this blog is to stay alive, I must re-align it to my current knowledge and investment in art history. I will thus rescope the blog and use Non Finito to popularise the subject of art history, so that some of these topics cease to seem abstruse for non-specialists. This means that a few systemic changes will happen.
First, I will probably write shorter articles to avoid audience fatigue. Secondly, I'll simplify the topics, and rehearse well known theories and methodologies taught in my university classes. I'll probably start thinking of a social media strategy for it, to build up an audience online. Non Finito will become more of a learning instrument for myself and others, and less of a research one. For what was the purpose of that wonderful education I have received, if not to rehearse it and pass the knowledge on to others? Somewhere in between reading about art and writing about it, I forgot that I have a duty to also share. A pedagogical mindset does not require degrees and tenure in prestigious universities. I believe it comes from a deep need to communicate, and from a teacher's sacred mission to foster curiosity in others.
So here's to a simpler Non Finito, true to its name, where the process of discovery, learning and communication is ongoing. But also a place where I once again become a student of what our material culture has to teach us, where I once again yearn to be admitted to the Republic which has never given up on me.