U C Berkeley Faculty Club, May 2000
Memorial for Bernard Q. Nietschmann
May 7 2000
If I were to say I work with new media technologies
doing art projects and working in Silicon Valley research labs for
the past 20 years, you may ask what am I doing here?
On the surface Barney and I lived in different
worlds, but we were friends and colleagues and stayed in touch.
That is what Barney was about.
Barney and I met in 1971 in Ann Arbor, where we
co-founded the Future Worlds program, he as a young professor and
I as a young student, both ready to change things. Future Worlds
became the second largest undergraduate class at the University
of Michigan for four years, with many good people involved. It was
Barney who fronted it.
Our paths seemingly diverged over the next twenty
years I first moved to MIT and he moved here but we
stayed as friends and kept in touch. He urged me to visit the Ifugao,
a tribal group in the Philippines, when I was doing long-term computer
research at Atari in 1983. I helped him place an article in CoEvolution
Quarterly on Nicaraguas Other War in 1984. I published an
essay of his in Wide Angle, a film journal I was guest editing with
Widd Schmidt, on landscape and place in 1993. He wrote a letter
of support for me, as a member of the Committee for Research and Exploration of the National
Geographic Society, for an art project I produced with Interval
Research and UNESCO.
Over the past five years, we converged back. My
art and research work with cameras and virtual environments became
more political; Barneys political work became more high-tech
and media-oriented, not to mention more artful, such as the aesthetically
strong Maya Atlas. In the last months, Barney was calling me to
offer help on my current work with webcams.
Barney had a crazy streak, in the best sense,
pushing boundaries. One never knew how serious he was. I partook
in some of this. Like locking 500 students in an auditorium for
several hours. Or having a dozen pet African cockroaches (I cockroach-sat
for them one summer.) Sometimes Id get phone calls out of
the blue, and his voice would say CHANNEL SEVEN NOW and hang up.
He tried to convince me once that if youre being held up by
a street criminal, the most effective solution is to puke on them.
Once I heard him make a reservation at a Chinese restaurant under
the name "Kahn, G Kahn."
I made the very dumb mistake once, while on a
boat with Barney off the Rio San Juan in Nicaragua, of saying "middle
of nowhere." He hit the ceiling. "What is nowhere?!? There
is NO nowhere!"
I kinda thought hed be into Web and email
hacking by now.
After all our attention to the future many years
ago, there was special significance spending time with Barney on
New Years Day 2000. He made it. He knew it.
Like for many people here, Barney is a serious
role model for me. I can only strive to be like him to others.