Billy Kluver's memorial was today. It has been one of my life's high points to have been able to meet and work with Billy and Julie for nearly ten years. Billy was a true Visionary, in every sense of the term. His contribution to contemporary art of the mid to late nineteenth century has been grossly and unfairlly undervalued and underdocumented. Because of this his influence on conetmporary culture goes unnoticed.
Billy first entered art historical discourse after being invited by Pontus Hulten to help Jean Tinguely create his Homage to New York for the historic 1960 exhibition at New York City's Museum of Modern Art titiled, "The Machine." Due to the interest eveloped through , Billy formed Experiments In Atrt and Technology (EAT) with Robert Rauschenberg, 1966 by engineers Billy Klüver and Fred Waldhauer and artists Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Whitman
Nonetheless it was honored to have been invited to NYC's Judson
Church by Julie Martin to gather with family and friends to share in
a very special moment. It was great to meet the many people
I have read or heard about. Billy's daughter, Maya, and son
Christian Kluver chief among them. There was Theodore W. Kheel
the negotiator extrodinaire of Pavilion
fame (and more) who defended EAT from a wrathful Pepsi-Cola board.
Elsa Garmire, the brilliant optical engineer and scientist who
Billy recruited so many years ago for EAT was also present. It
was she who designed the spherical mirror inside the Pavilion and it
was good that she was the one to speak inspirationally
as an engineer.
Pauline Oliveros performed a transcendent
raga, "For Billy and David," which spanned lifetimes and
seemed to last only an instant.
John Giorno performed two extraordinarily
moving pieces of his poetry -one of which was Demon
in the Details written for William Burroughs and "some
others." Billy is now one of the "others."
and Jonathan Piel (the retired publisher of Scientific American)
spoke of Billy's
from the perspective of someone who has lost a friend very much
Touching anecdotes along with words of
thanks and support were read by Julie on behalf of Roberts Breer and
Rauschenberg who were unable to attend for reasons of health.
Whitman created a brilliant and lyrical memorial installation piece using
colored crepe dropped by artists (and ex-students of mine!) Lisa and Nicole
Abhuni who performed
with a solemnity and grace that honored everyone present and not.
I also met many wonderful people including
artist Ultra Violet, engineer-artist Robert Kieronski, and Randall
After the party at Judson a core group
retreated to a South of Canal bar to decompress a
bit further. There I met a woman who lived in an apartment across
the street from One World Trade Center who was in her home when the
first tower collapsed on September 11. She saw and heard
the crashing and falling and nearly suffocated in her apartment from
Billy Kluver was the
catalyst for a series of ongoing changes in art and culture that had
its official start with Jean Tinguely's Homage to New York in 1960 and
will continue until the end of civilization. Not a
bad legacy for one man's life. There were other
contributors in this process. The stars we know; Roberts
Rauschenberg, Breer, and Whitman along with,
Jasper Johns, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Claes Oldenburg,
and many others.
But so much of this history would be lost if it were not for
the quiet support and continuing strength of Billy's wife, Julie Martin.
I met Billy and Julie on January 14, 1991
at their cozy, secluded home in New Jersey, not far from Bell Labs
or New York City. While Billy spoke volubly of EAT related
events and its history, Julie was always present, listening and adding
key bits of information when appropriate.
an inspiration and a friend. His passing bookended a unique
period in the history of contemporary art and I will miss his voice,
his vision, and his enthusiasm.