Volume 26, Issue 1/4, 2010
Jeff Bernard Memorial Issue
Bucharest Statues at the Turn of the 19th Century. A Semiotic Approach
Jeff Bernard was a distinguished semiotician, always au courant with the main accomplishments in the field. Although Jeff himself had specialized in socio-semiotics, his architectural training and his artistic youth had lent him a really open mind, able to comprehend almost everything.
Jeff Bernard was also an excellent administrator. He and Gloria organized countless international conferences, most of them based in Vienna (at the Institute for Socio-Semiotic Studies Jeff was the director of ), but also in other places in Austria, Germany, Italy. All of them were a success. Jeff ran the ISSS almost single-handed. He edited books (he published three of mine, among many, many others), anthologies, semiotic journals. He knew how to raise funding, of which the whole semiotic community benefitted. In 2003, he acted as my “impresario”, as he jokingly said, and organized a lecturing tour through Central Europe for me.
Jeff was also a wonderful host; he considered his guests as part of the family and treated them accordingly. Many were the times when he picked me up from one Viennese railway station or the other, or when he drove me there, when I stopped in Vienna, to or from other places. It was owing to Jeff and Gloria that I discovered Grinzig, Baden, and various other cozy places in and around Vienna. Last but not least, it was also due to Jeff and Gloria that I discovered the charm of many Viennese restaurants.
Jeff was kind and generous, elegant and discreet. He helped quite a lot of semioticians to forward their careers, and more important still, he did it unobtrusively. Jeff was also a likeable person, with an entertaining conversation and a fine sense of humor.
“I am a Feminist”, Jeff once said. (For the sake of historical accuracy, it was in September 1997, round a dinner table at the Early-Fall School of Semiotics, then
held in Bankya, Bulgaria). And he further expanded: “Otherwise, we couldn’t be living with Gloria. And my life would be pretty difficult, virtually surrounded as I am by so many professional women. But they all think I am a Feminist, and they are happy to work for my benefit. So I sit at my desk in Vienna, and my women colleagues from all over the world send me contributions for this and that, come over to participate in conferences, etc. It pays being a Feminist”.
“Ich bin ein Berliner”, said Jeff on another occasion. For historical accuracy, it was in September 2003, during the conference celebrating his 60th birthday, in answer to a remark made by Roland Posner. It seemed a humorous statement, and everybody smiled. But I think this was true in spirit. These few lines, as well as (I suppose) those written by other colleagues who have contributed to the present issue, are meant to illustrate this self-definition. Jeff had always sympathized with the less privileged people everywhere.