B=e=n Lichtman: One of the things I really enjoyed about Jos was the way he engaged people and brought them into his world. I remember Jos literally pulling me in to his room to experience the latest in British techno music. Similarly, I remember him inviting me to a viewing of "Fear of a Black Hat" that he had organized in a college social room. In both of these invitations, Jos had a passion, and he was determined to spread the word.
On any given weekend morning of 1993, Jos would lounge on a couch in the lobby of the Mudd-Blaisdell dorm, buried in a pile of newspapers that he was devouring . His purpose, I am convinced, was twofold: to quickly absorb everything that was going on in the world, and to lie in wait for the unsuspecting passerby, whom he would engage in conversation.
"Mr. L i c h t m a n!" he would call from across the room, as if he had been expecting me. When delivering a salutation like this, Jos always furrowed his eyebrows as if he were studying you intently, but in the corner of his mouth you could see he was smiling. When this happened, you knew you were about to be treated to a Jos encounter. The best part of these encounters was that it was nearly impossible to predict what course they would take. Your chances for back-massage solicitations or South American political debate were totally equal.
"Mr, L i c h t m a n, tell me a story!" Jos would often say. I loved prompts like these, and yet I never felt worthy of them. Why had he singled me out? How could I tell Jos anything that would be interesting to him? Maybe this is why some of my favorite moments with Jos would occur when he would laugh. For me, getting Jos to laugh was an effort, and a real prize. He was always so in control of his expert deadpan that this was rare.
I once had the rare pleasure of teaming up with Jos for a creative project. For my final composition in Electronic Music, I had decided to create a musical parody in the form of a soundtrack to an adult movie. It was even worse than it sounds. One late evening, Jos wandered into the music lab where I was working.
"L i c h t m a n, what are you doing here?" he asked. When I explained the details of my project, Jos made a visible effort to hold back laughter, and insisted that he must have a part in this. I could not have been more honored. I now have a tape featuring Jos Claerbout's gargantuan sigh at the, er, climax of the song. It really was quite a voiceover.
Although so many memories of Jos involve his humor, my strongest memory of him focuses on something serious he said to me in school. In his senior year at Pomona, I asked Jos why he was devoting so much time to his coursework. His reply was simple and to the point: "When else in your life are you going to have the opportunity to spend four years doing nothing but studying?" He was right, of course. Jos really wanted to live life to the fullest, to experience the present and appreciate it.
In so many ways, Jos was a role model for me. I loved his clever humor, his ability to flout social conventions, and the feeling he inspired in people that life was a great adventure. For me, Jos embodied the spirit of Pomona College as I hoped it would be, and as I like to remember it. I know that he was not always at home at Pomona. He was, nevertheless, the type of person I hoped I would meet there. He is an inspiration, and I will always treasure his memory.