SPETT.UMBERTO ECO A NAPOLI(SUD FOTO SERGIO SIANO)

SPETT.UMBERTO ECO A NAPOLI (SUD FOTO SERGIO SIANO)

In 1997 Umberto Eco delivered a seminar at Barnard on semiotics & photography.  I crossed Broadway from Columbia’s School of General Studies with a couple of buddies from the Italian department, eager to discover whether the buzz over Eco – as with Žižek today – was worth it.

The hall was packed with 500 or so students/faculty/New Yorkers. Out rolled Eco to thunderous applause. He waited for calm, looked around the room, and began:

FukYouz!

Silence.

He repeated:  FukYouz!

Some shuffling, murmuring of the discontented cosmopolitan type.  This was a ballsy opening for NYC, I thought. It’s fair to say Eco had the room in his hand.

A third: FukYouz,

to which, this time, an immediate repost from one of the locals standing at the back:

No! Fuck Youz, UmBearDough! Fuck Youz! 

Some edgy theatre this, I thought, as the room combusted with inflamed egos.

Eco raised both hands for calm, continuing,

No photo is possible without FukYouz. Without FukYouz our world is unreadable.

The whole room collapsed but not UmBearDough.  He waited for the laughter to quell, betraying not a hint of comprehension – before sweeping in the next 90 minutes through the Parisian geography of ‘Foucault’s Pendulum’.

Always have a grabber folks, however unintended.