Heinz von Foerster Festschrift

Three Episodes with Heinz von Foerster during the 1994 Meeting for Commercial Advertising in Villach, Austria


Our Common Universe

Our "Common Universe" was created, and this I owe to coincidence, because the WWT (publicity scientific meeting) was held in Villach in the year 1994 and dear Heinz flew in for a lecture. At that time I was working for a publicity agency which was responsible for the organisation of that international meeting. In my position as a hostess I had the privilege to look after the honourable men Professor Heinz von Foerster and Doctor Hermann Haken!

The first meting took place in Klagenfurt, where I was permitted, with a pounding heart, to pick up the famous professor in my little Japanese car. I had already managed a few conversations on the phone with Heinz, but still, I was very nervous! Then Heinz passed the customs control at the airport and a loud "Hi Stefanie" rang through the hall—and the fear was gone!

Immediately, it became a pleasure for me to drive dear Heinz through the Corinthian landscape. Having arrived in the hotel, I could feel again his kind, careful manner when a baffled waiter, who knew me, welcomed us in a somewhat embarrassed manner. However, Heinz raised his hand and said amusingly: "Good day, Heinz von Foerster!" Presumably, this was the first time that a waiter was greeted respectfully as a human being in that way.

The lecture

There was an expectant, silent atmosphere in the conference hall that day, when Heinz was giving his lecture. Heinz walked to the lectern, spoke, gave examples and soon awakened the audience with his kind, competent and humorous nature. His lecture was pure pleasure—also in a rhetorical respect. There was not another single lecturer who spoke in such a lively and sincere way. He was convincing. Then Heinz took his place again in the first row next to me and asked with a quiet, mischievous smile: "Did you really like it?

In the casino

For the evening program a reception in the casino Velden was arranged. Therefore, I drove with Heinz, Hermann Haken and one more companion from Villach to Velden. There were speeches, TV interviews—there were so many famous people present! Furthermore, a wonderful buffet framed the event. After the meal we were allowed to go into the casino. At the cash desk, each person got some chips for the roulette wheel—surely, to tempt us. The four of us went to the playing table. One after the other lost his stake. Only Heinz waited a little—and then he put everything on the number 13 (later we found out that this was the date of this birthday)—smiled victoriously—and the 13 appeared. We were quite amazed! When you know Heinz a little bit better, you know also about his generosity. So, he invited the three of us into the café across the street, where we celebrated Heinzıs stroke of luck with champagne, sweet biscuits and extremely good humour. I was deeply touched when he meanwhile suggested that I call him "Heinz". Heinz was in such a good mood, one witty word joke after the other helps us to keep this evening as one of our deepest, most beautiful memories. (Therefore, also the "ambiguous" entry as a dedication in a book which he sent to me afterwards).

I am really grateful to destiny that I could meet and learn to appreciate this wonderful, kind, tolerant, highly intellectual man, Heinz von Foerster. Since September 1994 we have kept our contact alive through letters and phone calls. As I am an artist, I sent him now and then photographs or the latest catalogues of my work—mainly of paintings. His feedback was always very valuable to me! It is true that Heinz was far away from me in distance—but not in our spiritual minds!

For his 90th birthday, when Heinz was honoured in the Viennese City Hall in the presence of 800 invited guests, I could again shake his hand and briefly hug him. We both had tears in our eyes—he, because he was so touched by the event, and I, because I felt that it would be the last time that I would see him....

Heinz von Foerster remains an unforgettable man!

Stefanie Grüssl

Heinz von Foerster Festschrift