TELETEXT AS ART
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
Considering that teletext has been used by millions of people daily during its 40 years of existence, it has so far remained a relatively unexplored territory for artistic creation.
Ever since it was launched by the BBC in 1973, there have been several serious efforts to open up teletext for art. One example is Microtel by Lektrolab, which was created in association with the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art during the International Rotterdam Film Festival in 2006. Although teletext has had a steady stream of fans within the artistic community, including some well-known names such as the Jodi artist collective, it has never gained the status it deserves as an art form.
Now that High Definition has become established as a standard and the race towards crisp images has slowed down, a growing number of artists have returned to the basic structures of electronic art. This can be seen as the main reason for the revival of teletext in this context. Other phenomena explaining the sudden interest in teletext art, especially among young artists, is the retro factor.
The minimal aesthetics and limited technical possibilities make teletext a unique medium and also an interesting challenge for artists: To make teletext pages a specific file format and editor are needed. A teletext page can be perceived as a grid of 24 rows and 40 columns. To change the colours of the graphics, text and background or to add a blink effect, a control character needs to be inserted. Each time a control character is placed it uses up one space in the grid, which then appears black.
The art works can be viewed with teletext editors or made into animated images but the true forum for teletext art is of course teletext itself. To make it possible for more artists to have their works broadcast, the Helsinki-based FixC artists Co-operative launched the international Teletext Art Festival ITAF in 2012 in collaboration with Finnish YLE Television and ARD Text. An open call attracted a fascinating diversity of engaging works ranging from minimalistic structures to post punk and conceptual art. The works were viewed by over 540,000 people on ARD Text and received extensive international media coverage.
The positive outcome inspired the organizers to launch ITAF2013, this time in collaboration with ARD Text, ORF TELETEXT and SWISS TELETEXT. As a new feature to the ITAF concept, invited a group of experts to select one of the participating artists to receive the Teletext Art Prize the public could vote for their favourite artist too.
The ITAF 2013 was viewed by over 1000 000 people in ARD and ORF and was selected for participation in the program of one of the worlds most important Media Art Festivals ARS Electronica in Linz Austria.
In March 2014 the FixC cooperative in collaboration with Yle Finland founded the Museum of Teletext Art MUTA. The museum has a permanent teletext-page in Yle teletext and all the works donated to the museum by artists are archived in digital format into the Collection of Finnish Electronic art VILKE for future media archeologists to enjoy.
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