The International Teletext Art Festival allows modern artists to create low-resolution images using technology from the 1970s.
Lucky Cat by Dragan Espenchied
Before Twitter became the world’s source for instant news, people got creative in their search for the latest updates. Helsinki-based artist co-operative FixC is celebrating this creativity with its third annual International Teletext Art Festival, or ITAF.
Invented by Philips employee John Adams in 1971, teletext is an information retrieval service that broadcasts information such as news, sports scores, and weather in the form of pixelated text and images. A proto-Internet of sorts, the service is essentially a collection of numbered, constantly updated “pages” that users can access on their televisions using a special remote. In use for more than 40 years, the service was discontinued in the UK and Australia in 2012 and 2009 respectively, but remains popular in Northern European and Scandinavian nations. It also has a distinct retro ‘70s look.
Brain by Max Capacity
Held in Berlin, ITAF will showcase the work of around 20 artists who have repurposed the medium to create striking, often colorful images and short animations. While other projects such as Lektrolab’s interactive art site Mictrotel and The Teletext Museum also celebrate it, ITAF is the only international art show dedicated to teletext. On its use as an artistic medium, the ITAF website writes,
“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…Other phenomena explaining the sudden interest in teletext art, especially among young artists, is the retro factor.”
Artists also face technical limitations in teletext: each piece is limited to a grid of 24 rows and 40 columns with only six available colors, posing an artistic challenge.
Teletracker by Goto80
The pieces feature a wide range of subjects, including emoticons, celebrities, and abstract patterns. Many are animated, sharing the aesthetic of the ever-popular animated .gif file. Playful and artfully kitsch, they evoke nostalgia for early video games and the dot-com boom.
Fitting for a teletext art show, ITAF’s works will be broadcast on Finnish YLE Television, with an exhibit at the Fernsehzentrum Berlin television station. Competing artists will also be considered for the second annual Teletext Art Prize.
Whether you’re a teletext user or have a taste for retro art, the works of ITAF’s contributors will grab your attention.
:( by Jarkko Räsänen
No 2a from Lindsey Lohan mugshot collection by Kathrin Günther
The Tale of Tomorrow by Juha van Ingen
Connecting People by John Lawrence
Teletext Tart by Dan Farrimond