ITAF’s curator Juha van Ingen: Teletext is quite a unique medium

Today starts the International Teletext Art Festival (13.08.-13.09.2015). I spoke to Juha van Ingen, who is the curator of this years festival, about the thrill of teletext art and how something that started as a joke turned into serious media archaeological work.

Tobias Schwarz (TS): Do you know Marshall McLuhan’s phrase: “The Medium is the message”?

Juha van Ingen (JvI): I know the phrase and of course as we are making an art project, we want the content to be equally important as the medium, though in this case teletext used for art is an essential part of the content.

TS: Why did you choose the teletext as a medium for art? What is the message behind it?

JvI: I’m a member of a small artist cooperative in Helsinki called FixC and it was in 2011, when we were thinking about new ways, how to show animation. Somebody mentioned Teletext and of course we had to laugh first, but then we started thinking why not. Because we didn’t knew much about it, we contacted the finish broadcasting cooperation YLE-TV and there was a guy, who was quite open to our idea. That is basically how it started.

TS: What do you like most about working with teletext?

JvI: I think I enjoy it, because it is quite a unique format. You can’t just transport work from other formats to teletext, you really have to work it the teletext way. It is also a reduction, you really have to go into the core. Also it is technically difficult, but on the other hand, whatever you do on teletext looks quite good.

TS: Most graphic medias are popular, because of their constantly increasing resolution. What is the thrill of teletext art?

JvI: Actually when you have a pixelated image you can scale it to any resolution and it stays sharp. In a way, you can see teletext as more high definition as HD. But maybe it’s also the retro feeling, which fascinates people. With this kind of imagery, you don’t really have to think about if it’s up to date or not. The resolution is not so important anymore as people are nowadays used to see videos on tiny little screens.

TS: The ITAF 2015 can be seen on the teletext of the German Broadcasting Station ARD. Where else can I see it?

JvI: It’s on in the Austrian TV’s telext, the German vision of Arte’s teletext and the Swiss’ teletext. And this year we want to find people, to make the festival a little bit more of an experience. We told people to invite friends over to watch teletext arts and to make it a little bit of a social event. Let’s see how it works.

TS: Teletext makes television kind of interactive, which seems to me like something that is not naturally for a one-way broadcasting system like television. How are people reacting to it so far?

JvI: Well, in our artwork, there is not much interaction, but teletext itself managed to survive because there is interaction. You can go quickly to the information you like with no complication. Even if we got internet here, there are millions of people using teletext and there must be a reason for that.

TS: What happens to the teletext art when the exhibition ends on September 13th, 2015?

JvI: I’m glad you ask that, because this is one of the questions we faced up since the first festival. The broadcasting cooperations normally don’t keep the files. We approached YLE-TV again and we suggested, what if we start a teletext art museum. It sounds strange, but in practice it means, there is a permanent teletext page. So as long as they broadcast teletext, we can use one page and show one artwork at a time. That goes on for almost two years now.

And we invite some of the artists, to donate their work and after we broadcasted them, we document them and keep the original files. So we’re doing kind of a media archaeological work. Also a lot of artists showing their work as GIF animations. It isn’t the same thing, but it still keeps the medium alive on the internet.

TS: Thank you for the interview.

[bctt tweet=”#Teletext makes television kind of interactive, says #ITAF15 curator Juha van Ingen.”]

On, you will find a German translation of the interview and an article about the exhibition with a gallery full of teletext art.

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