Illarterate @ International Teletext Art Festival 2013: Walkthrough of my entries

It was with great delight I learned the International Teletext Art Prize would be returning for another year of 8-bit scanline-tinged nostalgia. That’s not to say I wasn’t slightly apprehensive, as this home-brewed festival had grown appreciably in popularity from its relatively humble beginnings of ITAF12. With recognition brings pressure, a niggling “you have two weeks to produce your best ever artwork” that had me adjusting my collar with increased nervousness as that deadline loomed large.

This year’s ITAF, organised by the very same people who brought teletext art to mainstream attention with the inaugural festival 12 short months ago, not only sees entrants’ artwork exhibited on German, Austrian and Swiss teletext, but at ARD Hauptstadtstudio, the Filmkunstbar Fitzcarraldo and ARS Electronica 2013, Linz. And my terrible artworks are going to be shown in all those places!

I’m being hard on myself as usual, but it was always going to be difficult to match the quality of pieces exhibited by such esteemed digital artists as Max Capacity, Dragan Espenschied and Raquel Meyers et al, all of which I greatly admire. I’m just some bloke pottering away in his garden shed competing with the titans of the teletext world. To be listed alongside such names –some of which even have their own Wikipedia articles– is an incredible honour for this snotty kid from northern England. A surreal experience indeed.

Now, because I am a pretentious so-and-so with a bizarre need to talk about his own work at great length, I present to you my contribution to International Teletext Art Festival 2013. This is your last chance to hit the ‘back’ button in your browser before Harry Sewell enters the room.

Sweet Rockall // Teletext art

A bit of a controversial piece to start us off, perhaps? Certainly, the isolated island of Rockall is the subject of much international debate – exactly who owns it? Perhaps a more pertinent question would be, why does anyone care so much?

I recently read an article on Nick Hancock (no, not that one), a Scottish adventurer who set out to spend 60 days on the eroded volcano earlier this year. Sadly his attempt was thwarted by adverse weather conditions, but at least his adventure has been commemorated in the best way possible – with a teletext page. Broadcast hundreds of miles away in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Treasure Hunt // Teletext art

I initially intended to break a few barriers, to experiment with the more advanced teletext functions in at least one of my entries. Unfortunately that idea was largely abandoned, but its remnants can be found in the (world’s first?) teletext treasure hunt. Though it might seem rather easy on the evidence of the above graphic, people receiving the genuine teletext broadcast can become virtual pirates, discovering riches beyond their wildest dreams with a simple press of the ‘reveal’ button. Oh yeah, the preceding sentence may contain spoilers, so don’t read it if you want the full CRT experience!

Good Times // Teletext art

Next up, the obligatory rehashed piece. There had to be one “I wonder how that would look in teletext form?” and ‘Good Times’, named after the infamous Goodtimes virus, represents a lazy Sunday afternoon listening to the cricket in front of the teletext editor. Hey, I wouldn’t have entered it if I thought it was pants!

Yep, there are quite a few bits on the cutting room floor, some of which may see the light of day in future projects. But back on subject, this also features a flashing skull, not fully pictured in the above non-animated GIF. Maybe next year I will go one further and utilise the Fastext function with a teletext text adventure. Talk about going back to the 80s, eh?

Teletext Passport // Teletext art

Whoa, whoa there! No passing through videotext customs without relevant documentation! Naturally, I had to produce my own teletext passport to be broadcast on teletext services outside the United Kingdom. Thankfully nobody noticed it was cobbled together from scraps at the back of the craft cupboard and I was allowed to pass. Success! …Until I was refused entry to the plane for being drunk and disorderly, which is weird because the strongest thing I’ve consumed this month is my mother’s beef and onion gravy. Granted, it is pretty potent stuff, but still.

Teletextart // Teletext art

Heheh, see what I did there? Note the classic Teletext Inc. colours and Amstrad CPC font, conjuring (baking?) a doubly nostalgic, (possibly) never-before-seen teletext Bakewell tart. I await pallet crates of pastries from the Bakewell Tarts Co., Hents… though considering we no longer have teletext in this country, it’s unlikely anyone concerned will take enough of an interest to reward me for this blatant piece of advertising.

In this next piece we see… oh wait, that’s it? Aww, I was having fun taking the mick out of my own work! Well, in true teletext spirit, it’s best to remain succinct – this post would already be into its seventh or eighth sub-page, taking up kilobytes of data and wasting space that could have been used to list live in-play tiddlywinks scores.

Before the editor drops my contract into the shredder, there is enough room for me to alert you to a related competition. But only if I write in text speak, apparently. Screw that, I shall pay for the excess bandwidth with cash from my own coppers tin! You can vote for your favourite artwork by postcard (what else?), though there is no point because Max Capacity will win so hurry if you want to win one of those sought-after ITAF USB sticks (closing date 6 September).

That’s pretty much it for the time being. The festival runs until 15 September 2013, at which point I will pack up and go home for another 12 months when ITAF14 may or may not emerge. I will, however, start work on my pieces for that event before this one even ends. Hey, it’s a full-time job, this teletext artistry!

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