If you didn’t live in the UK before the turn of the 20th century, there’s a strong chance that the word teletext means nothing to you. An antiquated, one-way broadcasting system used extensively by providers like the BBC until the internet and digital broadcasting made it completely obselete, teletext was particularly notable for its blocky, geometric, lo-res (80 by 80 pixels) aesthetic reminiscent of 8-bit gaming systems. Its unique visual appeal resonated strongly with artist Dan Farrimond, a self-proclaimed digital retro artist, who uses teletext as his artistic medium of choice to this day.
Portraits of Freddie Mercury, Pokémon parodies, and a milk monstrosity attacking a fictional metropolis are just a sampling of what Farrimond does with the medium. His works strangely hover the line between archaic and futuristic, feeling like representations of 21st century technology portrayed in 1970s sci-fi movies that ultimately were inaccurate predictions.
The artist’s particular soft-spot for teletext relates to the cultural moment in which he first encountered it: “To me, teletext always represented the height of technology, even when I discovered it in the mid 1990s,” tells Farrimond, “It was an on-demand news service before mobile phones and the Internet were anything more than expensive geek playthings.”
Although the heyday of teletext is mostly behind us and despite encountering it decades before, Farrimond only started working with teletext as an artistic medium a few years ago:
“I only became seriously involved with teletext in 2012, when I created a series of pages for the inaugural International Teletext Art Festival,” Farrimond reveals. “Seeing my words and pictures on television was equally as thrilling as having letters published in British teletext all those years ago. More than that though, it’s a lot of fun to work with. I’ve been making teletext pages for about five years and the ‘novelty’ still hasn’t worn off!”
Farrimond’s obsession with the medium is starting to pay its dividends: ARD, Germany’s largest public broadcaster, approached Farrimond with a 30-day artist residency after encountering his work. For the digital residency, the artist is effectively reviving teletext’s function as a news broadcasting service:
“Each day, I will create at least one new teletext page reacting to items posted on ARD Text, be it news of the La Tomatina tomato fight or the 50th anniversary of Star Trek,” explains Farrimond, “I’ll be here in Teletext Land for 30 days, after which I hope to have made at least 50 pieces of art for ARD. At the end of September, all designs will be collected in a browsable archive, a ‘teletexthibition’ representing the month in pixel art.”
Farrimond’s residency at ARD is chronicled here. Check out his website for more of the artist’s hyper-retro digital art.