Mpeg-4 Video of Gerald Hawks performance from Metropophobobia in Pheonix (2.2 MB)

Art's Birthday

Art will be 1,000,029 years old!
Friday January 17, 1992
FAX and Videophone transmissions throughout the day.
Live broascast for artists' rights, 8pm PST
Artist in Residence Robert Adrian

A million years ago, there was no Art - Art and Life were the same thing. But then, so the story goes, one 17th of January, someone dropped a dry sponge into a bucket of water and voilà! - Art was born.

In 1963, French artist Robert Filliou proposed the idea of celebrating Art's 1,000,000 Birthday. (Ten years later in 1973) the German city of Aachen took him up on it. A paid public holliday was declared, kids were let out of school, bands played and everyone has a good time. The idea has grown slowly since then, to the point where now over seventy artist-run-centres across Canada will mark the day with protest or celebration or both. Several cities have gone so far as to officially declare January 17 to be Artists' Day.

The Western Front normally participates in Art's Birthday by proposing an international network of fax art and videophone. This year will be no different. Veteran telelcommunicator Robert Adrian will be on hand to host the proceedings. Adrian, who lives in Vienna, is a distinguished Canadian sculptor and conceptualist. His is also a pioneer in the use of fax, telephone, slowscan and computer networks as media for artistic expression.

The atmosphere will be relaxed. Come during the day with your Birthday Present for Art. It could be an image to fax, a joke to tell or pose for the vidphone. Greetings will be coming in from all over. At around 8 o'clock in the evening, we will connect with a radio station broadcasting live from the Banff Centre for the Arts. Speakers at both ends will address issues facing artists today.

(FRONT, Jan/Feb 1992, pg 13 - by Hank Bull)


Notes on Art's Birthday 1992

This event coincided with Radio Rethink at Banff. Radio Rethink was a series of events, artist residencies, and a publication about radio-art.

For Art's Birthday at the Western Front, Robert Adrian was artist in residence. Using the ROBOT-1200C (Slow Scan TV), video phones, and Fax, we connected with about a dozen artist groups around the world, including Metropophobobia in Pheonix Arizona, Gallerie Jacques DonGuy in Paris, Electronic Café in Santa Monica, and a "Tri-Cities Collage" with Dan Scheidt and Hank Bull in Banff and Jeff Mann in Toronto (at Interaccess).

The ROBOT-1200C SSTV unit was originally intended for sending video images over shortwave. It was adapted for use on telephone lines. The 1200C could broadcast and receive in colour at frame rates ranging from 12 seconds a frame to 72 seconds a frame. Based on its black and white predecessor, the ROBOT-600, this device used a 1200 baud modem chip. The Panasonic Videophone, used in the 1990s, used a similar technology, but in lower-resolution black and white.

Gerald Hawks in Pheonix presented an intense poetry performance on the videophone, with close-up camera shots and delay-effected voice. It was brightly lit in the small store front space, giving a celophane feel over the slow scan. Barely distinguishable text was pumped through a four second delay pedal and then over a phone line. Gallerie Jacques DonGuy held a tea party - many pictures of the gallery and the gang laughing, sipping tea, eating cake. Santa Monica had the usual crew of musicians and poets scattered around. My image of the café (purely from the video phone) is of a place with a long curving bar, several posts running from floor to ceiling, perhaps half-underground. At Banff, Dan Scheidt (a composer and musician who worked with computer interactive systems and was involved in many long distance communications projects) orchestrated a crazy animation with about 5 people posing in a line - one very close to the video phone, one far way, and everyone else in between. On the Panasonic videophone you could load six images (downloading at about twelve seconds each) and then scroll between them at "high" speed to watch the animation. There was a party at Banff with many artists in residence. Hank Bull was the man on the microphne. He coined the phrase "Tricities Collage" during an exchange with Vancouver - Banff - Toronto. Video phone images were generated using a mixture of paper, video, and computer graphics. Jeff Mann at Interaccess (Toronto) sent a picture of his hand waving in the air which an hour later turned into 100 hands marching across the screen, transmitted back and forth many times with other images superimposed on them.

(Peter Courtemanche - reminiscing, May 15, 2006)