Wm (Bill) Perry: LOST & FOUND Telidon Art of the Early 80s

November 24 – 26, 2022 | 4 – 7 p.m.
Cameron House, 408 Queen Street West, Toronto

An exhibition and sale of rare, limited edition prints of Canada’s earliest “born digital” art, signed by the artist and embossed with his corporate seal.

Cameraman by Robin Collyer

Telidon Art in Canada

Before personal computers, before the world wide web, there was “videotex”, wherein anyone could access text and graphics stored on a central computer using a dumb terminal, a keypad and their telephone. The British government called it “Prestel”, the French government called it “Antiope” and the Canadian government named it “Telidon”. All combined, these governments spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on becoming the international standard, which would give private companies in their country a competitive lead in the nascent, billion dollar global videotex industry.

In 1983, Americans chose Telidon as the international standard. They called it NAPLPS (google it). But, it was a hollow victory for Canada. The new code shut out existing Canadian equipment and content. That was the end of Telidon. Ironically, NAPLPS quickly faced the same fate. The videotex vision of a wired world of dumb terminals with keypads was made worthless with the advent of personal computers.

Non-commercial, videotex “art” was scant, but Canada has more of it than all other countries combined, largely thanks to Bill Perry and Ric Amis starting Telidon @ TSV. Over a few years, dozens of emerging and established artists were able to learn and create video or videotex art.

With the help of Geoffrey Shea and Nina Beveridge, Telidon @ TSV became an independent, artist-run, non-profit corporation called Toronto Community Videotex, in 1983.

Sadly, by 1985, all Telidon trials were closed. Telidon lingered in info kiosks in malls for a few more years. In the USA, NAPLPS had a brief after-life in graphical pre-web, BBS systems. Otherwise, Telidon & NAPLPS terminals were trash, along with the content they displayed, including the art. Vice magazine’s Jordan Pearson summed up the prevailing attitude in a 2016 video and essay entitled The Lost Art of Canada’s Doomed Pre-Internet Web.

In 2017, a 34 year old VHS tape containing 72 minutes of Bill’s Telidon art was found at Artexte, in Montreal. They sent the unplayable tape to Vtape, who set new benchmarks in the recovery of data from 34 year old magnetic oxide. Artexte made a documentary about the find called “Around Computerese, A Conversation with Bill Perry”.

At the same time, John Durno, Head of Library Systems at U. of Vic., recovered Telidon art from 5.25” floppy disks belonging to the late visual artist Glenn Howarth. These simultaneous, unexpected recoveries of Telidon art gave rise to the idea there might be more Telidon art on disks or tapes in art organization archives or the personal collections of artists.

Bill & John teamed up to start the Telidon Art Project. Over a couple of years, Bill located 100+ 8” floppy disks, 30+ 5.25” floppy disks & 33 VHS & Beta videotapes. Most of the disks and tapes were in the TCV archives, as well as Artexte, U of Vic, Trinity Square Video, Vtape and the personal collections of numerous artists.

Vtape recovered the video recordings from 33 VHS & Beta videotapes, each around 35 years old, give or take. Retrofloppy, in the USA, recovered files from 8” disks. John processed the 5.25” disks. In the end, we located and recovered close to 20K files created by more than 60 emerging and established artists of the early 80s. The collection is currently on a private host at U of Vic, waiting to be accepted into the EP Taylor Library and Archive at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

The Cameron House is where Bill created his videotex documentary of VideoCabaret’s 1982 ART vs Art performance and campaign for mayor.

You can view the original “interactive” version HERE.

You can also purchase a paper copy of the complete ART vs Art, a 128 page pocket book with a beginning, middle and happy ending, in that order, about three artists who challenge the mayor of a cosmopolitan city, based on the 1982 VideoCabaret performance and A Hummer For Mayor campaign at the Cameron House.

A linear (analog) version of the born digital art was a part of the origin design, but not completed until after it was rediscovered in 2017.

This venue is totally accessible

Contact: Bill Perry
phone: 437 219-3887
email: wm.perry@me.com
twitter: @iperryon

All images created by Wm Perry