Hands Across The Border
Paul Wong, 1978
telecommunications art

Hands Across The Border was a seven city slow scan collaboration. With participation from Paul Wong, Sharon Levett & Daryl Lacey, Video Inn, Vancouver;Randall Lyon & Gus Nelson, Televista Projects, Memphis; Sharon Grace, Video Free America, Berkeley Art Museum, U.C.; Peggy Cady, Bill Bartlett, Chas Leckie. Open Space, Victoria; Felix Partz, Jorge Zontal & Willoughby Sharp, General Idea, Toronto; Liza Bear & Robin Winters, Center for New Art Activities, NY.; et al.

Artists began to become aware of and experiment with telecommunications in the late 1970s. Through a series of slow-scan tv projects which took place between 1978 and 1980, two North American-based artists, Bill Bartlett and Liza Bear, developed an empirical understanding of the possibilities of telecommunications art. They realised that, far from simply providing links for the exchange of prepared artworks, telecommunications networks offered an entirely new mode of interactive dialogue which tended to eliminate a conventional, passive audience. However, many artists found the concept of democratically-negotiated content difficult to accept, and persisted with a one-way model of delivery.

Slow-scan television equipment used a computerised memory to sample a picture from a television camera every few seconds, “freeze” it and send it down a telephone line as an audio signal. (This took approximately 8 – 60 secs depending on picture quality required. The early systems transmitted a black-and-white picture at 128 lines/screen resolution whereas later equipment operated at 256 or 512 line resolution in colour.) The machines could only be used between two points at a time. At the receiving end, the signal was decoded and slowly scanned out a still frame on a television monitor.
The History of Telematic Art