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Le Minitel en œuvre

The art of communication: the message is the medium in the global village.
For the Bourse de l'imaginaire at the Centre Pompidou, Fred Forest was the first to make public use of Minitel, while it was still experimental at Vélizy. In the early 1980s, Fred Forest developed a series of ideas and actions around the concept of "communication art". In this context, the Minitel was a natural medium for his practice, which he used on several occasions.


Gérard Théry le père du Minitel déplore son abandon

Gérard Théry le père du Minitel déplore son abandon

Voir la vidéo : https://www.dailymotion.com/video/xruyru

Art de la communication : le message est le médium dans le village global

For the Bourse de l'imaginaire at the Centre Pompidou, Fred Forest was the first to make public use of Minitel, even though it was still experimental at Vélizy. He used it in particular to record the news items that the public sent him by post so that they could be consulted remotely. In the early 1980s, Fred Forest developed a series of ideas and actions around the concept of the "art of communication". In this context, the Minitel was a natural medium for him, and one that he used on several occasions. As part of the Electra exhibition at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 1983-84, he proposed L'Espace Communicant, comprising 40 telephone lines, 10 Minitels and answering machines installed in the museum. The numbers and access codes were communicated via the press and radio. In the museum, members of the public can answer the telephone and take messages. Announcements have been placed in the press and arrive on Minitel, live or recorded via answering machines and messaging systems. This constitutes a transgression of the ethics of the Post Office and Telecommunications: the private becomes public and will require the intervention and authorisation of its general engineer. The public can also call and leave messages. All communications are amplified. Minitel, as is often the case in Forest's practice, is not used on its own, but in combination with other media, not to deliver information, but for its potential to communicate between people. The content of the work is the act of communication itself, its staging. Highlighting this virtual square in the emerging global village, where strangers meet and where the question is not, as it is today, "where are you? but "who are you?

During this operation, Radio RMC produced a live broadcast in which Paul Prébois and Danielle Evenou themselves called Fred Forest's Espace communicant live to talk by Minitel and telephone with strangers visiting the Paris Museum of Modern Art.

In 1988 Fred Forest created another Minitel installation for the Centenary of the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Toulon, where the public could chat with the heroines of David's painting: Zénaïde and Charlotte. Once again, the artist is encouraging public participation through a communication campaign involving four media: painting, the written press (Var Matin), which published David's painting on its front page, and the Musée de Toulon itself. With Toulon artist Jean-Noël László, his assistant, overseeing the operation for the duration of the exhibition, two young actresses will occupy the Télécom agency where they will involve the public in the operation.

Using Minitel


Fred Forest's personal contact with Gérard Théry, the TELECOM general engineer who launched the Minitel in 1981, greatly facilitated his access to its equipment, one of the very first as an artist. He was one of the very first artists to use Minitel, notably for the Bourse de l'imaginaire (Imaginary Exchange) that he created at the Centre Pompidou in 1982. Minitel played a major role in introducing the French to electronic communication. By chance, he met Gérard Théry again in a bistro in the 13th arrondissement a few years later, when he had retired as a telecoms historian. With a lump in his throat, he shared with him all his nostalgia for this foolishly missed opportunity for France. As Annick Bureaud points out, other artists such as Frédéric Develay and Orlan played a major role in telematic art with their magazine-gallery ART-ACCES, while the truly gifted Marc Denjean gave up art to devote himself to technical research, and only Olivier Auber saw his work, the poetic generator, survive.

Technology: Launched in the early 1980s, Minitel, that little grey box with the noisy keyboard and the bulging screen, was the forerunner of the French Internet. This Saturday, 30 June 2012, Orange will pull the plug on the network for good, despite the thousands of French users who are still active.

Text d’Annick Bureaud

Under the name "Minitel", France implemented a comprehensive network that was widely used throughout the 1980s. In 1984 Minitel terminals were distributed to subscribers free of charge, which helped to further popularize the network. From 1983 to 1994 (the year of the Internet boom), use of the Minitel grew continuously. In 1995 there were 7 million Minitel terminals in France. It was also possible to access the Minitel through the web. France discontinued the Minitel service in 2012. For her chapter "Art and Minitel in France in the '80s", in Social Media Archeology and Poetics, French curator, critic and researcher, explores an important array of digital art and electronic literature. In her words that open the chapter:

"In June 2012, after 30 years of 'good and loyal services,' the French Telecom terminated its videotex system, famous worldwide under the name Minitel. From the very beginning, the Minitel was the territory of art projects and art experiments. With a few exceptions, what remains of those artworks, created mostly between 1982 and 1988, is traces, residue, and documentation. The process to discover, collect, and analyze those fragments in order to elaborate their history has just started. At the time of writing (November 2014), I have identified 73 projects created under the umbrella of the online magazine-gallery ART ACCES Revue and 33 artworks carried independently by 8 artists or groups of artists. In both cases, it should be taken into consideration that these figures are not definitive. Based on this initial cartography, some of the ideas and aesthetics that informed these works and the contexts in which they were created are presented and discussed here."
Her chapter covers the exhibitions Electra, at the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris, and Les Immatériaux at the Pompidou Center, the work of , Jean-Claude Anglade's Le Vallée aux images, Le Générateur poïétique by Olivier Auber, telematic novels including ASCOO and L'Objet perdu, the work of Marc Denjean, and the ART ACCES Revue Co-founded by Orlan and Frédéric Develay. Here is the abstract: Art and Minitel in France in the '80s Annick Bureaud "The Minitel (French videotex system) is often considered as a "pre-Internet" platform and the art that was created with it as belonging to "network art" and/or "collaborative" practices on a "social media" avant la lettre. In which respect is this true? This article provides an initial map and a typology of minitel-based creative practice by identifying works and documenting its context as it happened in France, compared to other countries. With detailed descriptions of selected works and of the ART ACCES online magazine-gallery project, it proposes an analysis that will be compared to and confront net art, new media art, and current trends in e-publishing."

Fred Forest est le premier des artistes à utiliser le Minitel au Centre Pompidou dans sa version expérimentale mise au point à Vélizy en juin 1982 dans son projet la Bourse de l’imaginaire.


Fred Forest has a special place in contemporary art. Both by his personality and by his pioneering practices which mark his work. He is mainly known today for having used one by one most of the communication media that have appeared over the last fifty years. He is co-founder of three artistic movements: those of sociological art, the aesthetics of communication and ethics in art.

He represented France at the 12th São Paulo Biennale (Communication Prize) in 1973, at the 37th Venice Biennale in 1976 and at Documenta 6 in Kassel in 1977.