No Flash

Piter Bosteels


Dear reader, after writing this text, I very much doubted to post it. The bespoken matter is so complex that it needs much more explanation than just these few pages. Finally, I decided to send them anyway but with the suggestion that this text should only be used as a start to a discussion and an investigation in this matter. I can only hope that your participation will open other opinions and could lead to a better understanding.

Do you like my art?
(a presentation about the audience within the (graphic) arts)


This title contains several elements that I would like to explain as a contribution to this symposium. In the title, I have chosen to ask a question instead of a statement. When a question is asked, automatically an answer, and consequently a choice is expected. The question itself gives direction to the following reflections:
Who is ‘You’? It suggests that there is at least one other party (spectator/audience) present who has experienced the created output.
This 'audience' is brought into relation with the 'questioner' (artist), resulting in the assumption that there is a communication between at least two parties. Because a question is asked and therefore an answer is expected, this communication is not a monologue but a dialogue.
The way upon which the question is asked, indicates that there is a connotation attached to 'like' and 'art'.


In preparation of this event I reviewed the report of the previous session. Several speakers stated, among other things, that "Printmaking should undoubtedly be considered art!". The dogmatic emphasis assumes a frustration that many people feel and forces them to draw a hard line, suggesting another group having a divergent point of view.

I am playing devil's advocate here, being in the educational art circuit for many years and possessing some experience in the matter. In Belgium as well, these discussions are numerous and at certain moments tensions are running high. Unfortunately, these differences of opinion sometimes lead to the dismantling of departments within art education, which off course is my concern.

I want to make clear to you straight away that I’m a printmaker 'pur sang' and not an iconoclast or art pope. I strive for an inclusive graphic language that adds possibilities without excluding them.

Having said that, I give you here my opinion on the positions that have come to my attention during reading the previous report, cited above:

1. Printmaking is not art by definition! It is a set of tools that offer the possibilities to make visual creations that can be judged as art.
2. A practitioner of printmaking is not an artist by definition! In other words, it is not because you use certain media that you automatically create art or are an artist.
3. The categorization of the group of people who can be called artists belongs to the public. Thus, the title of artist cannot be claimed, only given. It is the privilege of the recipient (audience) to judge whether the created can be distinguished as something that can transcend the non-artistic.
4. The discussion as to whether digital or other new media may be included in the group of printmaking techniques is irrelevant. There is no legal power to impose one nor the other.


The viewer as cultural judge

You notice that I give the audience a big role. In my opinion, the recipient of an artistic message is the one who will ultimately determine whether an image falls within the outlines of what art means to him. He is both a witness and a judge and will ultimately determine what remains of the offer. Whether the public is correct in his judgment is irrelevant. The verdict, however, does have a number of consequences.
In a manner of speaking, the audience is offered a menu from which they can select what it consumes. Depending on his liking of the taste he will tend to order it again. Consequently, the public is the one who determines. The offer can be immeasurably varied, but if no one likes what is on offer, that offer will wither and be thinned out.

The dynamic process behind that verdict is complex and constantly changing. When a situation stagnates, boredom and discontent will occur; an acceleration will initiate, which will be applauded by the unsatisfied ones and thwarted the ones which see their beneficial situation compromised. It’s a physical law applied within almost every social fabric. This doesn’t assume the public is one big mass and, the preference is determined by the number. Here too, a social process is at work. Large groups are manipulated by smaller groups of 'scouts'. They are positioned at the boundaries of the playing field and are continuously looking for new challenges. When satisfied with the existing situation the large group will be difficult to move, but at moments of instability the insinuations of scouts will be answered. These kinds of processes always occur within societies. The number of individuals within that community determines the frequency of these changes. In other words, the larger the group of like-minded people, the more difficult it is to bring about change in that process.

Within those processes themselves, however, things also evolve. The internet in particular, has generated a change in mentality as well which, in addition to a broadening of the offer, brings about an acceleration of dissatisfaction. People are no longer satisfied with the old visual culture but want ‘a lot’ and ‘fast’. The 'savoring' has evolved into a 'candy store'-culture in which diversity prevails. We know the consequences... The 'explorers' see their approach confirmed but have to look for new things at a faster rate. That accelerated process of supply and demand causes young artists to start preferring quicker methods over the 'slow' processes. Again, we see ripples appear. Actions and reactions follow one another but are inexorably dragged along.

To be continued…
Peter Bosteels

Piter Bosteels, has been a professor at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, Belgium since 1991. He is coordinator of the printmaking department and teacher in relief printing, art edition and digital media. In his career of over thirty years he has made a name for himself at home and abroad as a wood engraver and as a teacher, guiding students in printmaking. Over the last decade he has been invited frequently as a guest speaker within and outside Europe.



Graphic Collective Gallery, Dragoslava Jovanovića 11, Belgrade, Weekdays 12 - 20h, Saturdays 12 - 17h, Sundays closed
tel: +381.11.3285.923; tel/fax: +381.11.2627.785