By Glen Luchford
The streets have always been where the masses bring their voices and grievances. It is a practice as old as Ancient Rome. It is when the city rises and a sense of social war penetrates the air that even art itself cannot help but be transformed. This year marks a half century since the great convulsions of 1968, when art itself became the vehicle of capturing and giving voice to the emerging, clashing ideals of that heroic generation. The tail-end of the sixties featured much of the imagery, cultural shifts and pop evolution that define the decade in the world consciousness. Acid rock was in, fashion was taking leaps so colorful and free that trends were established which have not gone out of style. But an aesthetic not readily discussed in the mainstream is the aesthetic of revolution.
From 5 May to 28 June, students and teachers from l'Ecole des Beaux-Arts worked day and night producing posters to further the cause of seven million striking workers. Given that public broadcasting (ORTF) was banned from filming the Paris protests for fear they would encourage others, many posters denouncing the state of the press as a propaganda tool of the government, artists were an essential part in the May 68 French students riots.
Political Posters with slogans like "It's forbidden to forbid" or "Under the paving stones, the beach", "Your boss needs you, you don't need him", "Run comrade, the old world is behind you" and "Barricades close the street but open the way" In one poster a woman throws a barricade stone as words announce, “La Beauté est dans la rue” (Beauty is in the street). Posters like one of the movement’s most famous a raised fist rising from a symbolic factory brick with the title “La Lutte Continue” (The Struggle Continues) were plastered on university walls, factories and shops and were a driving force in the May 68 Paris uprisings.
These were simple images yet their imagery managed to survive outside of their own era.