Paris 1968. Pent-up anger and frustration over poverty, unemployment and the
conservative government of General Charles de Gaulle, gave rise to a mass
movement for sweeping social change. In the month of May, workers and
students took to the streets in an unprecedented wave of strikes, walkouts
and demonstrations. By May 18th, 10 million workers were on strike and all
factories and universities were occupied.
During those days of turmoil the ATELIER POPULAIRE (Popular Workshop) was
formed. The faculty and student body of the Ecole des Beaux Arts were on
strike, and a number of the students met spontaneously in the lithographic
department to produce the first poster of the revolt, "Usines, Universites,
On May 16th, art students, painters from outside the university and striking
workers decided to permanently occupy the art school in order to produce
posters that would, "Give concrete support to the great movement of the
workers on strike who are occupying their factories in defiance of the
The posters of the ATELIER POPULAIRE were designed and printed anonymously
and were distributed for free. They were seen on the barricades, carried in
demonstrations and were plastered on walls all over France. Their bold and
provocative messages were extremely influential and still resonate in our own
Statement by the ATELIER POPULAIRE
"The posters produced by the ATELIER POPULAIRE are weapons in the service of
the struggle and are an inseparable part of it. Their rightful place is in
the centers of conflict, that is to say, in the streets and on the walls of
To use them for decorative purposes, to display them in bourgeois places of
culture or to consider them as objects of aesthetic interest is to impair
both their function and their effect. This is why the ATELIER POPULAIRE has
always refused to put them on sale.
Even to keep them as historical evidence of a certain stage in the struggle
is a betrayal, for the struggle itself is of such primary importance that the
position of an "outside" observer is a fiction which inevitably plays into
the hands of the ruling class.
That is why these works should not be taken as the final outcome of an
experience, but as an inducement for finding, through contact with the
masses, new levels of action, both on the cultural and the political plane."