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, Union."




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 Gaullist government." 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 time.




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 the factories. 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."





Posters