Visit a Gallery of 300 Striking Posters from the May 1968 Uprising in Paris

Among the many oth­er 50ths com­mem­o­rat­ed this year, one will large­ly go unno­ticed by the U.S. press, giv­en that it hap­pened in France, a coun­try we like to ignore as much as pos­si­ble, and con­cerned the pol­i­tics of anar­chists and com­mu­nists, peo­ple we like to pre­tend don’t exist except as car­i­ca­tures in scare-mon­ger­ing car­toons. But the French remem­ber May 1968, and not only on its fifti­eth. The wild­cat strikes, stu­dent march­es, and bar­ri­cades in the Latin Quar­ter haunt French pol­i­tics. “We’re slight­ly pris­on­ers of a myth,” laments his­to­ri­an Danielle Tar­takowsky.

The inter­na­tion­al his­tor­i­cal events sur­round­ing the strikes and march­es are well-known or should be. The found­ing ethos of the move­ment, Sit­u­a­tion­ism, per­haps less so. Read­ing Guy Debord’s Soci­ety of the Spec­ta­cle and the 1968 movement’s oth­er essen­tial texts can feel like look­ing into a fun­house mir­ror.

The 1966 pam­phlet man­i­festo that began the stu­dent agi­ta­tion—“On the Pover­ty of Stu­dent Life”—might sound mighty famil­iar: it has no kind words for con­sumerist stu­dent rad­i­cals who “con­vert their uncon­scious con­tempt into a blind enthu­si­asm.” Yet they have been attacked, it clar­i­fies, “from the wrong point of view.”

Since we seem to be, in some dena­tured way, reliv­ing events of fifty years ago, the think­ing of that not-so-dis­tant moment illu­mi­nates our cir­cum­stances. “If there’s one thing in com­mon between 1968 and today,” remarks Antoine Gué­gan, whose father Gérard staged Paris cam­pus sit-ins, “it’s young people’s despair. But it’s a dif­fer­ent kind of despair…. Today’s youth is fac­ing a moment of stag­na­tion, with lit­tle to lean on.” Despite the riotous, bloody nature of the times, a glob­al move­ment then found rea­son for hope.

We see it reflect­ed in the defi­ant art and cin­e­ma of the time, from rev­o­lu­tion­ary work by a 75-year-old Joan Miró to vérité film by 20-year-old wun­derkind Philippe Gar­rel. And we see it, espe­cial­ly, in the huge num­ber of posters print­ed to adver­tise the move­ment, rad­i­cal graph­ic designs that illus­trate the exhil­a­ra­tion and defi­ance of the loose col­lec­tive of Marx­ists-Lenin­ists, Trot­skyites, Maoists, Anar­chists, Sit­u­a­tion­ists, and so on who pro­pelled the move­ment for­ward.

Last year, we fea­tured a gallery of these arrest­ing images from the Ate­lier Pop­u­laire, a group of artists and stu­dents, notes Dan­ger­ous Minds, which “occu­pied the École des Beaux-Arts and ded­i­cat­ed its efforts to pro­duc­ing thou­sands of silk-screened posters using bold, icon­ic imagery and slo­gans as well as explic­it­ly collective/anonymous author­ship.” Today, we bring you a huge gallery of more than 300 such images, housed online at Vic­to­ria Uni­ver­si­ty in the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to.

Some of the images are down­load­able. You can request down­loads of oth­ers from the uni­ver­si­ty library for pri­vate use or pub­li­ca­tion. These posters rep­re­sent a move­ment con­fronting an oppres­sive soci­ety with its own log­ic, a soci­ety of which Debord wrote just the pre­vi­ous year, “the spec­ta­cle is not a col­lec­tion of images; it is a social rela­tion between peo­ple that is medi­at­ed by images.” There is no under­stand­ing of the events of May 1968 with­out an under­stand­ing of its visu­al cul­ture as, Debord wrote, “a means of uni­fi­ca­tion.” Enter the gallery of posters and prints here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Gallery of Visu­al­ly Arrest­ing Posters from the May 1968 Paris Upris­ing

Theodor Adorno’s Rad­i­cal Cri­tique of Joan Baez and the Music of the Viet­nam War Protest Move­ment

Bed Peace Revis­its John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s Famous Anti-Viet­nam Protests

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (6)
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  • Gerald says:

    I don’t think it is so much that we pre­tend the com­mu­nists don’t exist, as much as we wish they did­n’t (and nev­er did). Con­sid­er­ing the mil­lions who suf­fered and died at their hands, who would­n’t?

  • MP R says:

    You’ll have to remem­ber that most peo­ple who believed this tripe were either stoned out of their gourd or trip­ping on “Pur­ple Haze” back in the 60’s.

  • jkop says:

    Spring 1968, when stu­dents, typ­i­cal­ly upper or mid­dle class kids, threw rocks and spat at the work­ing class kids of the police force. How rev­o­lu­tion­ary.

  • e a. foster says:

    The posters are amaz­ing! thank you for the his­to­ry les­son. it maybe this time the rev­o­lu­tion will come from the Amer­i­can stu­dents who oppose guns. It would be about time.

  • Karl Reitmann says:

    The anti-gun “move­ment” last­ed a week. Then there might’ve been a new Tay­lor Swift sin­gle released or some­thing… it all got for­got­ten.

  • smriti nayan says:

    KVCH is very pop­u­lar for 6 weeks PHP intern­ship com­pa­nies in Noi­da because we pro­vide live project based tech­ni­cal knowl­edge. We also pro­vide 1‑year mem­ber­ship for KVCH stu­dents. For more free Demo Call us at +91–9510-860–860

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