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Atelier Populaire | France

Things are Cooling Down, 1968 Paris

Courtesy of the Deutsches Plakat Museum

Posters Early in the spring of 1968, student protests intensified throughout France, in Paris particularly, when on May 2, the government closed down the venerable Sorbonne university, because it was the focus of the students’ protest actions. Following these events, demonstrations were stepped up, inflaming violent confrontations with the police.

On May 14, French workers launched a strike hinging upon demands for wage hikes and improved working conditions. An important feature of the strike was the protest over police violence against students, which led to intensive cooperation between students and workers.

The students occupied the “ֹcole Supיrieure des Beaux Arts” (high school of the arts) from May 16 to June 27 (when the institution was closed down); during this period, they designed over 350 different posters, issued in changing editions. The posters, boldly illustrating the demands of students and workers, were issued in swift repost to the political events of the day.

Printed in the evening (mainly in silkscreen or lino cut) they were distributed during the night, so that, at dawn, Parisians found topical responses from students and workers in every imaginable corner of Paris, unless the police had already managed to remove them.

The posters were the most important means of political communication, and were marked with a stamp bearing the caption “Atelier Populaire”, a group comprising a dozen students.