Collectif Anonyme

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coll eclltif Collectif Anonyme A City in Protest: Paris 1968–2015



Collectif Anonyme A City in Protest: Paris 1968 – 2015


1 2 Atelier Populaire May 1968

The Fight for Peace 2015



3 4 Discovery & Conclusion



65 7


Chapter 1

1 11


May 1968

Atelier Populaire is viewed by many, especially in recent years as a group of students who created artwork that could be used on pickets and posters to protest against the government and their outdated ways. However, while it is true that they created visual content to aid their efforts, they despised the idea that their work would be considered art in the decorative sense. The students made a statement about their work in 1968 that declared that; “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.�1 It is evident that the students believed their work should be taken seriously as well as the message behind it. In May of 1968, the streets of Paris were flooded with scenes of strikes, protest and civil disobedience. Students from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and nearby colleges had begun protesting against the outdated French education system, Gaullist government and political involvement with the war in Vietnam. On the 14th of May, students from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts held a lockout, occupying the lithography studios and print workshops with the aim of creating large amounts of posters to support the movement.2 Although starting out as a student-led protest, the workers in the factories and workers’ unions soon joined forces with the students, turning a relatively small scale protest into a large scale revolution.





telier Populaire which translates to ‘popular workshop’, was set up by a group of students and faculty from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts on the 14th May 1968. They worked twenty-four hours a day, similar to a production line in a factory, producing posters, newspapers and prints that were pasted onto walls around the city and distributed during marches. The posters were simple in composition and primitive in their illustration.3 They were created using a single colour ink and printed using a silk-screen. This method not only produced striking prints but also allowed the studio to work efficiently, printing hundreds of posters each day. They sought to create imagery and messages that were easily accessible that contrast the highly polished bourgeois art of the time. The students and faculty worked around the clock in order to be able to produce work at a rapid pace. The silkscreen printing method allowed for posters to be created in a very short space of time, reflecting the events on the streets and in the media as they happened. The members would hold a general assembly daily to discuss both the current politics and plans for posters and messages. A possibility as to why the group performed so well is in part due to the fact they voiced their plans as a collective regularly, listening and discussing each other’s opinions and ideas. They were able to maintain a consistent stream of opinions that the group could support, understand and also opinions that they believed other students, workers and the general public would share. The posters provide not only an insight into the time at which they were produced, but also provide the viewer with a glimpse into life inside the studios. The prints were produced very quickly which was not only efficient for the Atelier Populaire, but also convey a sense of urgency and knowingness of their importance. They knew what they wanted to say and why, and always strived to get that message out onto the streets as fast as possible and that shows in their work.


“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!�

Guy de Rougemont

At the time, most posters were made for decorative or advertising purposes and opinions were communicated to the masses through newspapers and the radio. However, the students needed a method of printing that was fast and communicated urgency and anger. As Barnicoat discusses (244); “The posters have the character of hastily prepared broad-sheets: they brought back a feeling of urgency to a medium that, for instant information, had been superseded by radio and television�.4 The posters were not made to last but instead made to communicate quickly and effectively the students’ opinions to the masses in a society where radio and television communication dominated the zeitgeist. Guy de Rougemont, a painter and sculptor, introduced the silkscreen printing method to the Atelier Populaire.5 The silkscreen print was the weapon of choice for the students of Paris and other protests in the sixties, not only for the previously stated efficiency but in many ways, for the students, it reflected their outlook.



In this photograph, a man is standing in front of an Atelier Populaire poster pasted onto a wall and writings by the students accompanying it below. The poster is a typeonly lithographic print that says “Usines Universites Union” and was one of the first posters by created by the students. It was their way of signalling to the public and media that students were not fighting alone and showed their support for the workers of Paris. Although their goals and ideals were different, the one idea that they shared was the idea of change; a new Paris and a new way of life.

Usines Universites Union

The use of typography and typographic styles are powerful in their utilization. The repetition of the bold ‘U’ in contrast with the three different typographic styles not only creates a strong contrast but also communicates an acknowledgement of difference. While the groups are different in their age, lifestyle, beliefs; they are unified in their fight for change. Barnicoat mentions (244) a quote from a book of work by the students called ‘Usine-Université-Union’ highlighting the need for typographic posters as well as image-based prints; “Experience has taught us the danger of ambiguity and the necessity of incorporating slogans as an integral part of that design. Sincerity, fantasy, are only effective when they interpret and reinforce the attack made by the slogan”.6

Danger of ambiguity The text below the poster are examples of manifestos that the students produced in the college, detailing their thoughts, goals and a call to action. It is titled “a bas le régime gaulliste anti-populaire de chomage et de misere” which translates to “down with the antipopular Gaullist regime of unemployment and misery”; a title which reflects their thoughts on the government and also reflects how they see their future.



Daniel Cohn-Bendit

Daniel Cohn-Bendit was a student leader in the 1968 protests. This is a photograph taken by Jacques Haillot of Daniel Cohn-Bendit singing in the face of a police officer. The original version of the poster depicted his photo accompanied by ‘we are all Jews and Germans’, which referenced the “anti-Semitic and xenophobic pronounce-ment of the right-wing weekly Minute on 2 May” while the second version changed the text to “we are all undesirables” instead.7 This I believe further highlights the students’ unity as a group in their willingness to turn a malicious label into a slogan, turning its power into something they can use to fight back. The use of photographic liths and screen printing shows their capability to print not only text and graphics but also their ability to produce more detailed pieces such as this. I believe both the photograph and the poster have captured the enthusiasm in his eyes and his equally enthusiastic and mischievous smile accurately. He for many was a leader that was not afraid to seek change and speak his mind and because of this he became one of the faces of the movement.


This poster was a later print created by the Atelier. It is a combination of image and type and a more crude poster. The poster is titled “On Vous Intoxique!” (You Are Intoxicated!). It depicts a person on all fours with a Gaullist symbol for the eye symbolising a brainwashed individual seeing only what the Gaullist government wants them to see. The person has been divided into sections like that of a cow or pig diagram found in a butcher’s. The words on the body parts; radio, television and sheep indicate an addiction to following the media; so much so, that the person becomes what they consume; an animal. The individual, on all fours like that of a sheep, symbolises submissiveness and a willingness to follow and consume whatever is required, in this case; forms of media. The Gaullist symbol appeared in many of their works.


Gaullist symbol

u are intoxicated Although it is a cruder example of the Atelier’s work, it is more detailed than ‘Usine-Université-Union’ and rougher as seen by the excess of ink left by the silkscreen. The rough edges are an indication of the speed at which it was printed and also communicates the students desire to move away from the perfect, clean bourgeois art of the time; a move which they often sought to relay.



Symbols of Protest

I believe some of the students most successful work was the creation of symbols for their posters and pickets. These symbols convey powerful with sometimes complex meanings yet are not complex visually; their strength lies in their simplicity.


Atelier Populaire

May 1968

Poing levĂŠ 35


Atelier Populaire

ORTF Robot

May 1968


Atelier Populaire

May 1968

La Chienlit C’est Lui! 37


Atelier Populaire

Informacion Libre

May 1968


Atelier Populaire

May 1968

Sois jeune et tais toi 39


Atelier Populaire

Mai 68 Début d’une lutte prolongée

May 1968


Chapter 2

2 43


January 2015


However, in more recent times, the creation of protest posters and other protest media I believe has changed drastically. An example of visual retaliation and protest occurred following the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Shock and horror spread across the world as details of the attacks were released online. One designer; Joachim Roncin was horrified by the events. He produced a typographic piece reading “Je Suis Charlie” in the font used on the covers of Charlie Hebdo.8 It is white and grey text on a black background which is striking in its boldness and also conveys a sense of darkness felt by the population. The image spread rapidly and was used “1.5 million times that day and about six million times over the next week on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook”.9 The image was not only shared online but was printed and made into posters, placards and banners which appeared throughout the streets of France as people walked in solidarity with the victims and in protest against the perpetrators. It became a phrase everyone could stand behind in hopes of peace and also created a sense of community among everyone who gathered to pay respects and peacefully protest against the attempt at censorship through violence.



Peace for Paris

On the night of the 13th of November 2015, the city of Paris was the target of a series of coordinated terrorist attacks. At least 130 people were killed that night with over 350 injured.10 The news spread quickly across the world with news outlets and individuals expressing their sympathy and the call for peace began. One French graphic artist from Paris, Jean Jullien, heard the news on the radio while he was away. He made a quick ink sketch on paper incorporating the Eiffel Tower and the peace sign to create what would become an accessible symbol of hope and ignite a worldwide protest for peace. He posted the image to his social media platforms captioned “Peace for Paris� and it quickly spread. It became the adopted symbol for the peace movement and a symbol of hope at a very dark time for Paris.

The symbol was used on pickets, posters, candles and appeared everywhere in the weeks following the attacks. As designer and author Stephen Heller commented in an interview following the events; “We need symbols to express what [we] cannot say. Images define and describe tragedies and other monumental happenings. It is as common as graffiti for an image to emerge in response to tragedy.�11 Through symbols we are better able to communicate feelings and emotions at times when words do not. The pain caused by the attacks was so overwhelming that a symbol was used to communicate both the grief and pain as well as solidarity and the hope for peace.


On Friday evening, you stole the life of an exceptional person. A love of my life. A mother of my son. But you will never have my hatred. I don’t know who you are, and I don’t want to know. You are dead souls. If this God for whom you killed so blindly, made this in His image, then every bullet in the body of my wife is a wound in His heart. So no. I will not give you the gift of hating you. You obviously want it. By responding to it with anger would be to give in to the same ignorance that made you what you are. You would like me to be scared, for me to look at my fellow citizens with a suspicious eye. For me to sacrifice my liberty for my security. You have lost. I saw her this morning. At last, after nights and days of waiting. She was as beautiful as when she left on Friday evening. As beautiful as when I fell head over heels in love with her, more than twelve years ago. Of course I am devastated with grief. I will give you your victory, but it will be shortlived. I know she will join us every day, and we will find each other in the paradise of free souls which you will never have access to.


There are only two of us, my son and I. But we will be stronger than every army in the world. I can not waste any more time on you, as I must go back to my son who has just woken up from his sleep. He is only just seventeen months old. He is going to eat his snack, just like every other day. And then we are going to play, just like every other day. And all his life, this little boy will be happy and free. Because you don’t have his hatred, either. — Antoine Leiris

my ha

15 November 2015

wil not have ate.


CARE. 53

Climate Protest Ahead of the Climate Summit, on the 29th of November 2015, a little over two weeks after the horrific attacks on the city, marches against climate change were due to take place in Paris as part of a worldwide movement of marches. However, due to obvious concerns over safety, the governing authorities cancelled the marches and banned the expected gathering of two hundred thousand people on the streets of the capital.12 Instead of filling the streets with their presence, the Parisian people, determined to show their support for the cause, laid hundreds of pairs of shoes on the streets. “Among the shoes were a pair of plain black Oxfords sent by Pope Francis, who has long been an outspoken advocate of climate change awareness and prevention. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon also contributed a pair of sneakers.�13 This act of peaceful solidarity by the Parisians attracted the attention of the world and shows the power such a simple symbol, like that of the pair of shoes can have. At such a challenging time for the people of Paris, their strength and resilience shines through acts such as these.


Taking a stand 55


Chapter 3

Dis &

scovery & Conclusion 59

The title of the exhibition ‘Collectif Anonyme’, is the French translation of anonymous collective; a named inspired by a quote from art historian and curator Eric De Chessay who, when discussing the Atelier Populaire describes “The whole production as both anonymous and collective”.14 Whilst many hundreds of prints were created in May 1968, they were not signed or credited to any individuals. It becomes evident through analysing protests and movements that strong graphics and symbols combined with powerful slogans bring strength to a movement as they become the voice of the collective. The lack of authorship and consequently the lack of individual praise not only demonstrates the humility of the individuals but also highlights their passion for the cause. The absence of recognition and their lack of desire for the same removes identity and focus on individual creators from the protest and instead directs the attention to the movement and the message. The students were aware of their strength as a collective and the importance of removing the question of who they were and instead focusing on what they stand for. When protestors stand behind, support and project one voice created by the collective as a whole, it creates a more engaging demonstration instead of multiple voices fighting to be heard over the rest. In a similar way, it is easier to remember a singular name or symbol that represents a collective as opposed to multiple names seeking credit and a variety of symbols and visual languages.


In conclusion, it is evident that the silkscreens used by the Atelier Populaire were the most logical and effective method of printing at the time, due to their speed and ability to produce large quantities of material in a short space of time. The posters were powerful and accessible and although I agree they have “been reduced to form part of a generalised visual lexicon of ‘revolution’ that has proven successful with young consumers”15 it cannot be denied that the students’ work has had a lasting impact on the way in which graphic design aids protest. While the internet brings many advantages being the ‘weapon of choice’ of the modern day protester, it is easy for such messages and viewpoints to lose some of their power. Due to the fact that there is such a vast amount of information and content being uploaded every minute online, it is easy for one message or viewpoint to get buried almost instantaneously. Had Jean Jullien printed posters of the same symbol and hung them on the walls outside his house, many would not have stopped to look or even seen them at all.

With the people of today constantly looking down into screens it is getting harder and harder to provoke enough thought in peoples’ minds that they will look up at the world around them. As such, in order for ideas and viewpoints to first be viewed and then utilized in protest today, they must first succeed online before they can have the desired impact in print also. Because of this, I believe protest posters in today’s society do not convey the same urgency and power as those of Atelier Populaire due to a general desensitization to violence combined with the over-saturated world of the internet. While the silkscreens were the most logical weapon of choice for the students in 1968, the current situation calls for something different.


Endmatter 65



Populaire, Atelier. Posters from the Revolution.

2 Considine, Liam. ‘Screen Politics: Pop Art and the Atelier Populaire’, in Tate Papers, no.24, 2015 3 Barnicoat, John. Posters: a Concise History. Thames and Hudson, 2003. 4 Barnicoat, John. Posters: a Concise History. Thames and Hudson, 2003. 5 Considine, Liam. ‘Screen Politics: Pop Art and the Atelier Populaire’, in Tate Papers, no.24, 2015 6 Barnicoat, John. Posters: a Concise History. Thames and Hudson, 2003. 7 Considine, Liam. ‘Screen Politics: Pop Art and the Atelier Populaire’, in Tate Papers, no.24, 2015 8 Devichand, Mukul. How the world was changed wby the slogan ‘Je Suis Charlie’, BBC Trending 9 Devichand, Mukul. How the world was changed by the slogan ‘Je Suis Charlie’, BBC Trending 10 Ray, Michael. Paris attacks of 2015, Encyclopædia Britannica 11 The Making Of An Icon: How The “Peace For Paris” Sign Spread Around The World, Fast Company 12 Specia, Megan. “Thousands of empty shoes stand in for climate protesters. Among them, a pair from Pope Francis.” Mashable 13 The Guardian. “Paris climate protesters banned but 10,000 shoes remain” 14 Hird, Alison. “Culture in France - France May 68: the Art of Revolution.” RFI, 5 Apr. 2018 15 Brennan, Holly. Design and Dissidence: The Legacy of the Atelier Populaire and 6 the Visual Lexicon of Revolution

Image Credits

Photographs: P8 – Jacques Marie/ AFP/ Getty Images P11 – Michael Baron P12 – Marc Riboud P14 – Getty Images P16 – Philippe Vermes. National School of Fine Arts,Paris P20 – Eric Jansen P22 – Göksin Sipahioglu P24 – Bruno Barbey/ Magnum Photos P26 – Bruno Barbey/ Magnum Photos P28 – Agence France-Presse/ Getty Images P32 – AP Photo P43,44 – Claude Truong-Ngoc / Wikimedia Commons P46 – Christopher Furlong/ Getty Images P48 – Xaume Olleros/ Maxim Malinovsky/ Getty P51 – Arnaud Meyer for La Croix P52 – Daniel Munoz / Getty Images P54 – Julien Helaine/ Avaaz P56 – Robert Pratta/ Reuters P60 – Jacques Marie/ AFP/ Getty Images P62 – Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images P72 – AP Images

Prints: P21 – “Je Participe, Tu Participes, Il Participe, Vous Participe, Ils Profitent”, Atelier Populaire P29 – “Nous Sommes Tous Indésirables”, Atelier Populaire P30 – “On Vous Intoxique”, Atelier Populaire P35 – “Poing levé”, Atelier Populaire P36 – “ORTF Robot”, Atelier Populaire P37 – “La Chienlit C’est Lui!”, Atelier Populaire P38 – “Informacion Libre”, Atelier Populaire P39 – “Sois jeune et tais toi”, Atelier Populaire P40 – “Mai 68 Début d’une lutte prolongée”, Atelier Populaire Front endpapers – Atelier Populaire, Alanna Drury Back Endpapers – Jean Jullien, Alanna Drury

All editing of images by Alanna Drury



Printed Matter & E-Books Barnicoat, John. Posters: a Concise History. Thames and Hudson, 2003. Donk, Wilm van de. Brian D.Loader, Paul G. Nixon and Dieter Rucht. Cyberprotest: New Media, Citizens and Social Movements. London: Routledge, 2004. Guffey, Elizabeth E.. Posters: A Global History, Reaktion Books, Limited, 2015. Hollis, Richard. Graphic Design: A Concise History, Thames & Hudson Ltd, London, 2001. McQuiston, Liz. Graphic Agitation: Social and Political Graphics since the Sixties. Phaidon, 2006. Meggs, Philip B. History of Graphic Design, Fourth Edition, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New Jersey, 2006. Populaire, Atelier. Posters from the Revolution. 1968. Thoburn, Nicholas. Anti-Book: On the Art and Politics of Radical Publishing. University of Minnesota Press, 2016. Timmers, Margaret, editor. The POWER of the Poster. Victoria & Albert, 1998.

Journals Brennan, Holly “Design and Dissidence: The Legacy of the Atelier Populaire and the Visual Lexicon of Revolution”. Artefact: Journal of the Irish Association of Art Historians, no.6, 2012. Considine, Liam, “Screen Politics: Pop Art and the Atelier Populaire”. Tate Papers, no.24, Autumn 2015. The Memory of May ‘68: The Ironic Interruption and Democratic Commitment of the Atelier Populaire, Design Issues Volume 29 | Issue 2 | Spring 2013 P.29-41.

Websites and Articles Ambasz, Emilio. Paris: May 1968. Posters of the Student Revolt. The Museum of Modern Art Wall Label. November 23, 1968. Accessed 14 November 2019 Devichand, Mukul. How the world was changed by the slogan ‘Je Suis Charlie’, BBC Trending. Accessed 29 November 2019 The Guardian. “Paris climate protesters banned but 10,000 shoes remain – video.” The Guardian 29 November 2015. Accessed April 2020 Hird, Alison. “Culture in France - France May 68: the Art of Revolution.” RFI, 5 Apr. 2018. Accessed April 2020 Kuhn, Jessie. The Making Of An Icon: How The “Peace For Paris” Sign Spread Around The World. Fast Company. Accessed 25 November 2019 McGuirk, Justin. Beauty Is in the Street: The Power of Protest Posters. Accessed 20 October 2019 Specia, Megan. “Thousands of empty shoes stand in for climate protesters. Among them, a pair from Pope Francis.” Mashable 30 November 2015. Accessed April 2020

Video Matter Paris Protests of 1968 Witness History Documentary. BBC. 18 May 2016. Accessed 29 October 2019 Peace for Paris: meet the artist who designed the symbol that went viral. Guardian Culture. 18 February 2016. Accessed 25 November 2019


Published in 2020 Edited by Alanna Drury for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art at the Institute of Art, Design + Technology Kill Avenue, Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, Ireland, A96 KH79 Phone: + 353 1 239 4000 Email: Copyright Š 2020 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced to be transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. Text & cover design: Alanna Drury




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