From the Paris of May ’68 to the Prague Spring the year 2018 marks the fiftieth anniversary of 1968, a year that is synonymous with resistance and protest. The uprisings of Paris 1968 were notable for extremely fine examples of polemical poster art. The Atelier Populaire, run by artists and art students, occupied the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and dedicated its efforts to producing thousands of silk-screened posters printed on newssheet using bold, iconic imagery and slogans made by an anonymous collective authorship.
“There was no formal organisation behind this uprising. It was everyday people who had been pushed too far, showing a solidarity that jumped the shackles of class, age and education. The kind of revolution of everyday life leading to a societal dialogue where people truly functioned as a collective brain, pulse and heart. There seems to be evidence here of the making of an ultra-potent antidote to the extremely scary fragmented, cubicled and computer-screened hyper-individualism of today. Your blog won’t change anything. Your Facebook potentially could, but only if you add to it by meeting and communicating face-to-face with people from walks of life very different to yours.” Johan Kugelberg, May 68: Street Posters from the Paris Rebellion’, Hayward Gallery, London 2008
Georgiou & Tolley – Screen Politics: Art & Activism
Protest & Pop Art Joining the dots: From Atelier Populaire to Social Media. Georgiou & Tolley examine the symbolic, political and counter cultural impact of graphic protest: from the street posters produced by Atelier Populaire (Mai 1968 France) to the resistance slogans and pictorial protest on social media today.
Georgiou & Tolley’s art and film-making has been towards a ‘collaborative’ form of photography; socially engaged, process-led photo-image-making, and constructed imagery that attempts to engage with people represented in the work. As artists and film-makers they take their hybrid research interests of how places feel and mining image archives, whilst making connections with soundscapes and music.
Resistance ’68: A Radio-Film for the Mind’s Eye that mines image archives, whilst making connections with soundscapes and music to create a sound collage of archival fragments about art and the potential role of art and culture – a radio conversation conjuring the spirit of the underground from 1968. www.brumradio.com/shows/sleevenote/
Magician Walks into the Laboratory: A Radio-Film in the format of an audio-visual narrative is set-up in a room to re-enact fragments of a CIA remote viewing session. The departure point is the collective paranoia of the post-1945 cold war spy activity and of CIA transcripts concerned with ‘remote viewing’, or extrasensory perception (ESP). The Pseudo-art installation presents Pseudo-political and Stasi – CIA – KGB surveillance in collaboration with actor and academic Jack Klaff.
The World Lived Here: L8 explores the individual lives and identities of the people behind the public face of the Granby Four Streets Community Land Trust in Toxteth, Liverpool 8, working with Residents to create images, film and text to remember and redefine the area three decades on from the riots of 1985 that amplified the voices of resistance diminished by the government. “Our images are concerned with the prevailing atmosphere of this place. They respond to residents’ thoughts, memories, archive photographs and the streets of Granby/Toxteth today. The work connects with the here and now: events, locations or simply people reflecting on the strangeness of recollecting the past. One recurring theme being the subject of ‘how places feel’ – genius loci – and a research question, which approaches historical memory and asks: How does the presentation of the past shape the image of the present? Our ambition has been towards a ‘collaborative’ form of photography; socially engaged, process-led photo-image-making, and constructed imagery that attempts to engage with people represented in the work.” Georgiou & Tolley
Jeremy E. Hunt: History of Agitprop
Agitprop derives from the Department for Agitation and Propaganda established by the Soviet Communist Party in 1917 to disseminate political messages. Agitprop trains would create graphic pamphlets on on-board printing presses and distribute them to promote Bolshevik ideology. As Agitptrop diversified into cinema and theatre the nuance changed slightly to highlight, ridicule and attack political and corporate corruption through direct creative action.
Agitprop explores the art of resistance street symbols, signs and urban counterculture that represents political or cultural struggle. Agitprop exerts an influence out of proportion to it’s cost to emerge from the street as the immediate, authentic and original voice of the people. The purpose of Agitprop is to expose, combat and critique unethical business practice, ignorance and the lies and duplicity of politicians, especially when media is state controlled and alternative speech is censored the graphic image is a political weapon.
The images of George Grosz mocked nationalistic and militaristic attitudes. John Heartfield’s posters were pasted on public walls throughout Berlin as anti-Nazi messages as well as in magazines.
In the USA from 1933-36 the New Deal employed artists in murals and public work projects in response to the Great Depression. In Mexico and the USA from the 1920s-1950s Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco established social realist subject matter and the public art form of ‘Mexican Muralism’. In the 1960s the affiches lacérées of Raymond Hains and Jacques Villégles and Italian Arte Povera movement defaced commercial street posters through tearing, slashing, cutting and collage.
Throughout the 20th century posters and banners were used in popular mass demonstrations against Fascism – Spanish Civil War – CND – Vietnam – and other conflicts. Keith Haring made his name making drawings in the New York subways in 1982, and Graffitti and Street Art emerged as a global urban art form. In the digital age of the 21st century Shepard Fairey’s ‘Hope’ and ‘Resist‘ posters of Barack Obama in 2008 were resurrected as ‘We the People’ to protest against the inauguration of Donald Trump where images were distributed digitally and printed on personal computers and carried into the streets, hung in windows, and pasted on walls.
Contemporary Agitprop alternatives use localised scenarios which are then exhibited globally via Social Media. Flying Leaps’ images have become burned on the cultural retina as artists’ posters appear as a creative political weapon in street art interventions to question ‘the powers that be’ in the spirit of Dada against demagoguery. The banal political mantra Strong and Stable repeated ad nauseam by Theresa May was reinterpreted by Jeremy Deller and overwhelmed and sterilized the original political speech-bubble.
The stencil graffiti of Banksy makes political and social commentary in cities throughout the world. Artists’ Street posters are becoming increasingly visible, alongside their digital distribution on social media. Artists such as Dr. D subvert or ‘doctor’ images from big brand billboards to political posters, and campaigns such as Brandalism http://brandalism.ch openly revolt against the corporate control of culture and space, disrupting the controlling rhythm and revenue of the commercial advertisements encased in protective glass cases and revolving mini-cinemas. While art activists and agitators Pussy Riot and Guerrilla Girls use street art and multi-media campaigns in opposition and in preference to traditional galleries.
Art dealer David Risley is developing Funkisfabriken in Sweden as a 120,000 sq.ft multi-disciplinary idea, research and exhibition space to link art, food, business, and innovation as a Centre for Research in Sustainability.
As the shifting shape of power, law and corruption changes resistance is criminalised and repressed so Agitprop changes shape of activism and opposition against the four corporations of the pharma / political apocalypse – racism / sectarianism, self-interest / nationalism, capitalism / corporatism and violence/militarism. In the equilibrium between utopia and dystopia Agitprop represents individualism, freedom, humanism, and dreaming aka Art.
Resist & Protest: Atelier Populaire – Ort Gallery
In the spirit of May ’68 an Atelier Populaire – Poster Workshop asks: “What is public art?” and “Is public art for the public?”
The Ort Gallery workshop will take the theme of Homelessness to create iconic Agitprop posters with simple materials – paint, paper, stencils and photocopying to produce strong art messages about community issues – homelessness – diversity – poverty- education – health. By looking at previous and current artists’ work the workshop will create positive new images with a public message.
Resist & Protest Poster Workshop:
Time: 12- 4pm on Saturday 28th July
Venue: Ort Gallery, 500-504 Moseley Road, Birmingham B12 9AH
Presentation + Discussions:
History of Agitprop by Jeremy E. Hunt
Screen Politics: Art & Activism + by Georgiou & Tolley
Create a Poster / Banner / T-Shirt Design with a Social Message
NB: FREE event suitable for activists of all ages – no art experience is necessary – materials provided – wear old clothes – you may get messy!
To confirm a place please contact: Jeremy Hunt – t. 07512812502 or firstname.lastname@example.org or the Ort Gallery email@example.com
Ort Gallery, 500-504 Moseley Road, Birmingham B12 9AH