Jeff Clark on art, propaganda and graphic agitation

Yesterday, during the Occupy Ypsilanti teach-in, my friend Jeff Clark, an accomplished graphic designer, delivered what I thought was a brilliant lecture on the graffiti produced by the Situationists during the May 1968 student uprising in France, and the incredible relevance their work still has today. So, if you have a few minutes today, and you’re interested in learning a little about France in 1968, where, it could be argued, the seeds of the Occupy movement were first sewn, I’d encourage you to watch the following, and become acquainted with the members of the Situationist International, like Guy Debord, Raoul Vaneigem and Michèle Bernstein, who took to the streets that spring, scrawling epigrams across Paris, urging their fellow countrymen to truly embrace life, and throw off the shackles of consumerism… Here’s Jeff…

And here are a few examples of the provocative phrases the Situationists were responsible for painting on the walls of Paris in 1968:

Warning: ambitious careerists may now be disguised as “progressives.”

The revolution doesn’t belong to the committees, it’s yours.

The boss needs you, you don’t need the boss.

Conflict is the origin of everything.

A single nonrevolutionary weekend is infinitely more bloody than a month of total revolution.

This concerns everyone.

The forest precedes man, the desert follows him.

Under the paving stones, the beach.

Concrete breeds apathy.

You are hollow.

You will end up dying of comfort.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

[note: Yesterday’s teach-in was held at Eastern Michigan University, and co-hosted by Students for Ethical and Participatory Education.]

This entry was posted in Art and Culture, History, Other, Politics, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. Edward
    Posted April 15, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know if it’s helpful or hurtful to know that these very same things were being fought about 44 years ago. It’s kind of depressing when you think about it. I had the same feeling when I read through the Port Huron Statement a few months ago.

  2. melissa
    Posted April 15, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Dammit, I wanted to go to that. Thanks for posting the video, Mark.

  3. atf
    Posted April 15, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    yes! revolutionary art is fascinating and crucial.

  4. K2
    Posted April 15, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    Damn…….. “A single nonrevolutionary weekend is infinitely more bloody than a month of total revolution.”

  5. John Galt
    Posted April 16, 2012 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    These slogans are OK, but I’ll take I Want My MTV, Where’s the Beef and Everybody Needs a Little KFC any day. Real slogans sell products. That’s the American way.

  6. Posted April 16, 2012 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Just to get a sense of where Ypsilantians are; Free Press article this morning on campaign donations to the spectacle (a situationist concept that includes all of capitalist consumerist society) we call our national election. 3 of our fellow Ypsilantians have donated to the Mitt campaign, while about 60 have donated to Obama.

  7. Mr. X
    Posted April 16, 2012 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    I was involved in a dérive, or “drift”, about ten years ago in Cincinnati. It was a really cool experience, and I’d highly recommend having one in Ypsi this Spring, as it seems very much in line with the Occupy Ypsi movement.

  8. Mme X
    Posted April 16, 2012 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Mr. X, will you organize such a thing?

  9. nj
    Posted April 16, 2012 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    so cool! thanks for posting these videos, i’ve long found the situationists to be very inspirational. I’m disappointed that this sort of thing was never brought up in any of my art classes while I was at EMU!!

    I read an article not long ago (can’t find it at the moment) about how a lot of the posters were made in paris in 68. University art studios were occupied by students and workers alike who all helped to come up with slogans and images and then printed loads and loads of posters which were then distributed freely and hung up around the city. This process was open to anyone who wanted to participate and all agreed that the posters would not be for sale. All images, slogans and production was specifically not attributed to any one artist, it was all done anonymously.

  10. Knox
    Posted April 16, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    From a historical perspective, are the May ’68 protests viewed as having been effective? Did the students achieve their objectives?

  11. Dan R.
    Posted April 16, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think there is a much truer statement about our society than: “You will end up dying of comfort.” Good stuff. Thanks for sharing. I’m going to spread some of these around by sitting on my couch and typing them into Facebook.

  12. Luv
    Posted April 16, 2012 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

    Edward don’t be depressed. Here is a new slogan for you;
    Life is, in fact, a continuous change of bosses.
    Now, you see your perspective is life affirming. You should be proud of your realization that you cannot change life but only redefine it according to some new/old, insignificant graffiti. Happens all the time in the real world.

  13. Edward
    Posted April 17, 2012 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    I don’t know that I accept that the graffiti was insignificant. I also don’t know that the efforts of French students in May of ’68 was all for nothing. It still ripples through the culture (as do reverberations of the French Revolution). If you’re ever there during a strike, you can feel it. Workers there have more control over their lives than we do here, and they aren’t ashamed to exert that power in order to defend the advances that they’ve made. Income inequality, as a result, is much less pronounced here than in France is not. They have universal health care. They have extensive paid leave when they have children. They have quality public education. I could go on, but I think you get my point.

  14. Hate
    Posted April 17, 2012 at 6:50 am | Permalink


    “Life is, in fact, a continuous change of bosses.”

    Once this kind of resignation settles in, you’re fucked. But here’s the bigger problem: your neighbors are also negatively effected by your passivity. That’s why, morally, you’ve got an obligation to fight.

  15. Posted May 14, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    great stuff!!

9 Trackbacks

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