The Walls Speak: Art And The Revolution In May ’68

By Alci Rengifo

The streets have always been where the masses bring their voices and grievances. It is a practice as old as Ancient Rome. It is when the city rises and a sense of social war penetrates the air that even art itself cannot help but be transformed. This year marks a half century since the great convulsions of 1968, when art itself became the vehicle of capturing and giving voice to the emerging, clashing ideals of that heroic generation. The tail-end of the sixties featured much of the imagery, cultural shifts and pop evolution that define the decade in the world consciousness. Acid rock was in, fashion was taking leaps so colorful and free that trends were established which have not gone out of style. But an aesthetic not readily discussed in the mainstream is the aesthetic of revolution.

In the mainstream–especially in the United States–the idea of a 60s aesthetic revolves around peace signs and the hippie look. The rugged, bohemian idea embodied in films like Easy Rider defines for many the spirit of the era. As McKenzie Wark writes in the essential book, The Beach Beneath the Street, “there is a sixties to suit every taste. It’s a truly versatile era.” But key to the culture of the time was politics. In 1968 the number of young people versus the old stood at a ratio of about five to one, as immortalized by The Doors in a famous song in that year.

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To read the full essay, which looks closely at the art of the era — protest posters — go to Riot Material magazine:

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RIOT MATERIAL is LA’s premier literary-cultural magazine with an eye on art, word, and forward-aiming thought. Check out our gallery on IG: @ riotmaterial.

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