The Spirit of ’68

I was in Paris in May 2018, 50 years too late to witness the famous student protests and general strike that ensued. Under the pretext of giving a talk on nonsense at the Sorbonne, the visit was nevertheless a chance to pay homage to that rebellious spirit. The brilliant and highly influential posters produced by art students during the 1968 riots had already inspired Dominic Hills’s imagery, especially ‘Forger sur l’enclume de nature‘ (to forge on nature’s anvil), which takes it cue from a poster showing the worker’s hammer striking down on ‘Capital’.

It seemed only proper then that I should take hold of the means of production and distribution, so I learned how to make a print from the block designed and cut by Dominic Hills, to take some copies with me to Paris:


My hopes of fly-posting some copies at Parisian universities were scuppered by the security triggered by there being a very real re-enactment of May ’68 going on, as students and other workers were protesting against government reforms of higher education, among other things.

Fortunately, however, my colleague and fellow nonsense expert, Dr Jean-Marc Civardi, was happy to take a copy and display it at his university, where, as far as I know, it remains. Hence not only the image, but also the slogan have returned to their place of origin – ‘to forge on nature’s anvil’ a reminder of old ribaldry and the fact that May ’68 was also a far-reaching sexual revolution. The impact of this visual hammer blow boomeranging back to Paris remains to be seen.