Agitate – Propagate – 68! Provocations from Radical London
Organised in collaboration with LCC Library
1 – 31 May 2018
To mark the 50th anniversary of ‘1968’, a year of global protest and unrest, the Design Activism Research Hub (DARH) is staging an exhibition/intervention in the LCC Library with related events for UAL students and staff during the month of May. (See below for details and dates.) 1968 was the year that Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and of riots in over a hundred US cities. It was the year that two winning US athletes made a silent protest at the Mexico Olympics medal ceremony with the ‘black power’ salute, an image that ricocheted around the world. It was the year that Soviet Russian troops invaded Czechoslovakia bringing an end to the ‘Prague Spring’ as well as of the ‘Tet Offensive’ which seriously undermined the US’s ill fated and barbarous war in Vietnam. And of course it was the year of the ‘events of May’ – the extraordinary student and worker uprisings in France — with their proliferation of graffiti and radical posters produced in occupied art school studios (Atelier Populaire). It is often these that are the focus for anniversaries of 1968, especially in the context of visual communication. However the focus of the DARH exhibit is London. It was a time of a growing radical ferment in this city too, ranging from protests about the Vietnam War and Britain’s complicity with apartheid regimes in Southern Africa, to myriad forms of activism around urgent home grown issues: housing, racism and workers struggles. And there was student revolt in London too with occupations at LSE, Croydon and Hornsey School of Art, as well as the formation of ‘revolutionary’ student organisations and ‘anti-universities’. London’s black power movement was gathering ground with new groups, publications and protests. 1968 was also the year of the Conservative MP Enoch Powell’s infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, which gave succor to the already endemic racism in Britain — and ever more reason to organise against it. (The Labour Government responded to Powell’s sentiments with Commonwealth Immigration Act 1968). The London Squatters Campaign was born in 1968, the harbinger of a movement that would grow exponentially in the 1970s. Tenant activism was on the rise with huge marches and rent strikes. (1968 was also year of the Ronan Point collapse, a newly built social housing tower block in Newham). Localism became one of the new radicalisms. 1968 was just one year after homosexuality had been ‘decriminalized’, and the slow respectable campaigning for legal rights would soon be challenged by the more radical analysis and approach of the Gay Liberation Front. A Women’s Liberation Movement was on the brink of emergence.
This swell of diverse activism, only hinted at above, generated numerous pamphlets, leaflets, newssheets and posters, produced by whatever means available: duplicators, offset litho, screen printing and which contributed to the diverse alternative radical culture of the time. It was the year that the London listings magazine Time Out magazine started (which had a dedicated section for ‘agitation’) as well as when the radical newspaper Black Dwarf was launched. New radical and community activist printing shops were set up, such as Poster Workshop in Camden Town and Notting Hill Press in west London. Agit-Prop was formed, a radical information service which also did street theatre as the Agit-Prop Street Players. There were activist film groups in London too, such as Cinema Action, Amber and the Angry Arts Society (See below for details of 68 film night: Agitate-Propagate-Reel!). Print culture though was especially crucial to the dissemination of information, arguments and rallying cries. Recall it was pre internet, social media, and the wide spread availability of video recorders!
The exhibition will display a range of this material including pamphlets, magazines, books and newspapers loaned from Bishopsgate Archives, the Feminist Library and from DARH members own collections. These will be shown in the glass display cases on the library bridge. Copies of some of these items as well as more contemporary materials will be available for browsing in the central area in front of the library reception desk. Library staff will be showing a selection of related stock items and DARH have created a series of ‘shelf interventions’ to highlight further sources within the library. The exhibition coincides with the release of the first book about the above mentioned Poster Workshop who operated between 1968-71. Their posters provide a near index of social and political struggles of the period and we will be displaying some reproductions, alongside other posters produced in a workshop for students led by members of the Propagate Collective. This display will be along the main right wall as you enter the library. (Here we will also show one of Cinema Action’s films, GEC). To celebrate the publication of Poster Workshop’s book, we are hosting a ‘mini’ launch and Q&A with ex-members for LCC and UAL staff and students in the library. Copies of the book will be on sale at the event.
Agitate-Propagate-68! Exhibition Opening and Poster Workshop, 1968-71 Book Launch
Thursday 3 May 2018, LCC library, 5.30 – 7.30pm
5.30pm: Exhibition opening and tour
6pm: Poster Workshop book launch and Q&A
(The exhibition runs from 1 to 31 May 2018)
Thursday 24 May, MLG06A, LCC, 6 – 8pm
1968 themed film night co-organised by Screen School PhD candidate Mario Hamad, more information to follow but it is promised to include a screening of Cinétracts (1968) on a 16mm film projector.
Wednesday 2 May
This is limited number sign-up screen-printing poster workshop for students on BA/MA Graphics and Illustration courses (now full). The workshop will be run by members of Propagate Collective, with ex-members of Poster Workshop joining in. It will take inspiration from the political visuals and techniques of the late 1960s ad-hoc protest poster making that spread across many parts of the globe at the time, notably in France in the Atelier Populaires set up in occupied art school studios, but also in the Camden basement of the above mentioned Poster Workshop. The most successful posters produced will form part of the display in the library. This workshop is supported by a SEEF Award.
Tuesday 22 May 2.00-3.30pm
Ruth Collingwood and Monica Sajevo from the LCC library team will be running a student workshop with publications from the exhibition and the library’s extensive zine collection. Further information to follow.