Beauty Is in the Street

written by Željko Kipke


During the massive strike in May of 1968, a poster could be seen on the streets of Paris with the following message, Beauty is in the Street. With the slogan, La beauté est dans la rue on the posters of an anonymous author there were black and white drawings of female figures. On one a woman throws a brick, on another, less popular, her figure distantly brings to mind the well-known painting of Eugène Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People. And the slogan? It reflects the golden age of the Situationist International (SI) and the activism of few members whose radical criticism of liberal society influenced the spirit of the street revolution in the French metropolis and beyond. By force of circumstances, Breton's idea of convulsive beauty (la beauté convulsive) was mirrored in the same slogan. The Surrealists, it is commonly known, influenced the formation of the antimodernist split among the Situationists. The same slogan, therefore, summarized the Situationists’ fundamental ideas on anti-art, collective wandering in cities in search of the beauty of the moment or situation, a new model of urbanism or the post-political strategy of their key architect Constant (Nieuwenhuys). It is not an irrelevant fact (though it is accidental) that during the 1970s, the Dutch stopped producing models of a futuristic city for a different life, and devoted himself to painting. At the end of his life, he emphasized in interviews his preference for several historical names in that medium. Among others, he emphasized the name of Eugène Delacroix, whose model of a half-naked female revolutionist was paraphrased on a student poster in the crucial days of May 1968.