The analysis that Czech scholar and art critic Frank Popper (b. 1918) (who holds French and British citizenship) offers in his book Art-Action and Participation (New York: Littlehampton Book Services, 1975) is centered on the “expressions” of street art by Venezuelan artist Diego Barboza (1945–2003) in London; they are indicative of the importance and international profile that such events had as pioneering and foundational manifestations of street action art. Barboza’s first “experience” was held on March 7, 1970; a group of thirty young women with faces covered by different colored nets appeared in highly trafficked areas in the British capital (Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, and King’s Road). Popper states that not only was Barboza one of the founders of this type of art, he also uses his designs as a model for the typology and general theory of these “contemporary actions of art and life.” For example, he establishes that the props in these works do not usually function as art objects; they are merely a way to trigger a particular psychological response. The role of the artist in such projects is strictly limited to the type and intensity of the “pretext”; Popper ends by referring to the “process of stimulation” and “feedback” this generates.
Barboza was one of the most versatile contemporary artists in Venezuela. He died prematurely at the age of fifty-eight, and his body of work includes paintings, drawings, performance art, Mail art, as well as street “expressions.” The significance of Popper’s analysis led curator Katherine Chacón to include it in the catalogue for the retrospective show, Diego Barboza: El festín de la nostalgia (2000); [see the important text that Chacón wrote for “Diego Barboza: El festín de la nostalgia” in the ICAA digital archive (1156981)].
The artist’s comments, introduced by Popper in his book, clarify and explain the link that these “experiences” have to collective carnivalesque celebrations, such as the religious processions of Spain, or the dancing devils of Venezuela, which change the everyday appearance of a location. In these, groups of anonymous people are able to give free expression to their imagination, producing a peculiar air of festivity and mystery that overtake the participants and infect the passersby.
Some fragments of the text were translated by Alejandro Useche (2000) for the exhibition Diego Barboza: El festín de la nostalgia, presented in 2000 in Caracas and two other cities in Venezuela.